Music is a language, and I’m not talking about the words we use to discuss music; music itself is a language. To learn any language most effectively, five steps have to be completed in order: Listen, Imitate, Speak, Read, Write. The same is true for singing, though we are particularly interested in the first three. In an attempt to progress faster, we frequently try to skip directly to Speak, when we need to start at the beginning with listening and imitation.
So let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room. Interval training can be boring, and no one really has any idea how to do it—endlessly singing triads and scales, typically mindlessly, hoping that something will stick. Oh, and don’t forget that many, or most, students don’t have sufficient skills on an instrument to play or even check the notes they are singing for accuracy. How can we expect improvement to happen? Sadly, we really can’t; if improvement happens, it’s an accident with these conditions.
Obviously, intervals are basically 50% of the language of music, along with rhythms. Since not working on them is not a great plan, how can we make interval training effective? Understanding how the brain processes and understands intervals is key and context matters; water is the stuff of life until there is too much of it. With intervals, we tend to try and learn them with no context. That is to say; we usually learn intervals in isolation; however, we actually learn intervals by their harmonic context. By adding harmonic context, the brain can piece these intervals into the same context that will be used during a song.
I shared the other part of improving the speed we learn intervals earlier. Listen, Imitate, Speak, Read, & Write. To learn a language, these steps need to be completed in order, and that order cannot be changed. Singers need to first listen intently to the interval, then imitate, then, after enough listening and imitation, they can speak freely.
Here at VoSci we have our Singing 101: Interval Training which combines both of these concepts, played for the student so that progress can be quick, effective, and on demand. We have 3,456 exercises spanning four octaves with ascending & descending intervals up to two octaves and my favorite Up / Down / Up and Down / Up / Down exercises that will challenge even the most skilled singers. I hope you will take the opportunity with yourself and your singers to work on your intervals. Perfect intervals unlock a world of music and improve the speed at which music can be learned.
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