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West Midlands Barbershop Harmony Club


Sightsinging part 1

Submitted by George Badland on Tue, 12/07/2016 - 14:51

 

Why it is so difficult to learn to sightsing........ Or is it?

The secret of Sightsinging, and to most people is is a secret, is that if you understand how the scale we sing  is built, you are a good 80% to 90% of the way there.

You don't have to be a musician, but you do need to be able to sing the scale we sing in Western music. You know the one that goes .............DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, DO.
or as sometimes is 1.     2.    3.   4.    5.     6.    7.   8 or (1) again.
So in this scale there are just 7 different notes.

Now, if you look at a keyboard you will see that between any note you start on and another note an octave higher, there will be 12 notes, all with different names. If we call the first note DO, then the next note up on the keyboard would be, well, let us call it DO sharp. This is in fact a half step up. I.e DO to DO sharp or (#) is a half step up or a semitone up. So if we make 12 half steps upwards on the keyboard, we will have reached the same note we started on, but one octave higher in pitch.

So the Western music scale, is made up of just 7 notes taken from these 12 that are available. But which 7 do we choose?
Here-in lies the rub. But don't worry, simplicity follows.

If we now go back to looking at the original DO, RE, MI, FA, etc above, then between each step, we can write either "whole step" or "half step" and this is the critical secret I mentioned earlier.
Between DO and RE is a whole step, or tone.
Between RE and MI is another whole step or tone.
Between MI and FA however, it is only a half step or semitone
Between FA and SOL is a whole step or tone
Between SOL and LA another whole step or tone
Between LA and TI yet another whole step or tone. But,
Between TI and DO is only a half step or semitone.

So, the sequence of steps that are used to make up this scale and indeed every scale we sing regardless of the starting note of the scale is:
Whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.
                                   or
Tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone.

The problem beginners to learning music have, is that their ears  are so familiar with hearing or singing the scales used in our western music, that their ears tend to tell them that each interval step up the scale sounds the same. But the sad fact is that it isn't. The scale is as written above I.e made up of whole and half steps in the strict particular order that is written above. I.e TTSTTTS
Where T is Tone and S is Semitone. It's a bit like climbing a ladder that has it's rungs equally spaced for the most part but the third and eigth rungs are only half the distance apart than the other rungs. It is this fact that is responsible for most oif the 'complications' in music.

Like I said at the start, if you can master the above, which is not exactly rocket science, you are at least 80% plus to understanding how to sightsing.

Complicating 'facts' from musicians reading this, are not allowed at this stage.;0)

Geo