Introduction to this
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
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
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,
(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
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
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
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