Why Sight Reading for Singers is So Different | How to be Performance Ready | Apps and Resources for Singing Practice

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Sight-singing requires knowledge of musical relationships.
Originally published: May 12, 2020
Updated: January 15, 202

Why Sight Reading for Singers is so Different

Have you always wanted to read music notation? Or perhaps you can read, but you want to get even better? Well, right now may just be the perfect time to learn! But wait! It’s helpful to music readers and non-music readers alike to understand how reading notation is different for singers and instrumentalists.

The notes themselves are the same for everyone, but to produce a given note, instrumentalists largely rely on pressing keys or frets or buttons that correspond with that note. Singers on the other hand, have no external structures to manipulate and therefore must conjure every note from thin air. This requires a singer – more so than instrumentalists – to know the relationship between all the notes on the page in order to sing them. Instrumentalists may know these relationships too, but to singers it is all the more crucial.

Even a piano player who can sight-read brilliantly won’t necessarily be able to sight-sing an unfamiliar melody, unless they have learned to understand and reproduce all the relationships between notes. Now, we all know that not having an external instrument to wrangle is what makes singing so easy and accessible to all (yay!), but not in the case of sight-reading musical notation. 

The relationships we are talking about are intervals and scales. An interval is the distance in pitch between two notes and a scale is a series of notes arranged according to specific intervals. The good news is, your ear already knows all the intervals, and so learning to sight-sing is all about putting a name to what you instinctively already know. It takes time and practice, but anyone can learn to sight-read. For example, you might know the Star Wars Theme song, but you may not have learned that the interval between the first two pitches is an ascending perfect 5th. Even if you can’t name the interval, your ear will tell you – “Hey, that sounds like Star Wars!” 

To take Kathy Alexander’s Courses on Interval Training, purchase a Premium account and begin with Introduction and Basic Intervals

Insta-Live Chat: Singing in Isolation

Co-founder, vocalist and music teacher Kathy Alexander has a chat with Greg Barker about developing your singing voice in isolation. She shares tips for singers of all genres to move ahead with their vocal work in this challenging time.

How to be Performance Ready

If you have ever heard the saying, “Act as if,” as a mindset that helps you get a job or a gig, you might want to hear Mark Baxter’s version of that for singers: “Act as if you have work to do.” In his lesson on Performance Readiness, Mark teaches that laying the foundation for great performances involves skill development, pursuing a genre that resonates with you, preparation of your material and staying warmed up and in shape. 

Apps and Resources for Singing Practice

During isolation and quarantine, singers can find inspiration and get a little help from these singing apps and resources you’ll find in the action of this lesson.

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