Major Perfect Intervals

If you have been following my blog lately, you know that I have been adding more interval worksheets to my site. Today I am posting one that is starting to get more difficult than just naming the interval.

In this worksheet, student will identify if the intervals are major or perfect intervals. At the top of the page, I show the major and perfect intervals in the C scale. Then, students identify major and perfect intervals in the keys of G, F, and D. To help students who are new to this, I used only easy keys. I also encourage students to play and listen to the intervals. When I first learned intervals, I thought fourths and fifths sounded hollow, so maybe that will help your students. I always teach intervals at the keyboard first, and then we do written work.

Now, you may have some students who will ask why they are called “perfect”. I know I did, and in fact I asked my teacher in college who said some mumbo jumbo I didn’t understand well enough to give you a good definition in this post. So I am honest and say I’m not really sure, but it has to do with the sound waves and the quality of the sound. A long time ago, this special sound of was noticed and characterized as perfect. I have my college theory book on hand (Piston) and it simply says to call them perfect, with no rhyme nor reason. The Oxford Dictionary of Music says, “They possess what we may perhaps call a ‘purity’ distinguishing them from other intervals.” If students need more information, tell them it would make a great topic for a school project!

Whenever I make something that is not directly related to reading music, usually I get email from teachers asking me if it is necessary for their students to learn this. My only answer is that some students love music theory and find it fascinating. But I have had a few students who were not really serious about music, so we thought, but went on to become music majors of some sort. They were very grateful that they learned music theory because it helped them so much. I have had many former students tell me they are so glad I taught them music theory.

If you are looking for easier free worksheets on intervals, go to FREE at the top menu and open that page. Then start scrolling down until you see the section on intervals. Here is the link.

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4 thoughts to “Major and Perfect Intervals

  • Beverly Holt Guth

    I’m enjoying the discussion about why unisons, fourths, fifths and octaves are called, “perfect”. I also tell my students that we don’t know who first made up these titles or descriptions. But the unison, fourth, fifth and octave are the “strongest” intervals in western music. We use them to make cadences (important resting or stopping points). I tell them these chords or intervals are like the pillars in a large building, or like the corners of the walls in their house. I don’t use the expression, “western music” with elementary students, but for the older ones, I explain this means not Asian or a local indigenous music, such as that of an American Indian tribe or an African or other isolated village. They seem to understand that well, since their basic sensibility is what we call western music.
    I used to show my students the C-F-G-C chord and play it with various rhythms, which was always used in news broadcasts, sometimes in an inversion (an attempt to imitate a telegraph system). But nowadays the kids don’t know what I’m talking about! (Adult students do…).

  • Beverly Campbell

    Hi Susan. About the perfect intervals, our New Zealand Modern School of Music theory books say that they are called perfect intervals because the 2 notes are in the each other’s scales. Example, for the perfect 5th, the C is in the G scale and vice versa. But for the 3rd interval, for example, the C is a C# in the E scale. The same is true for the 2nds, 6ths, and 7ths. Interesting!

  • Jan

    I love ALL your sheets, Susan! I hope that you will continue making harder and harder ones – getting into all the altered ones! Has anyone told you why the perfect intervals yet? It’s because when either a 4th or 5th are INVERTED, they are still perfect! Take C to F. If you make it F to C, it is still a perfect interval, etc. Make sense?
    It wasn’t too many years ago that this explanation started making sense to me!

    • Terrilyn

      Hi Susan,

      I, too, love your work sheets and games. They are a true delight and extremely helpful. My students look very forward to what new games will be waiting for them! As an addition to the fabulous response above regarding P4 and P5, it is true that they continue to be perfect when inverted. To take that one step further, they continue to be perfect because they are “unchanged” in each others scales. C does not get altered (C# or Cb) when it is played in the F scale. F does not get altered (F# or Fb) when it’s played in the C scale. Couple that with Pythagarus’ development of equal temperament and our current use of 12 tones, their sound waves, their overtones and you’ve got yourself Perfect Intervals!
      Thank you again, for all these wonderful worksheets and theory games.


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