Unlock the Power of Sight Singing: A Comprehensive Guide

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Sight Singing: The Key to Unlocking Your Vocal Potential

Sight singing is the ability to read music and sing it accurately without prior practice. It’s a vital skill for singers, as it enables them to learn new music quickly and confidently.

One way to look at learning to read music is like target practice. There are 3 pieces to this puzzle.

1.) Vertical placement (up and down) on the staff tells us the pitch.

2.) Horizontal placement (left and right) on the staff tells us the rhythm/timing.

3.) Once you know the horizontal and vertical pieces you can slam the appropriate syllable of lyric on the note.

While it takes a little time to learn these concepts and put them together in real time, it’s not rocket science. YOU WILL GET THIS!
Sight singing is like target practice with coordinates on a grid. Moving up and down on the staff tells us what pitch we are on. Moving left and right tells us the timing or rhythm of the individual pitches. When we combine those by going note to note, we need to know the distances between the notes which are called intervals.

Step One – Pitch / Vertical

The first thing you will want to do is learn the notes on the keyboard and staff. In the old days we used to use flash cards, fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Note Identification for Sight-Singing Note Identification: This will help you learn the notes on the staff

Note Identification for Sight-Singing
Keyboard Note Identification: You guessed it, flash cards for learning the notes on the keyboard.

Step Two – Rhythm / Horizontal

Now we have to learn how to read rhythm. Fortunately, there is something about the way rhythm is written that helps us. Individual beats are spread out evenly and beamed separately. So it’s easy to see how many notes are on each beat.

Step Three – Intervals and Key Signatures

Now we need to know how to determine pitch in the timeline based on two concepts. First is the Key Signature or scale you are in. Knowing the seven notes you are primarily dealing with makes it easy to know the exact distance from one note to another. For this, you can use the solfege (Do-Re-Mi) system. However, I find it more helpful to use numbers for the degrees of the scale instead of learning an additional syllable per note. The numbers help us understand the relationship between the notes more easily and it helps us understand the connection between the key signatures since most of your future study in music will revolve around numbers.

Once you get a good handle on these distances in the scale degrees, you will want to dig deeper into understanding of intervals. An interval is the distance between two notes. Music contains accidentals (symbols that raise or lower your pitch by a half-step) that break the scale or key signature you are in, so the only way to master the exact distance (interval) is to know the intervals that aren’t inherently present in the scale/key signature.

If you like the exercises above, consider buying the ios/iphone/ipad apps for a few bucks.

The guys at MusicTheory.net have created Tenuto.

Another popular app by the same creators is Theory Lessons. This has some awesome explanations explained the same as if you took a music theory class.

If you don’t want to buy the apps, you can get all of this information on their website for free @ MusicTheory.net

Before diving into sight singing, it’s essential to understand the basics of music theory. Here are some key concepts to get you started:

  • Pitch: The perceived highness or lowness of a sound.
  • Interval: The distance between two pitches.
  • Chords: Groups of three or more pitches played simultaneously.
  • Key signature: A symbol that indicates the key of a piece.
  • Time signature: A symbol that indicates the rhythm and meter of a piece.

Exercises for Sight Singing

Now that you’ve got a solid understanding of music theory, it’s time to practice sight singing! Here are some exercises to get you started:


Solfege is a system that assigns syllables to pitches. It’s a great way to practice sight singing, as it helps you develop a strong sense of pitch recognition.
Do – Re – Mi – Fa – Sol – La – Ti

Scales and Arpeggios

Scales and arpeggios are the building blocks of music. Practicing them will help you develop a strong sense of pitch recognition and improve your sight singing skills.

C Major Scale: C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
C Major Arpeggio: C – E – G – C

Apps and Books for Sight Singing

There are many apps and books available to help you improve your sight singing skills. Here are some of our top recommendations:


  • Sight Singing Pro: A comprehensive app that offers a range of exercises and drills.
  • SingTrue: An app that uses games and exercises to help you develop your sight singing skills.
  • EarMaster: A powerful app that offers a range of ear training and sight singing exercises.


  • “Sight Singing: A Comprehensive Approach” by David Laird Scott
  • “The Musician’s Guide to Sight Singing” by Gary E. Anderson
  • “Sight Singing for Dummies” by Pamelia S. Phillips


Sight singing is a powerful skill that can take your singing to the next level. By understanding music theory, practicing exercises, and utilizing top resources, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a proficient sight singer. Remember to be patient, persistent, and always keep practicing!
Updated on 6/5/2024