# Sight singing at first sight

I have a very good ear, and can sing anything that's given to me (without ever hearing it before, if it wasn't obvious). However, the aspect of reading music from a staff instead of commands which indicate which interval or scale degree to sing, is a lot harder - as it barely gives me any information about the music - I don't know what the tonic is until I start sight singing using the intervals, and because of the irregular notation of intervals - sight singing using the intervals is very hard (and the fact that key signatures change the intervals just makes it a lot harder).

Right now I can only think of one solution - and that is to read the absolute pitch (in pitch class) and calculate the intervals - however, that makes it a lot harder to use scale degrees.

How do you go about sight singing (extremely different from sight reading for instruments)? Is the approach that I suggested the only one or are there more?

• Once you read a lot of music, you can see the intervals on the page without taking the time to calculate it. I suggest sight-reading and singing the melody along with an instrument like piano. Just train yourself to recognize the intervals as they are on the page. May 13, 2017 at 21:02
• Given your opening sentences ("I have a very good ear, and can sing anything that's given to me (without ever hearing it before, if it wasn't obvious). However, the aspect of reading music from a staff instead of commands which indicate which interval or scale degree to sing, is a lot harder"), how did you first learn to sing, and what sheet music did you train with? It looks like you didn't train with regular sheet music at first, and based on both sentences combined, I don't think you've mentioned any ear training you've done. May 14, 2017 at 15:25

Your perception is skewed! The intervals used when singing most songs are actually regular - as in they have a pattern. Each of the 12 major keys has that same pattern, the difference being the starting point - the root or tonic.

When you sing,say, from tonic to fifth in any key, the jump is the same, it makes no difference.When singing or playing an instrument, being aware of the key the piece is in is paramount.

The sharps and flats are there to help, not hinder. In C, singing from tonic to maj 3 shows no # or b. C>E. Put the piece in E, and the key signature puts the notes right. E>G#. In Ab, it's Ab>C. Really, the only problem for sight singing will be when there are accidentals - notes which are actually out of the written key - non-diatonic.

Trying to read the pitch class will work well if you have absolute pitch, but for us lesser mortals, it doesn't help. Since you can already sing in tune, get used to each interval - just use key C initially, and then transpose to other keys to understand what #/b actually do.

What you do right now is good, but you won't always have the facility to listen to something for the first time in order to imitate it. Sight singing isn't the black art that it appears!

• I may be mistaken, but I was under the impression that the questioner's point about the "irregular notation of intervals" referred to the fact that the spacing of intervals on the staff alone really is irregular, or maybe better not orthogonal: two notes on adjacent lines can be a major or a minor third apart, etc. A staff is not a graph. Yes, once you know how the staff works, and how key signatures work, then you have the pattern, but not before. May 14, 2017 at 19:38

I'm afraid there is no way around it: to sight sing, you have to be able to calculate the intervals from a known starting point, or know what key you're in and what scale degree you have to sing, or some combination thereof. That simply means lots of practice.