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Course 4: Sight Singing

Teacher: Curtis Hollembeak
FREE: Test your knowledge of sight singing!

Become Musically Literate:

Every choir member ought to have at least a rudimentary understanding of how to read and sing on sight an unfamiliar piece of music. Singers should not be dependent upon hearing their note played on the piano or sung by another person. This series of lessons will train you in a simple method of sight reading music.

Lesson 1. Discover the Pulse

"Music Is Alive!"

We will begin sight singing by learning how to read rhythm. In this lesson we introduce the concept of the pulse, learning to subdivide the pulse, and learning note names.

Lesson 2. Quarter, Half and Whole Notes

"Elongating the Pulse"

The quarter note is most often used as a reference point when discussing rhythm, and is normally assigned the value of one beat. From there, we can move on to learning that the half note gets two beats, and the whole note gets four beats. Each note has an associated rest.

Lesson 3. Eighths, Sixteenths and Triplets

"Subdivide the Pulse"

Now we will begin to subdivide the beat into smaller units. Starting with the quarter note as a one beat unit, subdividing into two parts gives us eighth notes. Subdividing into three parts gives us the eighth note triplet. Subdividing into four parts gives us sixteenth notes.

Lesson 4. Advanced Rhythm

"Variety Is the Spice of Life"

After learning to read and perform notes that elongate or subdivide the pulse, we now move on to more complex rhythmic patterns. Ties and dots make notes longer, while syncopation creates an “off-kilter” feeling. Combinations of eighths and sixteenth notes are fun to read, while quarter note triplets (putting three notes in the space of two quarter notes), can be very challenging.

Lesson 5. Pitches and Scales

"Right on the Numbers"

The singer will find it necessary to acquire a few basic music skills before attempting to learn how to sight read a melody line. These skills include having a good sense of pitch, being able to sing high notes and low notes, the ability to sing a major scale, knowing how to read key signatures to determine the tonic note (the first note of the scale), and the ability to read notes on the lines and spaces of the music staff.

Lesson 6. Pitch Movement

"Same Note, Stepwise or Tonic Triad"

Having acquired a basic understanding of how sight singing works, we will now begin to perform some basic note movements. In this lesson we will learn to sing notes that are the same, notes that move stepwise, and notes that skip around in the tonic triad (notes 1, 3, 5).

Lesson 7. Other Intervals

"Learning to Leap"

Working with numbers 1 through 8, there are 64 possible intervals. Knowing how to sing notes that are the same, notes that move stepwise, and notes that are within the tonic triad covers 34 (over 53%) of those intervals. This lesson introduces all of the remaining intervals.

Lesson 8. Reading Accidentals

"Dramatic Chromatics"

In this lesson we discuss how to handle altered notes. Some pitches are altered by being raised a half step with a sharp sign (#), and others are altered by being lowered a half step with a flat sign (b). A natural sign cancels out a sharp or flat in the key signature, or any previous accidental.

Lesson 9. Singing Parts

"Live in Harmony"

Knowing how to sing a part in a group opens up a world of new opportunities. Begin by determining what range of pitches you are able to sing, and then determine the classification of your voice. Finally, learn where your notes appear in relation to the other parts on the staff.