Books and materials: Junior High sight-singing materials
Thanks for your collective wisdom. As a first-time inquirer, I am
amazed. So many people requested the information, I'm sending a
compilaton out to all.
I have found "Music For Sight-Singing" by Robert W. Ottman, published by
Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J 07632, to be very helpful. It can
be used and adapted for any level.
M. Gabrielle Ludwig, Ph.D.
City of Zion Music
I use the Jenson Sight Singing method books with my Intermediate School
choirs. I have perused many methods and have found this to be the best
so far. I like that it has many, many examples which move by step and
keep the rhythms simple. New concepts are gradually introduced. I use
it on a daily basis and my students view it as part of our warm-up
I am so spoiled--I teach at a Waldorf School, where the children learn
lyre, recorder and violin and part-singing starting in grade 2, and I've
never had to teach much sight-singing to my 5th through 8th graders.
When I ask them about the music we're singing, they are usually able to
tell me the key and meter, etc. They read quite well, though not
flawlessly (Some rhythmic figures throw them, such as in Song for the
Mira which has a lot of syncopations) I guess the secret is to start
early. Two additional repertory ideas: Away from the Roll of the Sea
and Crocodile Rock have been fabulously successful with my kidsl.
Best of luck to you,
Timothy Carnehy, D.M.A.
Music Director, O'ahu Choral Society
Artistic Director, Hawai'i International Choral Festival
I am the choral director at Anoka High School in Minnesota. After many
years of looking for the same thing in a sight reading program, I wrote
my own, marketed it and the manual is currently being used in over 500
schools in 35 states across the nation.
I teach sol-feg but my manual works with whatever you choose to use -
numbers, neutral syllables - or sol feg. The book is broken into 10
levels, each of which is progressively more difficult. Each level
contains at least 80 four to eight measure exercises that the students
can read quickly. I spend 5-7 minutes every day sight reading and I
cannot tell you the benefits as it has cut down my part pounding time in
rehearsal to where I can go into the music more.
The book sells for $90 and that gives you permission to reproduce any
all the pages for your school so it is basically a one time purchase. I
comes in a three ring binder so you can easily remove the pages for
reproduction. Here is the breakdown.
Level 1: all quarter notes - designed to teach rise and fall of melodic
line. some easy intervals.
Level 2: All rhythmic
Level 3: combination of rhythms and easy melodis lines. So far,
everything is in the key of C.
Level 4: The addition of accidentals.
Level 5: All different keys - no accidentals.
Level 6: All keys - accidentals
Level 7: bass clef
Level 8: Two part - Some SA, some SB
Level 9: Three part - Some SSA and Some SAB
Level 10: Four part.
If you are interested, let me know and I can give you more information.
Anoka High School
Sight singing at the Jr. High level is an excellent way to develop your
program! I recommend using the Oxford Sightsinging series. The series
ranges in difficulty not only in pitch comprehension but musicality, and
rhythm. The series also uses somewhat familiar "classical" melodies at
various stages of learning. And unlike this message, the melodies are
As for techniques, I recommend when teaching sightsinging, solfege based
on moveable "do" to begin. At the middle school level this keeps kids
their toes. This also helps develop the reading of music and its keys
and will allow you to increase the difficulty of music in your
Here is how I teach sightsinging using solfege....once the general
concept of pitch/syllable relationships are demonstrated. Sorry its so
long winded,but it only takes about 7-10 minutes a day...AND WHAT A
JMBC Children's Choir
DAILY LESSON ONE:
Objective; This is a great lesson to get students watching you while
developing aural pitch relationships.
1. Using a chalkboard with a staff and pure note scale, create a key
2. Have students establish the key. Box the Tonic and circle the
Dominant, or if teaching syllables, you may choose also to write them
depending on the grade level.
3. Create a tonality. You can use major or minor as you determine the
needs of your students.
4. Use your hands and point to various notes in the scale, starting
the tonic, subdominant and dominant triad structures. Vary tempo,
DAILY LESSON TWO:
Objective: Success of this lesson depends on developing individuality
among students in a team setting. There is a lot of trust being built
with this little exercise....
1. Establish a routine. Using individuals, find the Key, Tonality, and
general direction of the music being looked at, e.g. What's the Key? Is
it Major or minor? What about dynamics?
2 Have students place a box around the tonic and circle the dominant
[box your dos and circle your sols:-)]. Or, have them start the first
line or two by writing every syllable in an abbreviated form.
3. Vocalize the tonality in Tonic, Subdominant, and Dominant
mi sol mi, fa la do la, sol ti re ti, do sol mi do (for minor tonalities
- la do mi do, re fa la fa, mi si ti si, la mi do la).
4. Have everyone sight read the same exercise together one time through
while observing steady, slow to medium, rhythm and all dynamics.
5. Then, with no rhythmic break, choose a small group (or individuals)
to continue the exercise by singing two or three measures. Choose a new
group/individual to continue the next part of the exercise while keeping
the same rhythm.
This lesson keeps the kids on their toes too because they must be
mentally prepared and following along so they may pick up where their
peers leave off with only a call of their name (in rhythm of course)
There will be uneasiness with lesson 2. Encourage teamwork by having
choir join the individual and help when there is a mistake. Finish up
the exercise having everyone sing the lesson.
I'm a choral director in Amarillo,TX--12 yrs in middle school
now four in high school. Choral music is a big deal here in Texas. We
even have to compete in sightreading contests every year. I think it is
the backbone of a successful choral organization, and you will reap the
benefits for years to come.
At my school we start the year doing unison sightreading out of
the Oxford books or the Appleby books; varsity choir uses Oxford Vol IV,
and beginners use Appleby and Oxford vol. 1. The choir reads at least
mins almost every day using these unison exercises. We test
twice every 6 wks. We target 5 to 8 exercises for which the student is
responsible to learn, then on test day each student sings live for a
teacher. The teacher picks one of the targeted exercises for the
students to sing. This is more in the nature of ear training than true
sightreading. The point is to use these exercises to input intervals
like tonic chord, la-fa, me-la, fa-re -- ascending and descending, into
the tonal memory. Students are required to sing these exercises using
solfege syllables and hand signs. We also learn our regular concert
reportoire on solfege. Students are required to sing these exercises
using solfege syllables and hand signs. We also learn our regular
concert repertoire on solfege. Students write the solfege syllable over
every note in their voice part, and we NEVER sing the words until it is
correctly done on syllables.
In the second semester we do corporate sightreading. We use a
lot of Southern Music Publishing Texas UIL Sightreading contest pieces
from previous years as material, and hymnals, and easier Bach chorales
for the varsity choir. All together we chant our part in solfege and do
the hand signs, then I give the tonic chord, each section sings the
beginning pitch, I give a preperatory measure, and we sing the piece
I guarantee you it will work over time. Kids may gripe and moan,
but they are musicians by the end of it all.
Sorry this is so long, but sightreading is a real passion of
mine. singing is something you can enjoy all your life.
Amarillo High School
Marcia: Kodaly's materials are designed to do exactly that, and work at
any appropriate age level. They also use real music as early as
possible, and if he did make up any exercises, well, he was a first-rate
composer! I don't know exactly which books to recommend, but most or
af this stuff is published by Boosey and Hawkes. Find an experienced
Kodaly person to ask.
John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginig, U.S.A. 24061-0240
Marcia, there are various methods which have been successful for junior
high students in grades 6-9. I think you would be well advised to go
look through the bins at your favorite music dealer's store, in addition
to asking for advice on the internet. There are series which range from
unison to SSA and four part mixed, and they can all be useful in the
right situation. Incidentally, knowing music theory is not the same as
being able to read music. Reading music is like reading language in
you must do a lot of practicing. Being able to recite the alphabet is
not the same thing, and is not necessarily a prerequisite for success.
Best wishes for your success. I have always thought that teaching
to read music was a great deal more important than teaching them
tenor parts." I retired in 1993 with thirty years of teaching
experience, mostly in grades 6-10, and I always loved the feeling I got
when my students learned to read music well.
Ann A. Buchanan, retired choral director, Brownsville Schools,
I have found the Jenson very useful. I use it in a different setting
than most, however. I have a Jr. High Girls Choir and a Jr. High Boy's
choir. It uses sofeggio to introduce key signatures, and doesn't even
introduce clefs until later on in the book (which eliminates the
intimidation factor of learning the opposite clef than the students
with any instrument they may play.) It is a very effective book with a
teacher's edition that I highly recommend.
Garret W. Lathe
Director of Choral Activities
Staples Motley Schools
I am a High Chool/Middle School/Elementary/Church/Community Choir
teacher/director in Texas. There are many good books out there. The
texts I currently use are:
Patterns of Sound, Jenson Publications 40216092; this is my beginning
text. I insist that the students use the Curwen/Kodaly hand-signs with
The Sight-Singer, CPP Belwin 2915601282; this is one of my second
must use hand signs.
Songs For Sight Singing, Southern Music Company; this is one of my
second texts. It is available in 2 part, SAB, TTB, SATB-- handsigns!
Pepper Music 1-800-345-6292 will let you order to review.
The Jesen series is also a good one that I have used. I don't think it
matters which texts you use; it as about goal setting (we will be here
Christmas), consistancy (Yes, today will be a study hall day, after we
our vocaleses and SIGHT-READING), and encouragement (You're doing so
good, much better than my studentsat XYZ. I am really encouraged by
progress and proud of you! Don't quit, you're doing fine!) My students
have proven time and again that the handsigns and movable do work, (and
the opposite, no handsigns, skill development not as good). I block out
10-15 minutes each day to do this. Please don't give up, and don't let
the students give up. Some will master the basics in a year, others
don't "get it" till their third year in choir. Don't "help" with the
piano. Do as much as you can acapella. My students that meet every day
progress so much faster than those only every other day block schedule.
Currently my Middle School students can sight-sing rings around my high
school because they meet 5 days a week. My high school students, on
alternating block, where because of special events sometimes have 5 days
in between rehearsal, have learned much slower, and in fact are more
resistant to this activity- they haven't seen the fruit of it yet. The
ephiphany point, when a student realizes they can do this, is when their
skills really accelerate. It's really fun to be a part of when that
happened. At one high school were I started a new program, in the third
year on a trip back from contest (Texas UL) we had our sight-reading
books with us (Songs for Sight-Singing) and my student, without any
prompting or directing started sight-singing from the book for fun. It
was quite exciting! The fruit was born, the students from that point
griping about sight-reading.
Hope this helps, you may never get positive feedback from your students.
It is a skill they will enjoy all their life.
I have used a Hal Leonard publication in their "Pattern of Sound" series
called "Sight-Singing for SSA" by Joyce Eilers and Emily Crocker. I
not seen their SATB book, but if it's anything like the SSA, it is an
excellent progression of rhythm and melodic reading, using solfege.
Order a copy of the singer's edition and the teacher's edition to check
Mary M. Hoffman
Director of Children's Music and
Assistant Director of Music
Peachtree Presbyterian Church
I've found the essential elements series (Essential Musicianship
component) from Emily Crocker and John Leavitt works well.
Just an aside
I did my choral techniques research studies at FSU on sightsinging.
Dissertation research and experimentation suggests that the most
effective way to teach sight singing is through the use of moveable do
solfege. Techniues line up as follows from the most effective to least.
Solfege with Kodaly hand signs
Letter names in scale
Hi! I have used Nancy Telfer's Successful Sight Singin for the past 8
so years. I use book 1 with the 6th graders book 2 with the 7th and 8th
graders. Yesterday, one of the kids in my Youth Choir at church said
that she was so glad that I had taught her to sight-sing, because she
cound never have made it in her high school music program. The other
thing is, so many placesx are now requiring sight singing at the Senior
Honors of All-State level, that it seems silly not to really be
emphasizing it at the middle school level. I love the Telfer books, and
I think the teacher's editions are certainly worth the $.
Larkspur Middle School
Virginia Beach, VA
Dear Marcia -
Here at Blue Earth Area I use my own stuff in seventh grade, Dick
Edstrom's Independent Singer in eighth grade and the Jenson Sightsinging
Course in ninth grade. In the senior high we use Bruce Phelp's
self-published system. Best of luck in your research.
Vocal Music and Drama
Blue Earth, MN
I teach jr. high choral music, too. Ugh...trying to get your kids to
learn to sightread is a chore. I've used Essential Elements as an
overall text, but I don't like it as well as the Jenson Sightsinging
course by Bauguess for pure sightreading. but I think the Bauguess is out
of print??? Not for sure. I need to call Pepper on this, but that's the
one I liked the best. I did my master's research project on sightsinging
methodologies...I learned using numbers, so that's the approach I like.
Bauguess uses a chart that you can easily make to show students the
movemement from one scale degree to the next. I have it on the wall &
use a drumstick to point to the various scale degrees. This visual aid
really hits home with my students. Start w/ stepwise movement & introduce
skips. It's a matter of repetition & practitce of the intervals. Read
the Bauguess teacher's manual...it gives great suggestions for step by
step procedures to teaching sightsinging. Let me know your ideas. This
is a constant concern for me. Good luck.
Thanks again to all,
Duluth Central High School
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Thank you for the responses. They were very helpful.
COMPILATION : Middle School Sightreading Materials
I like "Patterns of Sound" I believe it is by Eilers. It also has a book
called "Pattern's of Performance" for more reading in parts.
Paris RII Schools
Essential Musicianship series published Hal Leonard.
Director of Music
Memorial United Methodist Church
A lot of people swear by Nancy Telfer's series (Kjos). I used
"Patterns in Sound" with some success. Bruce Phelps sells his method
himself, and there's some good stuff there. It's cheap, too, because
you buy a master 3-ring binder, then photocopy each lesson for your
choir. So, you can easily skip lessons, write solfege in, create
worksheets and tests easily, etc.: http://www.brucephelps.com/
Keys to Successful Sight Reading--John Hemmenway Linda Market
Patterns of Sound.
My favorite sight-reading method for middle and high school is the
Patti DeWitt Sightreading materials. It is very sequential and moves
forward in small steps. My students' musicianship has improved
dramatically in the past two years since I have used this text. You
can order materials on:
Moriarty High School Choral Director
Moriarty, New Mexico
I am a fan of the series put out by Jensen. It is very sequential and
approachable. It operates on the intervallic principle of note reading
than note-name reading. Thus it doesn't introduce clefs until later in the
book. This demonstrates to your non-musicians that it isn't required that
know every note name to sight read, and it forces your readers to think
intervallically rather than by note-name.
Sartell High School Choirs
Youth Chorale of Central Minnesota
I loved the Jenson Sight Singing Course and used it for over 20 years.
It is very complete and accessible to junior high/middle schoolers.
Princeton City Schools