Understanding Intervals On and Off the Bench


I'm not sure why it took me this long to come up with a companion resource to the free Understanding Intervals e-book that I published a couple of years ago. I have now, thanks to fellow teacher, Laura Young. During a recent consultation, she wanted to design a series of "openers" for lessons. After we brainstormed for just a short time, we came up with some pretty cool ideas. Those ideas have blossomed into a brand new resource called Understanding Intervals On and Off the Bench.

Why compare intervals to shoes?

I'm a shoe fanatic so it was not a stretch for me to connect one of my favorite things to something like intervals. Just like shoes, intervals come in different sizes and colors. It's always a good practice to relate the known to the unknown when introducing concepts and shoes make sense.

Make sure to ask your students why I would choose this theme! And, how are intervals different colors?

Why isolate intervals?


Mastering the sound of intervals can help playing-by-ear skills. Mastering the look of intervals can help reading skills as reading two notes and patterns is far more efficient than reading one note at a time.

Dedicating lesson time to just one interval can introduce the concept of measuring space between pitches to beginners, reinforce the look and feel of intervals for those with a couple of years at the piano and can focus on the complexity of Major, Minor, Perfect and Augmented for more experienced players.

Consider using this resource yearly or every other year or every three years to revisit and build on the theory behind intervals.

How is this resource organized?

Each page provides lesson ideas surrounding an interval. Two lessons are dedicated to each interval. The first lesson or Week #1, focuses more on experiencing the interval through the ear and by playing or creating with it. Week #2 features assignments targeted around how the interval looks on the staff and finding it in repertoire.

Each lesson includes four sections:

  • On the Bench

  • Off the Bench

  • Extend

  • Links

What does “On the Bench” mean?

The first of each lesson plan includes an “opener”—similar to an ice breaker—that you can do with your students at the piano. It’s an activity designed to immediately engage students as well as teach them something. It’s meant to be a short learning experience that you continue to reference throughout the lesson so students see how to apply what they just learned. Pause for teachable moments frequently to help make the connections throughout the lesson.

What does “Off the Bench" mean?

For those of you who offer a Lab or Music Tech Time, this section offers assignments to reinforce the opener including a handful of apps. I purposely selected only a few so that if you want to try the Off Bench Time (click here to learn more), you won’t need an excessive amount of apps. There are plenty that I did not include so plan to amplify assignments with your favorite if you don’t find them here.

What does “Extend” mean?

This is a special section reserved for activities that can amplify students’ experiences with each interval. I let my imagination run wild and so can you! I am excited about Samantha Coates’ Rote Repertoire and therefore included pieces that feature the interval for the week. I encourage you to find repertoire and activities to fill this section with more ideas.


How can this be used in your studio?

Along with the e-book, use this resource to...

  • Highlight one interval at lessons and follow the resource from week to week.

  • Dedicate a whole month to one interval.

  • Develop a unit around intervals and wrap up the unit with the games featured in the resource.

  • Prepare for theory tests.

  • Design a summer camp around intervals.

  • Revisit this topic every year and build upon the knowledge your students learned the year before.

Stay tuned at 88pianokeys.me for more ideas!

Click on the shoes to purchase your digital download.

It's at a special price that will go up in September!