The Adolescent Reading Singer
Second Edition

Don L. Collins                         



Introduction to this

Demonstration Version:


You may click the links at the end of this introduction to access some selected teaching charts and instructions for The Adolescent Reading Singer by Don L. Collins.  However, before you do, please read the following information (taken from Dr. Collins'  published introduction) to help you understand the purpose and approach of the sight-reading method.


The directions were a bit generic (to say the least) the first time my choral director in high school gave the choir instructions about how to read music.  She said, "Watch the notes and when they go up, make the voice go up, and when they go down, make the voice go down, and listen closely to the piano."  Then she proceeded to "beat out the part" on the piano, and each section sang one at a time, until we knew how our part sounded and could sing it.  After being exposed to this process for several years, if we singers had any capacity for music-making whatsoever, we learned how to "read music" after a fashion.  Actually, we were beginning to (1) sense relationships between the tones in the diatonic scale, (2) understand key relationships, (3) understand how the highness and lowness of the tones felt in the voice, and (4) sense how the tones fit in the various chords.  We really did not know how to read music, but we were able to sing the correct notes most of the time through this "hit-or-miss" approach.  Not until I had two university degrees did I really feel comfortable about my ability to read music.  Eventually, I was taught a specific method (tonic sol-fa) and I soon learned that I did not have to rely so heavily on my innate ability to hit-or-miss the notes as I sang, because when I saw a note on a page, I heard a sound in my head and could sing it exactly.


One of the pitfalls and blessings for young singers is that singing is so natural that they can enjoy music making without being able to read the notes.  Instrumentalists do not have that luxury because they cannot play an instrument without learning to read music (unless as children they learned to play an instrument "by ear," and can play in an improvisatory fashion as in jazz or country music).  It is difficult to motivate instrumentalists who play by ear and singers who harmonize by ear because their desire to make music has already been fulfilled.  They soon learn, however, that unless someone is present to sing or play the music first, they are unable to produce it.  This is the advantage of the music-reading process:  Printed symbols become aural sounds.  What a wonderful happening.


The diversity of approaches to teaching music reading in American education is both a blessing and a curse.  Educators have the right, to a degree, to choose the approach they desire to use in teaching their classes.  That is the blessing.  On the other hand, singers who are exposed to several different teachers and approaches may become very confused and finish their tenure in secondary school unable to read.  That is the curse.


Beginning teachers can choose from among many methods of teaching music reading.  They may (1) approach it pentatonically or diatonically; (2) use numbers, letters, sol-fa, or intervals; (3) use a movable- or fixed-do system; (4) use hand signs or number signs; (5) use rhythm syllables, rhythm words, or a counting method; or (6) choose those aspects from many different methods that appeal to them specifically (the grab bag approach).  They probably will begin by teaching it the way they were taught until they become experienced enough to find a way that produces the best results for them.  Sadly, some young teachers do not choose to teach music reading at all because they feel inadequate in any one specific approach and they do not trust their ability to learn a method well.


Good singers in mid-level and secondary school must be taught to read music.  It is an imperative.  The ability to be self-sustaining music makers is their right as students in American public education.  Teachers of singers must prepare themselves to provide their students that right.


There are two cardinal rules of skill building that teachers must follow.  (1)  To learn to sight-read students must be taught using a structured method that moves from the known to the unknown in a cumulative, sequential fashion.  Any other approach will be haphazard and unproductive.  (2)  Students must have time to learn to read through a series of exposures to and respites from the skill-building process.  In other words, they must practice the material, then put it away, practice it, then put it away enough times that the body learns to respond automatically.  To become completely proficient usually takes several years of exposure.  (click to move to the top of the next column)





A sight-reading method entitled The Adolescent Reading Singer is described here.  It is presented as an example of the type of sight-reading method one may use successfully with adolescent voices.  The Adolescent Reading Singer evolved from the need of music educators for a method in which the unique vocal limitations of adolescent voices are considered.  Several good sight-reading methods are available today, but many of them are directed at the elementary school level, where children's voices are unchanged or specifically at the high school level where most of the voices have changed.  The Adolescent Reading Singer was written and compiled to be used both with mid-level and high school students.  One component, designed to facilitate effective use with early adolescents, is the consideration for their changing voices.  Directors will find the method more effective when used with the beginning choir.  If students reach the advanced choir and still have not been taught how to read, their chances of learning before graduation are slim, because musical literacy is developed over several years, more years than they will spend in advanced choir alone.


The Adolescent Reading Singer is based on the Kodály method of music education, using the pentatonic scale (at the beginning), Curwen hand signs, tonic sol-fa, and rhythm syllables as the basic components.


Directors find themselves in a constant battle to teach music literacy and at the same time work against a deadline to prepare their groups for performance.  Using The Adolescent Reading Singer allows the teacher to do both.  At the end of each phase of the method, the author has arranged selections for performance that use only those aspects of music reading that the students have encountered to that point in the method.  This allows the directors to teach music literacy and to prepare for performance simultaneously.  Teachers may find these selections in a booklet of choral literature or in a series of octavos for each singer available from the Cambiata Press.


The best way to show these PowerPoint slides is to use the Slide Show mode (available on the tool bar).  If it is necessary to refer to these instructions, they can be accessed from each slide in the Slide Show presentation by right clicking on the slide then choosing, screen, then speaker notes (this feature is available only on PowerPoint version). Teachers who are not acquainted with PowerPower, or who do not have access to a LCD projector (a device for giving presentations generated on a computer) may feel more comfortable using transparencies with an overhead projector.  Permission is granted to make transparencies from these PowerPoint slides.  The color is not as vivid (if you are using a color printer), but the method is just as legible.  Simply go to file and click "print.Teachers need to be able to point to significant aspects on each PowerPoint slide or transparency to guide the students' line of vision as they sing.  Adolescents often get "tied up" in the printed music when it is in their hands.  Quicker learning occurs when attention is directed to the teachers, whether they are using the Curwen hand signs or pointing to the slides or transparencies (or screen).  When the singers sight-read the choral literature, they can read from the printed page.   The method is also available directly through the internet browser if users are not familiar with PowerPoint.


The rate of advancement through the method is quite flexible depending upon the singers.  In the first two phases, the author assumes that the singers have a limited knowledge of music reading; by the end of phase 7, the method brings the singers to complete musical literacy, including the use of chromaticism.  This allows the singers to read atonal and polytonal music, if necessary.  If the singers have been introduced to the Kodály method of music reading in their early years, it is advisable for the teachers to move quickly through the first two phases, using them only as a review.  However, if teachers are introducing sight reading to the singers for the first time, they should give much more time to the introductory phases because these beginning phases lay the foundation for the remaining phases.  Teachers should allot about twenty minutes to sight-reading activities each time the singers are together, moving at a rate that allows them to be thorough without boring the students.  Excessively long periods of sight reading are not nearly as helpful as several short periods.  Putting the method away and returning to it enhances the rate of progress toward musical literacy.


The method is divided into seven phases with several exercises in each phase.  There are three types of exercises:  (1) preparation exercises which provide new information and serve as the primary teaching tool, (2) application exercises which allow the students to apply the knowledge they have learned to actual sight-reading activities, and (3) reference charts for instructors to use to assist the students once they are sight reading from the printed page.




To access selected teaching charts and instructions, please click the version you desire:


The Adolescent Reading Singer (PowerPoint Users)

Click on the title and save the program when prompted.  You may open it with PowerPoint and operate as usual.

The method was prepared with PowerPoint 97-2003 for a Windows PC.  Mac users will have to adjust accordingly.

The file may take a few moments to download depending upon the speed of your system.


The Adolescent Reading Singer (Opens in your Internet Browser)

May not be fully functional with Mac and any browser other than Internet Explorer.



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