Learn the Secrets to Sight Reading

If you are new to sight reading and you want to learn how to do it, then you’ve come to the right place!

The term sight reading refers to the ability to read and sing a piece of written sheet music at first sight, without having seen it or rehearsed it before. I know this may sound scary but it’s really not as difficult as you might think. Many singers can sing "by ear", which means they can sing what they hear and they learn songs by listening to them. But if you want to join a choir, a chorus, or a band, or want to perform as a classical singer, then you may be asked to sight read some music so it would really be to your advantage to learn how to do it. A good sight reader can also learn songs faster. So if your choir is handing out solos, learning to sight read music is not only fun but it can also be to your advantage. Any music teacher can teach you how to read music but not many of them can teach you how to sight read and sing a piece of music you have never seen before. Being someone who naturally learns songs by ear, I had to teach myself how to sight read, so that I could join the choir at my church. Here is an easy method I developed for sight reading that has helped place me in numerous choirs and allowed the opportunity for me to sing solos, duets, quartets, and more, simply because I was able to sight read a sheet of music.

Step 1:

In order to sight read, you first need to learn the basics for how to read music. Again this is not very difficult and you can learn to read music on any number of websites or by watching videos on You Tube. For this exercise, we are going to assume that you know the basics. Basically, a staff (or row) of music consists of 5 lines, with 4 spaces between them. Songs are written in either Treble Clef or Bass Cleff. For this exercise, we will refer to the Treble clef.

The notes on the lines are:

E G B D and F music_staff (To remember these notes, you can make up a sentence, such as: "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" – these are the letters reading from the bottom – upward).       The spaces between these lines are: E C A F (Notice that these letters spell "FACE" if written from the bottom-upward)

Step 2:

The second step in learning how to sight read is knowing how to sing a scale – Do, Ra, Mi, Fa, So, La Ti, Do A scale is made up of 1 octave; which is the same as singing 8 consecutive notes in order. For example: from C to C; from A to A, from B to B, etc. Each one of these represents an octave.

Step 3:

To help you sight read faster and easier, it really helps to find your natural singing range and your comfort zone and know what notes they are made up of. Start off by singing a note and saying "Do". Now sing a scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do) Do not try to sing really high or really low. Just try to sing the easiest, most comfortable notes for you – the notes you sing will probably be close to your regular talking voice. Now you need to find out what the names of notes are that you just sang. To do this, you will need a pitch pipe, a musical instrument like a piano or keyboard, or you can listen and compare yourself to the notes sung by Lisa Smith in Lesson 2 of our FREE Singing Lessons series (click here to join now!). Sing your note "Do" again and find the same note on your instrument or with Lisa. Did you find out what the name of the note is that you sang? When I did this exercise, I discovered that my natural singing range is in the key of D. When I sang an octave in my natural, comfortable range and then figured out which notes I was actually singing, here’s what I discovered. I sang: Do – D Re – E Mi – F Fa – G So – A La – B Ti – C Do – D Knowing your natural singing range is critical to sight reading. Having done this exercise, I now know that I can sing a D note without even hearing it because it is the note that is most natural and easiest for me to sing. Get familiar with your natural comfort range. Sing it over and over again.

Step 4:

This is our final step in learning to sight read a sheet of music. Now that you know what your natural notes are, it will be very easy for you to look at a sheet of music and sing along. First, find your natural note on the music sheet. (For me, I would be looking for a D note; the lower Do note is located in the space just below the E note on the bottom line of the treble clef.) Because I know how to sing the D note, as well as sing a scale from my D note (Do, Re, Mi, etc.) I can now start at the D note on the sheet of music, and work my way up and down the staff, finding and singing the notes on the printed on the sheet. If you do this a couple of times out load, you should have the melody of the music in my head and you will know how the song is supposed to sound, so you can sing along with the choir. Don’t be afraid to try this yourself to see how it works for you. Learning to sight read music will expand your versatility, make you more valuable in a choir, and can help you land those leads and solos you’ve been wanting. Try it today!

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One Response to “Learn the Secrets to Sight Reading”

  1. Jaddy Brown says:

    One of the best ways to learn how to sing high pitch notes is to take lessons. Taking lessons forces you to practice. You learn how to warm up, and begin to understand what it feels like to sing when your voice is actually ready. A good vocal coach, whether in person or online, will teach you exercises and techniques to warm up your vocal chords and your body, so that when you do reach for that high note, it is there waiting for you.

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