24 Jan 2014

Fun ways to reinforce and assess each level of Interval Comprehension

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I’m not afraid to say it….  I LOVE INTERVALS!   I love to love them.

Lame?  Oh, most definitely.

BUT, they’re a serious part of sight reading and understanding movement in music, and since that’s the case, its my job to love them AND make sure that my students understand and love them too.

I hear teachers and parents discussing practicing issues that their students are having quite often, and it’s tempting to conclude that the student is either not practicing enough, or practicing incorrectly, or not sight reading well.  However, while these things are sometimes the case, I’d venture to say that a good chunk of the issues could be fixed by making sure the student had a complete, 360 degree understanding of intervals at every level.

So let’s get on the same page about what these levels are:

  • Quick visual recognition of harmonic AND melodic intervals on the staff
  • Audiation of intervals  (Gordon’s Music Learning Theory)
  • Quick visual identification of intervals on the keys
  • Tactile recognition of what each interval feels like in the hand  (to avoid the dreaded stare-at-my-fingers issues)
  • Experience with what finger numbers are best suited for different intervals
  • Quick assessment of intervalic movement in parallel and contrary motion

The 1st three are more obvious and usually get more attention, but the last 3 are more difficult and, although very important, sometimes get neglected.

My recent influx of younger students has challenged me to come up with more creative ways to make sure even the youngest of students are taking in and holding on to higher level interval skills.  So then up comes the dreaded G-word… GAMES!    <<Gasp!!>>
Some teachers love them in piano lessons, some don’t.  Some hate them so much that the very word “game” conjures up a visual of kids running madly around the room like Batman and using the piano keys as glorified monopoly pieces.

Here’s where I stand on the issue:

  • Keep them quick and to the point
  • Make sure they have a very clear purpose
  • Use them to divide lesson segments that are more serious so young ones get a breather
  • Start a lesson with them if the student seems tired or like they’re having a rough day
  • Change them up often so kids don’t get bored, but use similar, basic materials so I don’t spend all my time hot gluing things

Below is part of my collection (still ongoing) of quick 2-3 minute games that I use for the different levels of Interval review and assessment.   Click here for a printable version that you can keep in your studio for quick easy access.




  • Joy Morin of Colorinmypiano.com  has fabulous dice printables that I use for tons of activities, including the ones above.  Print your own here.
  • I also use Joy’s “grand staff pass” printable for my “Bank It!” game, available here.
  • My Resource Lab offers a whole page of Free Flashcards that you can use for “From Cards to Keys”
  • Click here to print UP & DOWN cards for “Bank It!”
About the Author

Amber Staffa is a performing arts graduate of Rowan University. She holds a BA in Subject Matter Teaching for K-12, and a BM in Instrumental Music Education with a Piano Concentration, and is currently licensed in the state of NJ.

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