A Quick Guide To Music Intervals + How To Improvise With Them

A Guide To Music Intervals

While music does use math, thankfully music intervals don’t have to be nearly as complicated. No formulas are needed. And, when these are mixed you can create interesting music!

This is part of a mini series about intervals on your piano. We have covered 2nd and 3rd intervals, 4th and 5th intervals, 6th intervals and 7th intervals. (Whew! That’s a lot of intervals.) This article references things already mentioned in those articles.


Musical Intervals: Cole’s Notes Version

Intervals are a short-hand way of describing how far apart notes are heard or seen (i.e. sheet music).

P.S. To hear songs that use each of these intervals, click on the links above.

  • Minor 2nd: Like a chromatic scale.
  • Major 2nd: Usually called a “step”.
  • Minor 3rd: Sad doorbell that lets us know if a chord is Major or minor.
  • Major 3rd: Happy doorbell that’s also called a “skip”.
  • Perfect 4th: Related to chord inversions.
  • Perfect 5th: Related to root position chords.
  • Minor 6th intervals: Outside of chord inversions, both minor and Major.
  • Major 6th intervals: Outside of chord inversions, both minor and Major.
  • Minor 7th: Whole step up to an octave, often used in blues or jazz music.
  • Major 7th: Half step up to an octave, also often used in blues or jazz music.
  • 8th intervals: More commonly know as an “octave”.

To hear these intervals, click here or watch the video below. Do you notice each interval has its own unique sound and feel?


Improvising With Music Intervals

I was listening to 1950’s Jazz while creating this mini lesson. This led to a little inspiration for the improvisation that included all the intervals between 2nd and octave! In the video above (or click here) to hear what that improvisation sounded like.

Think about the music you like to listen to … or something new you heard. These are a great starting point for creating music.

There are 3 guidelines to follow that will help you make the most of music intervals:

  • Keep to mostly 2nds and 3rds with some 4th and 5th intervals. This relates to how easy it is to sing.
  • Add some larger intervals (often categorised as “leaps”) for a little added interest.
  • Add rhythm with a mix of short, medium, and long notes.

Don’t worry about making mistakes—improvisation is about experimenting and having fun!

Here’s a few ideas to create your OWN mini song:

  • Don’t worry about chords (unless you want to go back and memorize the ones I used in the video).
  • Start on F or C.
  • End on F.

A Quick Guide To Music Intervals

Music intervals go beyond what we have covered here, but it’s a great review of the ones most used in music.

Remember that music intervals:

  • Intervals describe the distance between 2 notes: whether auditorially or visually.
  • Learning the intervals from 2nd to octaves allows you to make simple through to complex music!
  • Except 2nd intervals, all other intervals are related to chords in some way.
  • The best way to learn is try! Use these to create your own mini songs.

What was something surprising you learn about music intervals?

Let me know in the comments!

Happy playing, and I can’t wait to see you in the studio!


Imagine learning how to play piano through fun activities, improvising (creating music in the moment) plus writing your own music!

As a parent, imagine your child’s smile as they have fun learning piano and creating music … plus, family and friends as they hear the music your child has created.

As a teen or adult student, imagine jamming with musician friends .. or wowing them with the latest song you wrote.

If you want to dive deeper and experience a creative and engaging piano learning journey, join us for our upcoming intro sessions. Spots are filling up fast, so don’t miss out! Click the link below to sign up.

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