What is sight-singing?
Sight-singing is the ability to read and sing a piece of music previously unseen and unrehearsed. Relating the look of the notes on a score into their recognised audible sounds. Many vocalists sing by ear and never find the need to learn to sight-read, but session singers and classical singers will need to read sheet music on first sight.
A competent sight-reader can use their skills to learn songs faster, deputise with any band and gain session work with producers and studios, so it’s definitely worth learning. Regardless of the form of singing you choose, learning to read and sing music can be fun as well as useful!
Those of you with a piano or keyboard available can use it to practice sight-singing by writing the note names onto a piece of sheet music and repetitively striking the proper note (e.g. “C”) in its various locations (the number depending on how many sets of octaves your keyboard has) then naming (or singing) it out loud as it is struck.
In each ‘Octave’ there are a total of seven white keys: ‘C, D, E, F, G, A, B’. C is the note to the left of the groups of two black keys. The other notes are placed successively after C. The black notes denote sharps and flats and the pattern of two black and three black keys is the key to recognizing the position of any given note (e.g. the note D is easily seen as that note which lies between the groups of two black keys).
Easy Ways to remember notes on sheet music
- Lines in the Treble ‘E G B D F’ – Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
- Lines in the Bass ‘G B D F A’ – Good Boys Deserve Favour Always
- Spaces in the Treble ‘F A C E’ – As it reads Face!
- Spaces in the Bass ‘A C E G’ – All Cows Eat Grass
Another method that is commonly used is known as Solfege which is a system used to sing melodies.
10 Sight Reading Tips
Ten amazing free secrets help to sight-read any sheet music notation for piano, by Howard Richman the author of Super Sight-reading Secrets at Sound Feelings. This free information provides self-study tools and solutions on reading music like a professional. Sight reading takes time to improve, as with any self-improvement program, but these helpful tips will show you how to get there faster than you ever believed possible!
1. Develop Your ‘Relative’ Sense of Touch.
Acquire the skill of playing so that you don’t need to look down at your hands. Without looking at the keyboard, glide your hands so you feel the two and three black keys (like Braille.) When you need a C, D, or E, feel for the ‘2s’ When you need an F, G, A, or B, feel for the ‘3s’.
2. Develop Your ‘Absolute’ Sense of Touch.
Always sit in the same place. Middle ‘D’ is recommended because it creates a symmetrical pattern in both directions.
3. Practice Finger Technique Without Looking at Your Hands.
A creative way to do this is to play your scales and arpeggios in the dark. This will add confidence to your sense of touch.
4. Learn the Four Groups of the Lines and Spaces
- Lines in the Treble ‘E G B D F’
- Lines in the Bass ‘G B D F A’
- Spaces in the Treble ‘F A C E’
- Spaces in the Bass ‘A C E G’
5. Practice Only the Rhythmic Information
In a composition you are working on, ignore the correct pitches.
6. Practice Only the Pitch and Fingering Information.
In a composition you are working on, ignore the correct rhythm.
7. Play Easy Pieces up to Tempo
Force yourself to keep going no matter what. Don’t worry about mistakes. This helps you to look ahead.
8. Play Difficult Pieces Super Slowly
Don’t dare make even one mistake. This helps to develop accuracy.
9. Look For Patterns in Music
Don’t be afraid to look way ahead for a second just so you can anticipate what will be easy or difficult. Patterns are easy. If you detect a pattern then you can devote your concentration to other things.
10. Study Music Theory
Professional sight-readers never read every note! They get a sense of the overall chord and ‘fill-in’ the blanks. With a solid knowledge of music theory, this becomes natural and immediate.
Article by Howard Richman of Sound Feelings Publishing, Reseda, California.
These tips were prepared by Howard Richman and are offered for free as a courtesy. For the complete information to super-charge your sight-reading ability, order Richman’s bestselling book, Super Sight-Reading Secrets (listed in our books section below). Don’t miss his $5.00 Secrets of Singing on Pitch complete instant ebook.
Sight Reading Books
The following are a small selection from the many available in the Sight Reading & Ear Training Books page of our Books for Singers section which contains educational, instructional, repertoire, diction, language and marketing books for singers and musicians.
Sight Singing Made Simple by David Bauguess
Vocal Sheet Music And CD
This easy-to-use audio course for self-study is a step-by-step introduction to music reading skills. This resource will be an effective tool for building confidence and skill. Ideal for individuals or groups. This course assumes no prior knowledge of written music.
Contents / Song list
- Rhythm Practice, Reading Note & Rest Values
- Meter and more practice reading rhythms
- Reading Pitch from Syllable Letters
- Reading Pitch from Notes on the Staff
- Introduction of Counting Method for Reading Rhythms
- Reading Skips from Syllable Letters
- Reading Skips from Notation
- Key Signatures
- Echo Drills
- Clef Signs
- Eight Notes
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Super Sight-reading Secrets by Howard Richman
This Book Will Help You To:- Increase your rate of visual perception. Play any note on the keyboard without looking at your hands, even jumping large distances. Look ahead. Keep from losing your place. Fake. Play contemporary classical music. Transpose notes (or chords) at sight.
Learn to Read Music by Howard Shanet
A study of the fundamentals of reading musical notation that will teach the reader to read music in 4 hours. Organised in small chapters with step by step instruction and exercises, this guide is useful to learn the rudiments of music, rhythm, pitch, notation and crammed with essential information.
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Specimen Sight Singing Tests – Grades 1 to 5 (ABRSM Sight-Reading)
This volume contains valuable practice material for candidates preparing for the Grades 1-5 ABRSM Singing exams. Contains specimen tests for the new sight-singing requirements from 2009, representative of the technical level expected in the exam.
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Specimen Sight Singing Tests – Grades 6 to 8 (ABRSM Sight-Reading)
This volume contains valuable practice material for candidates preparing for the Grades 6-8 ABRSM Singing exams. Contains specimen tests for the new sight-singing requirements from 2009, representative of the technical level expected in the exam.
Read more at Amazon UK
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Specimen Sight Singing Tests – LCM Diplomas
Specimen sight-singing tests for the London College of Music and Media Singing diploma examinations. This book has been compiled to show the degree of difficulty to be expected at the examination. Includes specimen tests for ALCM, ALCM(TD), LLCM and LLCM(TD) High and Low Voice examinations.
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Teach Yourself to Read Music
Guide for Pop, Rock, Blues and Jazz Singers by Jeffrey Deutsch
Covers everything a singer needs to know to read music. Includes examples, exercises, songs, answers and an assignment for each chapter. The book starts slowly with the basics and adds more complicated elements one by one. It uses visual images to help you hear in your head what you see on the page. Unlike more other sight singing books, it is specially geared to the singer of pop music. Once you learn the system you can sight sing in any given key. The accompanying CD will help the singer monitor their efforts. This book presents a system for learning the grammar of music, the rules by which it is understood. It starts slowly with the basics of sightsinging and adds more complicated elements one by one. Each chapter includes and original song that is similar to music that the professional singer will be asked to sight sing. The accompanying CD will help you to monitor your efforts.
Includes a basic introduction to reading sheet music along with two games to help children and adults recognise notes. ReadMusicFree
Dolphin Don’s Music School
Includes 10 games that teach ear training and reading of notes, rhythms, key signatures, intervals & chords, full version includes 240 levels, keeps score for 30 players. To download a Demo version of this SHAREWARE visit their site Dolphin Don’s Music School
Learn Music Theory the Fun Way with HAPPY NOTE!
With Happy Note!, you can learn music theory as if it were a game. Actually, with Happy Note!, music theory IS a game, or more exactly a series of games. Designed by licensed music teachers, these games are true computer games with all the bells and whistles (score, lives, Hi-Score, etc.) They both Entertain and Educate, and make boring music theory lessons a thing of the past. Thanks to Happy Note!, children and adults can now learn music theory the fun way.
New Free Game – Learn about rests the fun way with HAPPY NOTE!
Learn about musical symbols (rests and notes), with the help of an elephant, and a ball! Happy Note! Note Cracker is a game for people of all ages that the entire family will enjoy. It remains fun to play even after you’re done learning. It features 4 gaming speeds and a Hi-Score list that keeps track of the 10 highest scores.
HAPPY NOTE! NOTE CRACKER & NOTES IN SPACE Translated from the original French by Laurent Cartayrade Copyright Â© 1999-2000 Pascal Riben. All rights reserved.
New Free Game from HAPPY NOTE – Sing & Learn Treble Clef ABC Reading Lessons!
You can now download for free all Happy Note! Sing’n Learn Treble Clef ABC Reading lessons. No previous knowledge of music is required to use Happy Note! Sing’n Learn. Furthermore, just as the Learning menu of our computer game Happy Note! Treble and Bass Clef, Happy Note! Sing ‘n Learn uses color notes to make learning a new note easier. To download it (automatic file setup is only 600 KB) or try it online, go to: Happy Note – Treble Clef
New Free Game from HAPPY NOTE – Sing & Learn Bass Clef ABC Reading Lessons!
After the treble clef, you can now download for free all Happy Note! Sing’n Learn BASS Clef ABC Reading lessons. No previous knowledge of music is required to use Happy Note! Sing’n Learn. Furthermore, just as the Learning menu of our computer game Happy Note! Treble and Bass Clef, Happy Note! Sing ‘n Learn uses color notes to make learning a new note easier. To download it (automatic file setup is only 600 KB) or try it online, go to: Happy Note – Bass Clef
From the Family Games – Notecard web site: – NoteCard is a small program with a simple purpose: to help the user learn to read the musical notes, and to recognize them instantly. Although fluency in note-reading is only one aspect of learning to read music, it is the most tedious to master; yet it is a vital skill that is as important to reading music as facility with the times tables is to arithmetic. The quickest way to learn the notes is by means of flashcard drill, and this is what NoteCard provides. There are 12 levels of difficulty, covering an expanding range of notes, until the entire staff (optionally both staves) has been mastered. If you or someone in your family is just beginning to learn to read music, NoteCard will help you. This is now a commercial product. AHA! Software, Inc. Back to Top
Piano Chords – Virtual Piano
Learn piano chords on the Virtual Piano. Click on any variation and the chords are displayed on the piano keys and the notes used are listed under the keyboard!! A great tool for beginners who want to learn chords and more advanced players who would like to brush up on their inversions!! This neat application can be used online and added to your webpage!! You can Learn Piano Chords online or Download here. Its a small download at only 9.3kb .zip plus its FREE !!
If you need to improve your sight-singing skills then Sight-Singing Trainer may help. Test your accuracy by singing the notes presented in short exercises displayed on the screen into a microphone. Sight-Singing Trainer will check your accuracy and correct any mistakes. A free demo version is available at the authors website. Fast and Soft.
A great, open-source xylophone applet!
Fun to play the xylo; educational too.
See the music being written as you play.
Playback features included. Source included! – courtesy of Java Boutique who have a host of great musical java applet programs – FREE! Click Here to try it out ONLINE and/or DOWNLOAD!
Visit our Vocal Software Section for free Spectographs, Articles, Reviews, & Free vocal software.