Need some help with reading sheet music.
May 28, 2006 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I've started singing with a group, but my skills in reading sheet music are... lacking.

I'm singing Tenor with a group of people. While I can carry a tune well, I am not able to sight read music - I can kind of guess what the next note may be on a new piece of music based on the relative positions of notes, but I would like to be accurate. Fortunately we have a very good tenor who I stand next to and get the tune until we've practiced enough that it's memorised.

The whole thing is not helped by the fact that while the overall tune may be familar, the harmonies sung alone sound quite unusual to my ears.

What I would like to do is find some software or online course - free if possible - which will help me to learn pitch from musical notation. At the very basic level it would show me a note and play it, at a high level it might even analyze my pitch and give me some feedback.

Any tips on group singing would also be appreciated, thanks!
posted by tomble to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You need to specify the genre of music you are performing to get a good answer on this.

When rehearsing the harmony singing use a keyboard to get your individual harmonic notes down.
posted by SwingingJohnson1968 at 3:44 PM on May 28, 2006

Best answer: What you are looking for are lessons on "sight singing". It seems very hard, but it's a relatively easy skill to cultivate. I'm a college music education student, and we have to take 2 years of this stuff as part of our core of classes.

There seem to be quite a few good sources online. I'll list a couple below. Also, I'm sure you've realized this already, but just singing more is going to be immensley helpful. Especially singing Tenor -- you've got one (of if not the) hardest parts in a vocal ensemble, and getting those pitches is tricky. Stick with it!

Music Goals

Also, the immensely useful (and FPP-ed) Music Theory Dot Net is excellent.
posted by rossination at 3:45 PM on May 28, 2006 has everything you need, including ear training tools.
posted by phrontist at 3:47 PM on May 28, 2006

err... on preview, rossination has it.
posted by phrontist at 3:47 PM on May 28, 2006

"Ear training" is the partner skill to sight singing, so if you're googling, look for that phrase as well.

It can be a bit of a crutch, but most people are introduced to intervals by means of famous songs in which the interval is featured. A perfect fifth is "Twinkle, Twinkle" (...little star), a perfect fourth is "O, Christmas Tree" and so on. This works well enough for isolated intervals, but it can slow you down when you try to sight-sing longer pieces. Still, it's a start.

In addition to drills, I would suggest finding recordings *and* sheet music of pieces in your genre. As you progress with learning basic theory and ear training, start reading along in the score as you listen to a piece. Listen to lots of music. Each time you listen, try to pick out a different voice to follow along with.

I also have my own notation for marking important intervals. These serve as "anchors" in my piece and draw my eye to any upcoming difficult passages. Sheet music is meant to be marked up, so have your pencil handy.
posted by Sangre Azul at 4:43 PM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oops, forgot to mention the types of music. Madrigals, traditional music, contemporary music with arrangements for multiple singers.
posted by tomble at 4:50 PM on May 28, 2006

Yes, use the trainers. Also, it should be pretty easy for you to come up with exercises for yourself if you have a keyboard or guitar and any ability to record things.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:19 PM on May 28, 2006

Best answer: Tonight I'm staying with friends, one of whom is a voice teacher and signer.

She mentioned what you need to look into was ear training first, sight singing after.

Here are a bunch of links we gleaned with a quick google search.
posted by filmgeek at 7:31 PM on May 28, 2006

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