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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000172.txt from 1999/04

From: "Carl Schexnayder" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Tuners and Sight Singing
Date: Sat, 3 Apr 1999 23:16:09 -0500

Just an opinion! When I was in college, I also found that the people who
were the worst at sight-singing were the singers. They's start with this
beautiful tone and get all of the pitches wrong, sixteenths, eighths,
quarters, halves, and whole notes. Next worst were the piano players. Now,
I would have expected the singers to be the best at linear sight-reading and
the pianists to be the best at harmonic dictation, but it didn't work out
that way. Wind players always seemed to come out on top. I would expect
jazz singers to do much better, however. If they couldn't, I don't know how
they could be jazz singers, (assuming that a jazz singer must be able to

I do think that wind players, (and probably string players....though I don't
really have a take on how they do with sight-singing, dictation, etc.), do
better because of going through so much music, and because they have to tune
each note, (which requires careful listening). Piano players just push down
keys, and if it's out of tune, they call in a piano tuner.

Of course anyone who plays jazz "has to" be able to hear chord changes as
well as melodic lines. So, jazz piano players would necessarily do well
with ear training courses.

All of this aside, I think that the people who have good ears are the ones
that really concentrate on hearing everything whether they are just
listening to music, practicing rehearsing, or performing. So many people
just use music as background noise while they do other things or think about
other things. I think that's why so many people enjoy music at the comic
book level. They don't want to have to think about what they're hearing.
So many don't know how to listen, (I think). I know I always have to teach
this to my high school students. They don't start to become musicians, (in
my opinion), until they learn to put other thoughts out of their minds and
totally concentrate on the music, whether they are listening, practicing,
rhhearsing or performing. Then they can learn to play in tune, to balance
and blend, and do all of the other music things the notes on the page need
in order to become music.

Just my opinion,
Carl Schexnayder

>Bruce Keplinger wrote:
>>... instrumentalists were better sight singers than singers,
>>and pianists were the best.
>>Could it be that the addition of audible cues to what we
>>are doing (sounding and hearing a pitch) is reinforced
>>by visual cues (seeing the readout of a tuner)?
>>(This of course implies one's brain being engaged...)
>I don't think so. First, to be useful in sight singing, the cue has
>to come *before* you sing the interval or phrase, so that you
>already know what you will sing before doing it. Adjusting to the
>tuner readout can only help you correct what you've already done.
>Musicians almost by definition favor touch and hearing over
>seeing. At least for me, I sight sing/sight read only a little bit by
>following visual shapes on the printed page. Mostly, I "finger
>along" and hear how it would sound on the clarinet.
>(Fortunately, I have no trace of perfect pitch.)
>Also, of course, as clarinetists we come up in bands, where we
>learn to surf over shoals of 16th notes. Singers seldom have to
>go faster than 8th notes. When they get to 16ths, or a wide
>interval, they don't surf, they drown. More charitably, singers
>don't have instruments that automatically produce (approximately)
>correct intervals and so don't learn to hear them in advance.
>Finally, instrumentalists tend to learn something about music
>theory, if only by practicing scales and arpeggios, which singers
>don't do nearly as much. I wonder if jazz singers do better.
>So -- what has been other people's experience? What do you
>do to help hear the music before you start?
>Ken Shaw
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