The Science Of Song How And Why We Make Music Sight Singing for the Instrumentalist

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Sight Singing for the Instrumentalist

Many teenagers, adults, and maybe even you, have acquired a fair amount of skill on a musical instrument. Maybe they took piano lessons when they were younger or played in a school band or orchestra. Maybe they excelled at one of these instruments and played in a top band. Although they consider themselves skilled musicians, they have never learned to sing by sight. They can pick up a sheet of orchestral music and play it without breaking a sweat, but trying to sing a simple song without help makes them uncomfortable. If that’s you, there’s good news.

Of course, you’ve probably never thought about learning to sight-sing. Maybe what you do has never seemed important. But when you think about it, you realize that you are not a complete musician if you can’t sing. And you may live in fear that someone will find out when you ask how a certain tune sounds. Can you show it?

The good news is, you’re more than halfway there. Your knowledge of rhythm and music generally puts you far ahead of sight-singing beginners. But you still need to overcome this gap and learn. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science; You’ve already mastered the hard part.

As a musician, you know the concepts of major scales and tonic notes, which are the basis of the scale. And you may not have thought about it before, but once you find Do on the staff, you can easily figure out that the other lines and spaces represent successive notes of the scale (except accidentals).

All that’s left is to learn how to hear in your mind how the other notes related to Do sound. It’s a melodic ear exercise that allows you to sing notes in any key with ease. You don’t need to remember which notes are sharp and flat, just sing within the measure.

Fortunately, most note relationships can be learned by referencing familiar songs. If we use the Do-Re-Mi system as a reference, the song “Three Blind Mice” is Mi, Re, Do. “Born Free” is Do and Sol, used to find Sol, while Sol-Do can be described as “Here Comes” or “Amazing Grace.” In other songs, the first note can be used to indicate Ti (“O Danny Boy”), Re (“Yesterday”), or La (“I Dream of Light Brown Jeannie”).

Getting used to these interval relationships and a little practice can make you the complete musician you always knew you could be. You need not consider yourself inferior to singers at any stage of the art; you will have it all.

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