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I am starting music school (masters prep program for adults who have a bachelor's degree in something non-music related) and along with theory, I will need to learn how to sight sing. I am a 28 year old male with a deep voice, and I simply sing very very poorly; I simply do not sing.

How will I learn how to sight sing if my ability to sing is very, very poor?

If it is possible (I assume it must be) for me to learn, what would be the first things the music school will teach me in an introductory sight singing course in order to prepare me to sight sing?

Thanks.

EDIT: I am a composer and can sight read music, so my theory knowledge and practical knowledge is beyond the basics (intervals, harmony, etc). I can't "sing" and do not understand how I will be able to walk into a classroom and just start "singing" notes.

Is it just simply a matter of making a vocal noise and matching it to a pitch played on an instrument, for example?

  • Can you be more specific? Is it that you really can't find the notes, or just that you don't like the sound? – topo morto Apr 7 '15 at 18:00
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    The usual mantra on this site - find a teacher for at least a couple of lessons. It's by far the easiest6 and best way. If you can't read music, you won't be able to sight-sing anyway. So learn what the dots are about, first. – Tim Apr 7 '15 at 18:17
  • And learn to recognize intervals by ear -- if you don't know what a M3 or m6 sounds like you certainly won't be able to sing the interval! – Carl Witthoft Apr 7 '15 at 18:37
  • OP here: Sorry I forgot to mention that I compose classical and am beyond the basics (I sight read in both clefs, and have composed in alto, soprano, and tenor clefs). Sorry I figured that was assumed information. – lobi Apr 8 '15 at 20:15
  • If it makes you feel better, I am a similar age. Having competed sight singing (all As thanks to nice teachers) and a music degree, I still don't like my voice and don't sing. The challenge for sight singing was learning to control my voice, so it took me a lot more work than the people who were used to singing, even poorly. – Josiah Apr 9 '15 at 17:27
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We don't know the program--you'll need to talk to someone there to find out what exactly the prerequisites are. Usually this is the kind of question that the teacher for the course you're going to take would be happy to answer.

In general for introductory theory courses they won't care at all about the quality of your voice, only that you can produce more-or-less accurate pitches. If you have trouble, say, matching a sustained pitch in your range that someone plays on the piano, or singing a simple melody (like "Mary had a little lamb") without wandering far off key, then you may need to work on that first--your program's faculty should be able to connect you with resources. Otherwise, I'd guess you're ready. But again that's just a guess, ask someone there. I'm sure they're used to people having worries about exactly this issue.

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You should start by making sure what your range is ie the notes you can comfortably sing. Baritones also have 'deep' voices make sure you are certain of what type of singer you are exactly.

When you have done this the fun part begins.

You can start of by just singing along with the piano. No words just try to match the sound the piano makes (Be certain the piano is tuned)

Then you can start with basic scales and when you are done with them you could try intervals.

All these things also helps with your aural skills so 20 minutes in front of the piano should help out tremendously with this.

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Unless you are going to be a singer, don't worry too much about vocal quality. Obviously, there are books you can read on vocal pedagogy to help with healthy singing technique, but probably not necessary in your case; ask your singer friends for some pointers and I'm sure they'll be happy to help you out.

One of the ways I learned to sight-sing that was actually helpful was to get copies of scores and recordings of major classical works, such as the Bach B-minor mass, pick a line to read, hit play and try to keep up.

In a class, it is not the worst thing in the world to lose your sense of tempo, but in any real professional situation, keeping time is more important than anything else, and being able to get back on if you do make a mistake. This is why the recordings are helpful: they are relentless.

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As others have said: most sight-singing classes don't care if your voice sounds well. It's all about reading, keeping rythm and holding pitch. It's not a voice lesson. You're not becoming an opera singer, you're developing a more intimate relation to written music.

For holding pitch, which I suspect is your main concern, a lot of it is about building confidence, more than voice technique.

First step for me was convincing myself I had the necessary range (being: an octave and a half, almost two, as almost everyone does). I had a lot of help from a tuner-app on my phone. Just make some vocal noise, in your low range, and in your high range, without straining yourself, and notice what notes you reach, you already will be amazed. Thing is: you almost certainly have the range to sing, you just need to practise to make it reliable. And this takes only time.

A second step was to realize that male singing (even when you have a deep voice) in the high range, sounds a bit, well, girlish. It took some time for me to realize that this is part of singing! You're not really singing if you are just using your voice in your normal speaking range. You have to get out of it. Just listen to the radio and realize: all those male singers are singing quite high, pop, rock, classical,... all of them.

Third, realize that to prevent your voice from breaking when going from your high region to the low and vice versa, you need to relax your singing muscles. To be able to relax, while singing relatively easy pieces (as you probably will in the beginning) is mostly a psychological issue. Don't worry, relax! It's ok.

Lastly, just do this, don't be ashamed, you won't be the only one in your class with no or little experience in singing. You're there to learn. Sticking your head out will be the fastests way for you to learn and will probably help the others too, by showing that you don't have to be perfect.

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