Numerical Sight-Singing Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, a new voice student joined my private studio. She was a bright fifth-grader with a pleasant voice, but she had a limited musical background. This made her the perfect candidate to learn to sight-sing via numbers. We started with the huge staff I had laid out on the floor of the Choir Room. (See my March 20, 2017  blog post for a description of this teaching aid.) 

My student had heard of Every Good Boy Does Fine for the names of the notes on the treble lines and FACE for the letter names of the notes on the treble spaces. Since she was already somewhat familiar with the notes of the staff, we started our teaching session there to give her some confidence. As I called out a random note letter name, she responded by stepping on its location. I was very purposeful to brag on her every time she got it correct.

Before long, I moved on to the next step. I began to tell her how the music staff worked. If the first note, which I referred to as a “1”, was on the line, then the next ascending sequential note, which I referred to as a “2”, would be on a space. When “3” was on a line, “4” would be on a space, etc. Using the first line, E, as a reference point for our "1" note location, we applied what we had just discussed by my calling out sequential numbers starting with "1" and moving upwards to "7" and back down.  As I did so, my student moved to that note's location on the large floor staff and stood. I stayed within an octave span, and I never went below “1” for this session. Soon, I explained the other staff "situation" - the instances where “1” fell on a space. In that case, “2” would be on a line, and “3” would be on a space etc. We then did some simple exercises using the bottom space, F, as our "1" reference.

Once I was confident my student understand the basic principles above, I then showed my student the pattern of “odds” and “evens.” When going up (ascending pitches), all of the “odd” numbers shared the same line/space designation. The even numbers always followed a similar pattern. For example, if 1 were on a line, then 3, 5, and 7 would also be on a line, and 2, 4, and 6 would all be on a space. If 1 were on a space, then 3, 5, and 7 would also be on a space, and 2, 4, and 6 would all be on a line. She grasped the new concept very quickly. Armed with the information above, my student was now equipped to quickly find any of diatonic intervals within a single octave. The next step was to move "1" around the staff. We'll explore that in part 2 of this post.