Sight reading for Singers by Dr Karen Bauer

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Dr Karen Bauer, a friend of mine who taught for many years at North Park University in Chicago. She has great ideas for working on sight reading.  Here are her notes from a convention I attended.


There are many ways of approaching music rudiments. These procedures are mere suggestions.

1. Meters such as 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8, 918,12/8, 6/4

Know the note values in these meters and which ones provide the "beat" or pulse. Be able to read rhythms orally while clapping or tapping the pulse (beat). (The Ottman book mentioned below has good examples to practice.)

2. Names of lines and spaces for treble and bass clefs

Know where the half and whole steps are.

3. Key signatures

Be able to identify the 15 major key signatures and 15 minor key signatures. Be able to write the signature for any given key.

4. Scales

Know the difference between the major and minor scales. (Know natural minor, melodic minor and harmonic minor.) Be able to write out any scale when given the starting pitch. Be able to sing each one given a starting pitch. You may use either numbers (1-8) or solfege (do re mi fa solla ti do), whichever is easier for you.

5. Melodic Patterns Progressing to Melodies

Beginning with chordal patterns is a very good way to develop sightsinging skills with a sense of key structure. The Ottman book which is mentioned in the Resources section below is organized in this manner and would be good for focused sightsinging practice.

a. Practice singing tonic triads and arpeggios (1-3-5-3-1; do mi sol mi do; or 1-3-5-8-

5- 3-1; do mi sol do sol mi do) and then try singing these pitches in any combination

(such as 3-8-1-5; 5-3-8-1, etc. etc.).

b. Move to melodies with stepwise motion and skips in the tonic only (1, 3, 5, 8 do mi sol do).

c. Practice singing dominant triads (5-7-2-7-5; sol tire ti sol) finding the triad when given the tonic pitch (1, do). Then try singing those pitches in any combination.

d. Practice singing 1-3-5-3-1; 5-7-2-75; 1-3-5-3-1 (pitches in both the tonic and

dominant) in any combination.

e. Move to melodies that use steps and skips in both the tonic and dominant (1-3-5-3-1, do mi sol mi do; 5, 7, 2, 7 5, sol tire ti sol).

f. Practice singing subdominant triads (4-6-8-6-4; fa la do la fa) fmding the triad when given the tonic pitch (1, do). Then try singing these pitches in any combination.

g. Practice singing the pitches in tonic, subdominant and dominant in any combination.

h. Move to melodies that use steps and skips in the tonic, subdominant, and dominant.

i. Try the same procedures in minor keys. (You may need more help with this.)


Music for Sightsinging by Robert W. Ottman -4th, 5th, or 6th edition (Sometimes you can get one edition rather than the other for less money and sometimes you can get pre-owned books.) If you want to check ahead at the schools you are applying to, you might flnd out if they are using the Ottman book. If so, you would want to get the edition they are currently usmg.

Fundamentals of Music Reading by Paul 0. Harder, 1954. I don't believe this is being published anymore, but you can sometimes get used copies on Basic theory rudiments are covered, but don't focus on sightreading.

Basic Materials in Music Theory: A Programmed Course, 1975,2009 (and probably many other editions). This comes in soft cover and can also be found used.

Musical Palette by Jamie Henkie, University ofWisconsin, online cost $45. Interactive, comprehensive instruction of music fundamentals. Atomic Dog Publishing,

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