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Intervallic Designs Part 3

January 30, 2014
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WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN. Last month, we equated the opening notes from a slew of familiar melodies to their corresponding ascending intervals. Now it’s time to turn our ears upside-down and reverse the process.

Unless noted otherwise, the following descending intervals are used to play the first movement between notes in the corresponding popular melodies. You know the drill: Grab a guitar, start on any note, and see how far you can get playing any of the following melodies purely by ear, either on a single string or spread out over several. Again, try to keep track of the intervallic map unique to each song and let your ears guide you. (Note how we have fewer examples as the intervals get wider.)

See how many descending (and ascending) intervals you can identify in your daily life. Test yourself with songs, commercials, the sounds of the city, or the sounds of nature—they’re all fair game in the quest for big ears.

DESCENDING MINOR SECONDS (1/2 step): “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Never Never Land,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (chorus), “Pomp and Circumstance,” “I Am the Walrus,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Stella by Starlight,” “Mexican Hat Dance,” “Something,” and “Sabre Dance.”

DESCENDING MAJOR SECONDS (1 step): “Swanee River,” “Three Blind Mice,” “We Three Kings,” “Deck the Halls,” “The First Noel,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “Yesterday,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunshine of Your Love” (instrumental riff), “Alfie,” “Satin Doll,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

DESCENDING MINOR THIRDS (1 1/2 steps): “Star Spangled Banner,” “Dixie,” “Caissons Go Rolling Along,” “Misty,” “The Girl from Ipanema,” “Hey Jude,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “Light My Fire” (second and third notes), and “We Gotta Get You a Woman.”

DESCENDING MAJOR THIRDS (2 steps): “Summertime,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Goodnight Ladies,” “Light My Fire” (opening keyboard riff), “Sentimental Journey,” and Big Ben’s chimes!

DESCENDING PERFECT FOURTHS (2 1/2 steps): “Clementine,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “King of the Road,” “All of Me,” “Goodnight” (Beatles), and “Green Acres” (theme).

DESCENDING FLATTED FIFTHS/SHARP FOURTHS (3 steps): “Purple Haze” (second and third notes of riff).

DESCENDING PERFECT FIFTHS (3 1/2 steps): “Feelings,” “Watch What Happens,” “Star Spangled Banner” and “Dixie” (first and third notes), and “Pop Goes the Weasel” (title phrase).

DESCENDING MINOR SIXTHS (4 steps): “Where Do I Begin?” (Theme from Love Story).

DESCENDING MAJOR SIXTHS (4 1/2 steps): “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and “All Blues” (second and third notes).

DESCENDING MINOR SEVENTHS (5 steps): “Willow Weep for Me” (first and third notes).

DESCENDING MAJOR SEVENTHS (5 1/2 steps): “I Love You” (Cole Porter).

DESCENDING OCTAVES (6 steps): “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (chorus), and “Willow Weep For Me.”

Next Month: Now that you’ve been tricked into two months of ear training, it’s back to the ‘board with extended intervals.

Jesse Gress is author of The Guitar Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Rhythm, Melody, Harmony, Technique & Improvisation (Backbeat).

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