10 Sight Singing Techniques Professional Singers Use – Updated
In this article, we’ll be talking about sight singing in general, and sight singing exercises in particular. Even though some people have an idea of what is it, it’s probably the best to review all the theory before getting to the practice.
What’s Sight Singing?
If you’ve been interested in and invested in singing for a fair period of time, you know what sight singing is already. For those who don’t know or don’t remember, sight singing is the ability to read music and sign it right away, at first sight, if you will.
That’s where the name is coming from.
Why Is Sight Singing Important?
Well, first of all, it assists you in improving the sight reading skills of yours, which are crucial for both playing the number of instruments and singing. You’ll get familiar with the fundamentals all music theory is based upon, which will help you a lot in the long run.
Moreover, you’ll improve the feel for rhythm, which is crucial when singing, playing an instrument, or making a beat. If you can’t feel the groove, you’ll end up failing in any music-related activity. This can also positively affect your pitch accuracy, which is another essential aspect.
Sight Singing and Ear Training
The two terms go hand in hand most of the time. If you are wondering why the answer is pretty simple. It’s because hearing skills are crucial to see the “bigger picture.” Being able to imagine how notes sound without hearing them is a must for a professional singer and an instrument player.
Imagine a piano player who can’t distinguish how a C# sound. He probably won’t get far. And the exact same thing applies to sight singing. Once your ears are trained enough, picking up the correct pitch when sight singing will become a lot easier!
Let’s get to the exercises now.
Learn Solfege System
This is the first step of mastering sight singing as a skill. You’ve heard the ascending scales a million times, something like “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do.” The “Do” part tends to be the root note of the scale, similar to a C in a C major scale.
The point of this exercise is to hit every note in the scale. That’s crucial to be able to do so. Fun fact, you can use a “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1” approach, which actually works better for some people.
Solfege For Minor Scales
The principle is very similar to the formal exercise. However, it’s strongly adviced that you practice the major scales first. The reason is that minor scales can be a little confusing for complete beginners in sight singing.
Essentially, some intervals in the minor scale can be described as a half step, as opposed to the full step in the major scale. If you have little knowledge about the solfege system, to begin with, you’ll find it hard to hit all the notes perfectly.
Don’t get discouraged.
It gets a lot easier as you practice. In the beginning, messing up the timing between notes is quite common, but most people get over this issue fairly quickly.
You will notice that the notes halfway in between certain intervals are indicated by switching the vowel in the solfege syllable. Once again, don’t worry about it too much until you are comfortable with the previous exercise.
Solfege and Your Favourite Songs
Sight singing without the assistance of a vocal coach or instructor can be intimidating. But the same thing applies to tons of other skills as well. Learning programming, drawing, or anything else is incredibly frustrating at first. Keep pushing!
A great way to keep yourself engaged is to pick a fun song you love and find the root note. Then, starting from the tonic note, you will sing the whole song in solfege. There are a few ways to find the root note of the song.
Let’s look at them real quick.
When writing a melody for a song, most composers tend to end it with the root note. If you feel like the song is concluding, you may be on the right track because that’s often the tonic note.
Listen to the melody carefully and try playing it on the piano. When you’ve gotten a grasp on the melody, try turning the actual song off and sing the “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do.” Remember that you can only use the piano keys.
Keep trying various notes for the root note until you find it. This may seem time-consuming, but as you practice, the complications of finding the proper tonic note will diminish.
Don’t try aiming too high and trying to do the entire song right away. A lot of the times the keys are changed throughout the melody. If you are a beginner, you may not recognize the switch and get lost.
You best bet when it comes to solfege is focusing on one section at a time. After spending time and deconstructing a few songs, you’ll be able to do this with ease.
Learn How To Read Music
Let’s be real here. You have to learn how to read music at one point of your journey. It doesn’t matter if you sing, play the piano, guitar, or do anything music related, reading music is a must-have in your skill set.
Technically, you could also start from the first note on each page and manually count the spaces and lines up and down until the next note. However, at the end of the day, this will waste your precious time. Learn how to read music instead!
Practice Counting From C Note
If you are a singer, you already know that the C note is often considered a baseline from where you start. Use a piano to play the C and learn how to sing up and down the scale to find the root note of a song.
In order to be able to find the root note of a song, you have to develop the relative pitch. This may take a while to train your voice and ears to work simultaneously, but it’s worth every minute spent. Practice makes perfect.
As you train relative pitch, you’ll notice that people can start the same song from different notes. You have to find the right note and use it. Avoid singing in a different key every time.
As an alternative, you can always buy a tuning fork and continuously play with it throughout the day. Soon you’ll be able to guess the note without any problems whatsoever.
Practice To Jump Across Intervals
One of the hardest parts and essential skills is to be able to jump from one to another without screwing up. It’s easy when they are next to each other, but things become more challenging as the distance increases.
Therefore, you have to train to be able to jump from one note to another, preferably daily. There are tons of easy songs that you can try, such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which goes like Mi Re Do Re Mi Mi Mi. There is a high chance you are singing it in your head already.
Develop Your Sense Of Rhythm
It’s easier said than done, that’s for sure. You have to feel the song in order to sing it. And it’s not always 120 beats per minute. That’s when things get tricky. Following the percussions, however, helps tremendously.
Try clapping to the beat of a song, and separate the melody into subdivisions. You can try the simple 1-2-3-4 that singers, musicians, and dancers all around the world use successfully.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Difficult Passages
Don’t overwork yourself and your voice when the passage appears hard. Instead, slow down a notch and keep going. If you are in a choir, you can’t simply slow down.
Then, the best bet would be lowering the volume of your voice without disrupting the clarity or tone. When sight singing, try a few times before giving up. You’ll notice how you get better and better with every trial!
Practice Sight Singing
Like any valuable skill, sight singing is a tough one to master. You may have an idea as of how to sight sing, but genuinely being able to sing any song, at first sight, is something that requires tons of hard work and dedication.
Once you are comfortable with singing simple pieces, go ahead and find the song you’ve never heard in your life and try to sing them properly. Then go ahead and check if you’ve done an excellent job by listening to the actual piece. Try playing an easy song on a piano and sing while playing. This will develop your sight singing skills faster.
Don’t Give Up
The hardest part of learning anything is to not give up. Most of the time, you are not inventing the wheel. Therefore, there are always people who do something better than you.
These days, you can watch a video of a pianist who is playing for thousands of people. You only see the result. The fact that the guy played piano for 20 years since he was 5 doesn’t bother you.
What does this result in?
Well, you want to be just like him, but instead of 20 years, you are willing to give it 3 months. And then when you can’t play the same piece after practicing for 3 months, you decide that the piano is not your thing and you aren’t talented.
And sight singing is very similar to that. Training for a month will be a great kick start, but truly mastering it can take months and even years. You have to stay consistent and never give up.
Hopefully, these tips and exercises will help you step your game up. If you stay consistent and apply everything you’ve learned in this post, you’ll start seeing result fast, in a week at the latest.
But you have to practice sight singing, at least for an hour a day until it gets engraved into your brain. Then you can take a little break.