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How Do I Speed Up My Sight Singing?

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

How do I speed up my sight singing? What can I do to become more efficient and faster at sight singing?

In this blog I want to tell you a couple of simple sight singing tips to help you speed up your sight singing, but also I will help you become a much more aware musician!

Don't forget to check out my online sight singing course, Sing By Sight, written specifically for Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) singers, taking you from the absolute beginnings of sight singing through to a professional level of sight singing.

Now to give you those sight singing tips!

When you look at a piece of music what do you really see? Lots of singers when they first pick up a piece of music just see a lot of black lines and dots on a page - their eyes are overwhelmed with information and they can't define any features.

My big tip is for you to realise you are actually looking at RHYTHMIC PATTERNS and MELODIC SHAPES.

Once we recognise this and start seeing these patterns and shapes on the page of music our sight singing speeds up, we become faster and more efficient and our confidence grows.

So let's look more closely at what these rhythmic patterns and melodic shapes are and what they mean.

Rhythmic Patterns

One of the easiest elements to pick out on a piece of music is rhythmic patterns.

When you're starting to learn to sight sing you will mainly count the rhythms you're reading, but eventually you will get to a point where you don't need to count the rhythms, you just recognise the rhythmic patterns you're reading and you will sing them with flow and musicality.

Look at the music above. Notice the rhythm in bar 1. This is a really common contemporary rhythmic pattern.

The great thing about the example I've written above is that the rhythm is the same in bars 1, 2 and 3 and only changes in bar 4 - rhythmic repetition is also very common in CCM and again, once you know how the rhythmic pattern goes you will speed up your sight singing because you're not having to read every bar.

Practice focusing on just the rhythm and not the notes so you can become faster at recognising rhythmic patterns and also faster at seeing rhythmic repetition.

Once you've noticed the repetition in the first 3 bars you only need to think of the rhythm once.

How does this improve your sight singing?

Recognising patterns in rhythms is excellent for your sight singing as it speeds up your reading - you don't have to count every rhythmic pattern, you already know how that rhythmic pattern sounds.

Recognising rhythmic patterns improves your sight singing because you can focus on other elements of the music without having to concentrate on counting rhythms, for example you can listen to the backing more quickly and feel where you sit in the piece - instead of counting rhythms, you can feel them.

Melodic Shapes

Another element of music to look for are melodic shapes. Again, when you start learning how to sight sing, every note you move to and sing is calculated and carefully judged, but eventually you begin to recognise and become familiar with a wide range of melodic shapes, helping you to speed up your sight singing.

Melodic shapes such as singing around chords or chromatic movement becomes more familiar to you and eventually you're able to work on automatic pilot and sing a wide range of melodic shapes without actually analysing every note in that shape - you can move around the notes with a smoothness to your vocal line.

Look at the music above. Notice how the melody moves around the chord of F major for the first 2 bars and then moves up and down the scale of F major in the 3rd bar.

Moving up and down the scales and around the chords is very common so try and be quick recognising this melodic shape instead of having to read every note individually.

Practice focusing on just the melodic shape and not the rhythm so you can become faster at seeing the shapes.

How does this improve your sight singing?

Seeing shapes in melodic movement is excellent for your sight singing as it allows you to move through your part without having to analyse every note you are reading.

Also, seeing melodic shapes improves your musicianship by allowing you to hear where you sit and where you fit in the piece of music more quickly, meaning you can think about other elements of singing, such as blending your voice, or bringing out your line.

Being a strong, confident and accurate sight singer is a fantastic skill, and being able to pick out rhythmic patterns and melodic shapes in music contributes to this.

Your goal is to be able to say to yourself:

  • I recognise that rhythmic pattern, I don't need to count every beat, I know how it goes and I know how to sing it

  • I recognise that melodic shape, I don't need to analyse every note, I know how it sounds and I know how to sing it

On Sing By Sight, I'm not only teaching you how to sight sing, I'm helping you train your eyes to pick out all the features on a piece of music, features such as rhythmic patterns and melodic shapes. You will understand everything you see on the page, and become a fast and accurate sight singer.

Through a measured and careful approach to sight singing, I help you remove the feeling of being overwhelmed, I help you take away the feelings of panic and anxiety.

Emer McParland is singing with the vocal group Voxtet at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London
Performing with 'Voxtet' at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London

In this photo I'm singing at the world famous jazz club, Ronnie Scott's in London.

I'm performing with a close-harmony vocal group I work with called Voxtet.

The 'Voxtet' line-up is 8 singers, piano, bass, guitar, drums, percussion and sax.

The MD and Arranger for the group is Clive Dunstall, the piano player.

This gig is all about sight singing!!! And some of the charts are off the scale and so tricky!

It's really important I can recognise rhythmic patterns and melodic shapes in this music as there is so much information in front of my eyes and I need to take it all in very quickly.

It's a tough gig to do, but it's also a fantastic gig, and there's always such a buzz during and after the performances.

Don't forget to head over to Vocal Vista and sign up for Sing By Sight - take control of your sight singing today, and learn to recognise rhythmic patterns and melodic shapes in music.

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