As music educators one of our goals is to help our students develop into independent musicians. A crucial component of independent musicianship is the ability to successfully read music. Developing music literacy is essential to the goal of equipping students with independent musicianship skills (Henry, 2004). Often students do not receive enough instruction on sight-reading. This is most likely because music educators are often required to focus on producing high quality performances rather than teaching music literacy (Asmus, 2004). However, research suggests that teaching students to sight-read drastically improves the success of an ensemble. The purpose of this article is to offer some research-proven successful sight-singing strategies.
In 2007 Darrow and Marsh asked students to self-evaluate their sight-singing skills. Their findings indicated that students were reasonably accurate at predicting their sight-singing accuracy and even more accurate at evaluating their performance. It is conceivable that as students gain more experience with sight-singing their ability to predict and assess their musical skills will become more accurate (Darrow & Marsh, 2007). Even though students possess the analytical skills, their success rate dramatically decreases unless they have been taught successful sight-singing strategies. Henry and Killian (2005) studied the effects of 30 seconds of extra sight-singing preparation time on advanced, intermediate, and low-accuracy sight-singers. Their study found that medium and advanced singers benefited significantly from the extra 30 seconds of preparation time. “However, comparison of the melodies sung with and without practice time revealed no significant differences for the low-accuracy singers” (Henry & Killian, 2005, p. 57). This difference suggests students need to have some knowledge of best practices before they attempt to sight-read. Based on their observations Henry and Killian found that some sight-singing practices were more successful than others. These skills included Curwen hand signs, isolating problem areas, private piano lessons, and keeping a steady beat on the body.
The research suggests that teachers should strive to teach their students strategies such as the ones stated above that they can use to be successful in sight-singing. Although these skills can be utilized individually, it is recommended that directors use them daily with their ensembles. Consistently teaching sight-singing in a group setting has also proven to be a successful method for strengthening sight-singing skills (Henry, 2004). By allowing our students to develop successful sight-singing skills we help them develop into independent musicians.
Asmus JR., E. (2004). Music teaching and music literacy. Journal of Music Teacher Education, 13(2), 6-8.
Darrow, A. A., & Marsh, K. (2006). Examining the validity of self-reporting: middle level singers’ ability to predict and assess their sight singing skills. International Journal of Music Education, 24(1), 21-29.
Demorest, S. M., (2004). Choral sight singing practices: A revisiting a web-based survey. International Journal of Research in Choral Singing. 1 (2), 3-10.
Henry, M. L., (2004). The use of targeted pitch skills for sight-singing instruction in the choral rehearsal. Journal of Research in Music Education 53 (3), 206-217.
Henry, M. L., & Killian, J. N., (2005). A Comparison of successful and unsuccessful strategies in individual sight-singing preparation and performance. Journal of Research in Music Education, 53 (1), 51-65.