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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Want to Sing Better? Learn to relax!

Step 1 in preparing the body for a performance or practice is to "Learn to Relax".  

neckandshouldersRotate your head to allow the muscles in your neck and upper shoulders to relax. Dip your chin to your chest and hold your head there for the count of 5 (1-2-3-4-5). You should be breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. This will expand the diaphragm and ribcage while it keeps your shoulders stationary, meaning they should not be moving up and down with each breath. This will also help determine whether you are breathing properly from the diaphragm or not.

As stated in an earlier article, I would like to give you more information on relaxing the body, your muscles and your mind before a practice or performance.

Relaxing the mind will come automatically if you focus on what you are doing to relax the body and muscles used to sing. By focusing only on singing and relaxing, rehearsing can become like a form of meditation. As you are focusing on relaxing tense muscles and breathing, try to block everything else from your mind.

When you are preparing to sing; whether it be for a performance or just rehearsing, your mind should be focused on preparing your body and mind. Continue to focus on tongue placement, breathing properly from the diaphragm, becoming aware of what muscles in the body are tense and then releasing that tension. This cannot be achieved if you are thinking about the fight you had with your boyfriend/ girlfriend or any other stressors that may be in your life.

Become aware of what your body is doing and telling you. When you sing, your face muscles should be completely relaxed. This means there should be no tension in your jaw. If there is tension, it will limit your ability to hit those higher and lower notes you want to achieve. Common areas for tension are:

  • the tongue
  • jaw
  • shoulders
  • neck
  • throat
  • back
  • arms

 I have a few exercises I would like to share with you that will help you to achieve the relaxed form you want to have before any performance. With some practise, you will eventually be able to do all of these exercises in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes and achieve the relaxed form I’m talking about.

How to Relax

 First, clear your mind and focus only on your breathing and finding the tension spots in the body.

Take your arms and swing them as hard as you can to the front of your body all the way up above your head. Then let them drop – swinging them as far as you can to the back of your body behind you. This will loosen the shoulders and chest area.  While swinging the arms forward, breath-in through your nose…on the down swing to the back swing you should be exhaling slowly out of your mouth. Your focus should be on breathing-in on the upswing and breathing-out (exhaling) on the downswing. Do this 10 times.

Now move your head and touch your left ear to your left shoulder without raising the shoulder. If you cannot reach your shoulder, then just go as far as you can until you feel a comfortable pull in opposite side of the neck. Hold that position for the count of 5 (1-2-3-4-5) then straighten out your head and move it back to the center looking forward. Repeat this motion on the right side and then to the back. Repeat the count of 5 in each position and focus on breathing-in through the nose and out through the mouth. 

Now lets focus on releasing tension in the torso, arms, shoulders and chest area.

armcirTake your arms and shake them out slowly at first, and then more vigorously. Twist the upper body, keeping the hips stationary. Remember to focus on breathing from the diaphragm. Even though there is movement from side to side while shaking your arms vigorously, DO NOT STOP BREATHING or hold your breath. You must breathe through every exercise by breathing in slowly and deeply – in through your nose and out through your mouth without raising your shoulders.

 Last and probably the most important exercise is to make sure the mouth throat and tongue are relaxed.  Believe it or not, the jaw can have a tendency to carry a lot of tension. Take your bottom jaw and move it back and forth from side to side. You can do this even while your singing to release tension in that area.

To relax the tongue, let your tongue hang out of your mouth (like a panting dog), count to 5 (1-2-3-4-5) while you focus on breathing. Now twist your tongue from one side of your mouth to the other. You should feel a pull on the muscles at the back of the mouth just behind your molars.

mouth_palateAnother great exercise to help warm up the throat is to open your mouth as wide as you can and raise and lower the pallet (the dangling piece of flesh in the back of your throat). If you look in the mirror and yawn, you'll notice that  the pallet disappears to the top or roof of the mouth. This is the desired affect you want when practicing this exercise. You will learn to control this movement and it will aid in helping you to achieve those higher notes you are looking for. Eventually all of this will become second nature to you and you will be able to achieve the desired results in about 10 to 15 minutes.

Doing these exercises regularly will help you to become a better singer. 

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10 Secrets to Getting Started in Singing

So You Want to Sing?

Here's a list of the 10 Secrets you need to know:

  1. Find a place to practice without distractions.
  2. Set a time of 30 minutes to an hour each day for rehearsal. I recommend one hour per day at the least; and try to get in a practice 5 or 6 days a week.
  3. Being comfortable and relaxed in your rehearsal environment is very important. I suggest wearing workout attire or loose fitting clothing.
  4. Try to clear your mind of anything non-singing related. Singing has been known to be a form of meditating and with a little focus, it can be very soothing and healing.
  5. When choosing your music, your best choice as a beginner is something not too complicated, usually performed by a “GOOD VOCALIST”. The best way to learn is by watching and listening to those who sing correctly.  I personally like the great opera singers however there are many great singers to choose from in every genre (type) of music.
  6. Use backing / karaoke tracks, or sing along with your favourite artists / cds. I suggest both methods.  Backing tracks will allow you to hear what your own voice sounds like, helping you to develop your tone and pitch. While singing along with the artist will help train your ear to the correct notes and various styles of singing.
  7. Use a recording device; whether it be a web cam with sound, karaoke on-line, or something as simple as a tape recorder. You will need to do this fairly regular in the beginning to learn when you are in your “correct voice” and when you are not. 
  8. Get comfortable with your own voice and the practice area. What I mean is, find a place where you are able to make as much noise or hit as many bad notes as needed, without feeling embarrassed, shy or uneasy in anyway.
  9. Take at least 10 minutes to warm-up before you begin singing. During this 10 minutes, notice any tense areas in your body and begin relaxing them. For example, think about your jaw, tongue, neck, shoulders, arms, back, and chest, while you relax these areas. You can learn more about how to relax these areas before a performance or rehearsal in an upcoming article.
  10. Devote some time every day to breathing exercises, since it is the fundamental key in singing better and protecting your instrument; your voice. Whether your goal is to sing in a choir, for friends and family, at the campfire, or to become the next big singing star, at the very foundation of all great singing is learning how to control your breath using your diaphragm.

Remember, the basic fundamental factor of singing is breathing properly which is something that should be practiced several times daily.

Proper breathing technique can be done:

  • discretely while waiting in line getting your morning coffee or while sitting in class,
  • on your commute to work or school, or
  • as a means to relax the body through meditation. 

How to Breathe Properly

Basically, proper breathing technique can be done just about anywhere you are.  The basic rule in beginning to breath properly or from the diaphragm is to inhale (breathe in) through your nose and exhale (breath out) through your mouth.

Try this …

Take a deep breath in through your nose and breath out through your mouth.  Breathing from the diaphragm is the art of expanding and collapsing the middle and upper abdomen, the area from the pelvic up to the lower chest cavity.  When breathing fully from the diaphragm, the shoulders will not raise and lower when a breath is taken. The middle area (torso) of the body will expand on the *breath in* (inhale) and collapse on the *breath out* (exhale).

  1. There are two times when your body does this naturally, as you are sleeping, and
  2. when you yawn.

Want More?  I teach my favourite breathing and muscle strengthening techniques, along with other helpful tips in our FREE 5-week Video minicourse. Join NOW!


Singing Lessons Reviews

karaoke_300With so many singing lesson products on the internet today, how do you know which one to buy?  Are some products better than others?

Here at Singing Lessons Now, we have taken the guess work out for you by reviewing the top singing products on the internet today.  While many products promise to have you singing like a pro in a matter of months, weeks or even days, only a few of these products actually deliver and provide real value for your money.  Don't be fooled by promises to sing like Celine Dion or Pavarotti in as little as a week. Good singing, like any sport or activity, only improves with a good coach and tons of practice, practice and more practice.

1. Sing Like a Star

Of couse our top pick is none other than our own featured FREE 5-week Singing Lesson course "Sing Like A Star" featuring Rock Diva Lisa Smith. A professionally trained and accomplished Opera singer with the Royal Conservatory, Lisa Smith has been singing professionally for many years and is becoming known across the globe for her original hard rock music.  These lessons are short, sweet, and really pack a punch with valuable tips you can use today, to improve your singing immediately!  The best part is – it's absolutely FREE! Sign up today!     

2.     Singorama

Discover Precisely How to Sing with a Full Vocal Range, Hitting Notes with Professional Precision in less than 3 months. Singorama features 28 audio lessons, cool music software for your computer, PLUS tons of other great giveaways and product features.  If you're looking for a great product that can help you improve your singing; land the leading role, sing along better at parties, improve your range, or even if it's to try something new, this product delivers better than any other!

3.     Pitch Master Pro – Ear Training Software

Ever wonder how some people have the ability to hit the right notes all the time? Now you can too with this ear training software. You'll learn all the secrets, like how to hear the notes properly and how to sing the notes you hear in your head. They also offer free software and a fabulous newsletter full of tips and tricks to help you improve immediately.      4.     The Pure Pitch Method Learn The Secret Method of Pitch Recognition that allowed a 16 year old teen to master absolute pitch and relative pitch in less than 6 weeks.  For serious singers, this course provides the technical expertise you'll need to take your singing to a whole new level – level of pitch that is! Learn what the masters already know and improve your singing skills today!


Sign-up Today for 5 FREE Video Singing Lessons, featuring Lisa Smith.