As I briefly mentioned in PART II, I’d like to explore more about pattern recognition (visual) in relation to executing them on an instrument (kinaesthetic). Though, another invaluable skill not to be forgotten is to be able to ‘hear’ in your mind what you see (aural). To explain what I mean, I’d like to give you a simple example here before I move onto focusing on visual and kinaesthetic combination exercise, hopefully in my next post!
Here’s a very simple tune that everyone knows. Some may have recognised it instantly just by letting your eye run through these 4 bars quickly. Those who don’t read music, here’s what you can try.
1. Learn to sing the rhythm with steady pulse you can detect from singing these patterns; you’ll find that it usually occurs naturally! (See my past post dated on January 26, 2012 at 4. Understanding rhythm, about the rhythmic syllable you can use to sing)
-Bar 1: short-short-long_______
-Bar 2: short-short-long_______
-Bar 3: short-short-short-short
-Bar 4: twice as long_________
2. Recognise the direction of the notes (See Part II, about how to recognise intervals)
-Is it staying the same?
-Is it going up a step or skip?
-Is it going down a skip or double skip?
-Is it going stepwise, up or down?
3. Now try adding various pitches following the direction of the notes (It may be helpful to use your hand showing going up or down to guide your voice visually).
-When it goes up a skip, raise your voice pitch a bit higher.
-When you see a big drop (a double skip here!), lower your voice pitch down slightly more than a bit.
-When you see a stepwise motion, simply try singing the scale up or down.
4. Try singing that way a couple of times with correct rhythms (An important bit! – correct notes with wrong rhythms would make a well-known tune virtually unrecognisable!) to see if you ‘hear’ a recognizable tune.
5. If you still have no luck by now, change your rhythmic syllable singing to just humming but with correct rhythm. Or even without looking at the music if you managed to memorise the melodic shapes by now (It often helps you focus better on listening when you take visual distraction away!).
Now, can you guess what the tune is? Also, an important thing to remember here is to let your ear have an ‘attentive’ listening while you’re singing; how the pitch moves up and down. ‘Isn’t that obvious?’, you may say. But you’ll be surprised to realise that you hear a few details that you previously didn’t when you bring more attention to your own singing. This obvious skill we have, ‘listening’, tend to get pushed aside even more when it comes to playing an instrument because your mind is so busy with getting your finger work right. It’s the very reason why it’s important to train your ear to know ‘what to listen for’.
For those who just started reading the notations, try not to use your instrument to work out what the tune is. Try to figure it out by singing! Being able to creating an aural map in your mind and to be able to sing it before transferring that to your fingers to execute what’s written on the score is probably the most useful skill to develop if you’re serious about getting better at sight-reading. When you develop this skill, you’ll find that you start mixing with some guessing work to get the music going without any break, which is essentially what the sight-reading is all about; being able to play it through with some sense of musical directions with less mistakes as possible!