Learning to Sight-Sing

Pitch is the other important aspect of reading music, but we need to read differently depending on which  instrument is being played. When singing, it's even more difficult - we have to imagine what the notes will sound like just from looking at them!

 

We have published another app, called Sight-Sing. It contains 108 exercises to practice the main ingredients of the major and minor scales. It's possible just to touch a note and hear what it sounds like. Singers don't need a pianist or a teacher to help them any more, anyone can take charge of their own learning.

 

Sight-Sing is also a guide to how music works, and lays the foundation for arranging and harmonising later. It can help with intonation (good tuning) for string players  and with phrasing for anyone.

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The most important concept is that in music not all notes are equally strong. The foundation notes of the key chord are reasonably easy to find, but the ones in between are supposed to be a bit slippery, and pull towards the strong ones. It is this interplay of tension notes and resolution notes that give music its basic structure. Once the patterns of tension and release is established, composers start to write musical surprises, with detours, unexpected escapes and unusual routes back to the home chord.

The concept of sight-singing is often presented as if a perfect sight-singer would sing every note exactly and evenly the first time they hear it, as if some kind of machine was playing their voice-part on a piano.

In fact... whenever we sing a wrong note by accident, we are getting clues about where the composer has put their musical surprises. After a while we might start to spot these before they happen, and perhaps sing the surprise correctly the first time as well, but the most important thing is to stay aware of where the music seemed to be going when it escaped!

So far as we are aware, this is the first time these concepts have been made easily accessible to beginners. The app uses the Solfa syllables (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do) as this is a good way to keep track of where we are in the musical scale, whatever key we have to sing in. But in contrast to the traditional approach which focuses for a long time on the various modes of the pentatonic, this app proceeds more directly to the standard major and minor, and the importance of the 4th and 7th as leading / suspension notes.

Working with iPad is, of course, an amazing advantage - touch and hear the note directly - with no need to find someone who can check every exercise at the piano.

 

Transposing examples to any position on the stave is also extremely simple; get used to different keynote positions or just work at a pitch that suits your voice.

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