I mentioned last week that I'm spending a month in Italy without a guitar. My substitute obsession has been learning the Italian language, but I've made time for some spreadsheeting wildness as well. (See Counting Tunes at Jam Sessions for a taste of my ridiculous fascination.)

Songs for Intervals

The spreadsheet I have for you today is a chart of songs for interval recognition. The seed for this project came from the sirens running around the streets of Florence. Ambulances use a major 6th melodic interval, and the Carabinieri use a perfect 4th melodic interval. (And the echoing Doppler effect as they pass my apartment window is totally wicked!) I still remember my first guitar teacher showing me how to memorize the sound of an interval by superimposing the first two notes of "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" over a major 6th. That's what I heard in my head during my first Florentine ambulance siren experience, but another one popped in there at the same time: "Take the 'A' Train". As I mulled over this new connection, I also heard the NBC theme and "All Blues", and I realized they all use the same scale degrees to form that interval: 5 up to 3. And I thought, wouldn't it be nice to distinguish between the different pairs of scale degrees that can create an interval? Yes. More on that below.

Chart Weaknesses

Search for interval recognition songs, and you'll find a parade of charts that offer a handful of well-known songs for each kind of interval, ascending and descending. The obvious drawback is that you're not familiar with all the named songs. Large intervals starting a melody are particularly hard to find, and I invariably see a lot of unfamiliar titles for anything larger than a perfect 5th. This chart by EarMaster helps out by allowing you to select a single song of your preference for each interval and create a custom chart for your own ears. They even link to YouTube clips of every song.

But even when I make my own chart, there's still something missing. I never see any mention of the scale degrees outlining the interval. For any given interval, I hear it differently depending on the context. For example, a descending minor 3rd occurs between the first two notes of "Oleo" on scale degrees 1 and 6, "Girl from Ipanema" on 2 and 7, "Frosty the Snowman" on 5 and 3, "Peter Gunn Theme" on b3 and 1, and "What Is This Thing Called Love?" on b7 and 5. They're all minor 3rds, but they come from different directions. A new one might trip you up if you're unfamiliar with its place in the key.

The Spreadsheet

So I started my own spreadsheet to keep track of only melodies I know and all the scale degrees they use. With no instruments at my disposal, I've identified intervals to 135 tunes so far. A few of the scale degrees are missing either for lack of a tonal center or because I couldn't figure it out by humming. And a few intervals don't have example tunes yet, as I haven't discovered any without an instrument. Like all my crazy spreadsheets, it's a work in progress.

View the complete live spreadsheet on Google Docs. The columns, in order, are the first scale degree of the interval, the second scale degree, direction, number of semitones, interval name, and song title. (The number of semitones is necessary for sorting everything, thereby grouping identical intervals together.) Along the bottom, you'll see three tabs: Master, Sorted, and Encode. Master is where I input all the data. Sorted is a copy of Master, sorted by interval size. Encode converts semitones to interval name.

My collection of songs will do you no good. Make your own copy of that spreadsheet. You can download it or copy to your own Google Docs account. Delete every song you don't recognize and add more that you do.

Below is a sample of the spreadsheet in its current state. Songs are grouped by interval size and direction, displaying starting scale degree, ending scale degree, and song title. Any suggestions? Hit the comments!

Ascending Minor 2nd

3 4 Blue Monk
3 4 I'll Remember April
3 4 Till There Was You
5 b6 Caravan
5 b6 How Insensitive (Insensatez)
7 1 There Is No Greater Love
Bye Bye Blackbird
Jaws Theme
Pink Panther Theme
What's New?

Descending Minor 2nd

1 7 Fly Me to the Moon
1 7 Joy to the World
1 7 On Green Dolphin Street
1 7 Solar
1 7 Stella by Starlight
3 b3 O Little Town of Bethlehem
4 3 Killer Joe
5 b5 Billie's Bounce
5 b5 Fur Elise

Ascending Major 2nd

1 2 Autumn Leaves
1 2 Doe, a Deer
1 2 Milestones
1 2 Mr. PC
1 2 My Funny Valentine
2 3 Body and Soul
5 6 Happy Birthday
5 6 I Got Rhythm
5 6 Just You, Just Me
5 6 Out of Nowhere
5 6 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
5 6 Silent Night
6 7 Woody 'n' You
There Will Never Be Another You

Descending Major 2nd

2 1 Yesterday (Beatles)
3 2 Autumn in New York
3 2 Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me
3 2 Figaro
3 2 Hot Crossed Buns
3 2 Just Friends
3 2 Mary Had a Little Lamb
3 2 On the Sunny Side of the Street
3 2 Three Blind Mice
5 4 Away in a Manger
5 4 Deck the Halls
5 4 Don't Get Around Much Anymore
5 4 Lullaby of Birdland
5 4 Tune Up
5 4 Whistle While You Work
6 5 Freddie Freeloader
6 5 Satin Doll

Ascending Minor 3rd

1 b3 Comin' Home Baby
1 b3 Greensleeves
1 b3 It Don't Mean a Thing
1 b3 Moanin'
1 b3 Stolen Moments
1 b3 Take Five
3 5 Cherokee
3 5 O Canada
5 b7 Blue Train
6 1 Wave

Descending Minor 3rd

1 6 I Mean You
1 6 Love for Sale
1 6 Oleo
2 7 Garota de Ipanema
5 3 Blue Rondo Ala Turk
5 3 Frosty the Snowman
5 3 Hey Jude
5 3 Misty
5 3 S Wonderful!
5 3 Star-Spangled Banner
b3 1 Peter Gunn Theme
b7 5 What is this Thing Called Love?
Five Hundred Miles High

Ascending Major 3rd

1 3 I Can't Get Started
1 3 Kum Ba Yah
1 3 Marines' Hymn
1 3 They Can't Take That Away from Me
1 3 When the Saints Go Marching In

Descending Major 3rd

3 1 Aguas de Marco
3 1 Swing Low Sweet Chariot
3 1 Tenor Madness
5 b3 Beethoven's Fifth
5 b3 Nature Boy
5 b3 Summertime
5 b3 Yesterdays
7 5 In a Mellow Tone
Giant Steps

Ascending Perfect 4th

1 4 All the Things You Are
5 1 Amazing Grace
5 1 Auld Lang Syne
5 1 Bemsha Swing
5 1 C Jam Blues
5 1 Hark the Herald
5 1 Here Comes the Bride
5 1 How High the Moon
5 1 Maiden Voyage
5 1 Nearness of You, The
5 1 Nostalgia in Times Square
5 1 Now's the Time
5 1 O Christmas Tree
5 1 Round Midnight
5 1 Some Day My Prince Will Come
5 1 Song for My Father
5 1 St. Thomas
5 1 Straight No Chaser
5 1 We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Descending Perfect 4th

1 5 All of Me
1 5 I've Been Working on the Railroad
1 5 O Come All Ye Faithful
1 5 Shave and a Haircut
1 5 Softly as in a Morning Sunrise

Ascending Tritone

1 b5 Maria (West Side Story)
1 b5 The Simpsons Theme

Ascending Perfect 5th

1 5 2001 Space Odyssey Theme
1 5 Angel Eyes
1 5 Blackbird (Beatles)
1 5 My Favorite Things
1 5 Top Gun Theme
1 5 Twinkle Twinkle

Descending Perfect 5th

5 1 Flintstones Theme
5 1 Seven Steps to Heaven
5 1 Way You Look Tonight, The

Ascending Minor 6th

3 1 In My Life (Beatles)
3 1 Soul Man

Ascending Major 6th

5 3 All Blues
5 3 Days of Wine and Roses
5 3 My Bonnie
5 3 NBC Theme
5 3 Speak Low
5 3 Take the "A" Train

Descending Major 6th

3 5 Music of the Night, The

Ascending Minor 7th

1 b7 I Feel Free

Ascending Major 7th

1 7 Ceora

Ascending Octave

1 1 Alice in Wonderland
1 1 Over the Rainbow

Descending Octave

1 1 Willow Weep for Me