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Sight Singing: Learning Approaches and Music Essay (Book Review)

Introduction: The Great Symphony

The art of singing is often viewed as the gift from above that cannot be trained successfully. However, like any other skill, the ability to sing using a musical notation can be developed in any learner, as the authors of A New Approach to Sight Singing, Fundamentals of Sight Singing and Ear Training, and Music for Sight Signing prove in a very convincing manner. Although Berkowitz et al., Fish and Lloyd, and Ottman use rather different approaches when presenting their arguments and providing guidance to learners, the books share common features that make them compelling and efficient in teaching to sight-sing.

A New Look at Sight-Singing

Creating a positive first impression is essential to attract the reader and trick them into paying attention. Berkowitz et al. (vi) start at a rather rushed pace, introducing the reader immediately to the contents of their work and detailing the information to be represented in every section. Thus, they set the audience’s expectations, outlining the work that will have to be done. However, it is the closing passage that sets the tone for the entire book and sends a powerful message to all those concerned: “Everyone can learn to sing” (Berkowitz et al. xiii). Therefore, it can be assumed that the book reaches its goals of inspiring the audience.

The authors insist that a movable-do system should be adopted as the primary tool for students to learn to sing. Also, the authors simplify the process of training by providing unique musical pieces that were tailored specifically for the needs of people studying music.

Also, much to the credit of Berkowitz et al., they incorporate a wide range of exercises from melodies to harmonic ones. Thus, the learners are provided with an opportunity to evolve as singers, going from simple tasks to more complicated ones. The C clef is used extensively in the exercises, thus, allowing learners with any voice pitch to sing successfully.

Learning to Listen and Hear

Music and history are closely related to each other, and Fish and Lloyd (vi) make it rather evident. The authors dive into the nature of music, allowing the unique atmosphere around the subject matter to sink in, and illuminate the opportunities to the readers. It is quite remarkable that the authors suggest the students learn by embracing both the intellectual and creative aspects of music. Although the narrative has a very heavy lean toward the intellectual aspect mentioned by Fish and Lloyd, the exercises suggested to the learners also provide a plethora of chances to exercise their creativity. Thus, the authors manage to attain their goals in a rather efficient manner.

Fish and Lloyd (39) adopt the approach of movable-do as an essential tool for teaching students to sing. By creating a set of musical pieces specifically for students to train their newly acquired skills, the authors managed to design the tool that would spur people’s willingness to engage in singing. Because the materials have been tested successfully, the book can be viewed as a perfect tool for learning to sing. Incorporating the dictation examples of melodies and harmonics, the book offers a rather rich experience. The C clef is used rather often, especially in the first part of the book, so that the learners could adjust to the tasks successfully.

Sight Singing and Music

Ottman is rather straightforward in his address to the readers. The introduction to the book states rather explicitly what exactly one needs to become proficient in the designated area: “To become successful in sight-singing, one must have at his disposal a considerable amount of singable and musical material” (Ottman v). Therefore, the author wins over his audience by being honest and direct with them.

While one may believe that the author aims at teaching the readers – and, be right about it, since it is one of the author’s goals – Ottman faces a much greater challenge. The narrator sets the goal of convincing people that they can become singers, which is a much more challenging task than simply providing them with a set of skills. Seeing that the book incorporates a variety of exercises, as well as enticing texts, Ottman should be credited for reaching his goal.

However, when it comes to defining the characteristic that makes Ottman’s book especially efficient, one must mention that each of the melodies represented in it as exercises for learners is completely authentic and was composed by him for the sole purpose of people to practice their sight-singing skills. Tailored to a specific purpose and tied to a particular lesson, every exercise plays a crucial role. However, the C clef seems to be underrepresented in the exercises.

Lastly, Ottman (68) also points to the necessity of adopting the tonic approach. Because the movable-do system allows students to develop an intrinsic understanding of music, the use of the framework seems rather reasonable. Containing primarily melodic exercises, the book serves as a perfect introduction to the philosophy of singing.

Comparison: What Bring the Ideas Together

Although the approaches used by the authors might seem very different, some of the ideas touched upon in the books, coincide quite a few times. For instance, each of the authors agrees that it is essential to apply the concept of tonic system as the tool for teaching students sight-singing. The reasons for the authors’ choice are quite understandable. By deploying the movable-do system into the learning process, they create the environment, in which both students with a perfect pitch and those with less impressive abilities can learn the basics of solfeggio. Consequently, the authors convey the message that every learner can become proficient in music once they put their mind to it, which is essential to boost students’ confidence and encourage a faster acquisition of the necessary skills.

Moreover, the authors make it very clear that learning to sing is an attainable goal, even though it may require substantial efforts. Some, like Ottman, negate the very possibility of failure, and some concur that the challenges faced by the learners are very tough. However, all of the authors state that a singing technique can be acquired within a comparatively short amount of time.

It would be wrong to believe that the books are identical in their tone and content, however. The layouts of the books are entirely different from each other, some incorporating exercises with commentaries, like Fish and Lloyd (88) and Ottman (174), and others providing the learners solely with exercises after a massive introduction (e.g., Berkowitz et al. 23). It is also remarkable that, unlike Berkowitz et al., as well as Fish and Lloyd, who feature unique exercises that were developed specifically for learners to train the appropriate skills and develop the abilities required to sing properly, Ottman tends to borrow music specimens from folk and classical music.

On the one hand, the approach adopted by Ottman may seem somewhat lazy. On the other hand, the use of time-tested compositions seems a more legitimate way of teaching students the essentials of singing. While the melodies chosen by Ottman might not be customized specifically for the needs of the learners, they provide the experience of listening to musical pieces as opposed to the short pieces composed to complete exercises.

In other words, the experience provided by Ottman is richer than the one in the two other books. The focus on the single-line compositions that each of the books seems to have, in its turn, clearly serves the purpose of helping learners adjust to the unique environment and focus on the process of training skills. Therefore, although there are several differences between the books, the overall tone and the tools used by the authors are very similar.

Conclusion: Pathway to Harmony

Creating an elaborate set of exercises and getting the essence of singing philosophy to the target audience, the authors convince the readers that they can learn to sing. Although each book incorporates a unique approach toward learners, they are linked together with the idea of teaching each student uniquely, with the specifics of their music abilities in mind, and lead them to success. Being honest with their readers and offering a plethora of unique and engaging exercises, the authors outline the foundation of the music philosophy and promote harmony as the basis for the learning process.

Works Cited

Berkowitz, Sol, Gabriel Fontrier, Leo Kraft, Perry Goldstein, and Edward Smaldone. A New Approach to Sight Singing, Revised Edition. 5th ed. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Database. Web.

Fish, Arnold, and Norman Lloyd. Fundamentals of Sight Singing and Ear Training. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, & Company, 1972. Database. Web.

Ottman, Robert W. Music for Sight Signing. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1967. Database. Web.

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"Sight Singing: Learning Approaches and Music." IvyPanda, 11 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/sight-singing-learning-approaches-and-music/.

1. IvyPanda. "Sight Singing: Learning Approaches and Music." July 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sight-singing-learning-approaches-and-music/.


IvyPanda. "Sight Singing: Learning Approaches and Music." July 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sight-singing-learning-approaches-and-music/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Sight Singing: Learning Approaches and Music." July 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sight-singing-learning-approaches-and-music/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Sight Singing: Learning Approaches and Music'. 11 July.

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