Books and materials: High school recommendations
Here is a compilation of the responses I received regarding sight reading
resources used by other high school choral ensembles. I hope you find the
responses helpful as I have. I was amazed at how many responses I received
and how many continued to come in even a week after I posted the question.
This list serve has proven once again to be an invaluable resource.
I also would like to remind everyone that this topic thread has been
discussed before and Choral Net has posted many of the compilations on the
website. So refer to those as well for further enlightenment. The link is
The Phelps, Telfer, and Krueger were mentioned often in the responses.
Director of Vocal Music
Beckman High School
Dyersville, Iowa 52040
I use the University Sightreader by Carl Fischer. It's call An
Introduction to Sight Singing. I also come up with rhythm charts for my
students to practice with.
I have always used the Bruce Phelps Sightreading Series with my kids.
It's great becuase it starts at Level one with stepwise motion (all
in key of C) Level two is all rhythym exercises. 3 combine rhythms
and melodies with more leaps. Level four introduces accidentals.
Level five introduces moveable "do" and then 6, 7, 8, get
progressively more difficult. Level nine is 3 part singin and level
10 is four.
Bruce also has a series entitled "Basics of Singing for your
performing ensembles. It has alot of valuable vocab handouts and
One you buy it - all rights to copy it are yours.
As far as the sight reading packet, all we did was photocopy (legally) some
pages from a sight reading program that was developed by Bruce Phelps. If
you Google Bruce Phelps, I think it will take you to his website, and you
could order the packet from there. And he does give you permission to make
copies of all the excerpts.
Congratulations on your plan to develop sightsinging skills in your high
school students. I believe our "system" of emphasis on performance
causes us to overlook what ought to be one of our major goals---musical
literacy. I hope you're able to stick to it.
Over the past several years, I used the Easy Rhythm series from
Masterworks Press (http://www.masterworkspress.com/). There are several
different series from which to choose. While you purchase the series
that is right for you, you are really purchasing the license to
reproduce the material. From my perspective, that was a big deal and,
ultimately, saved me a ton of money. I purchased different portions of
the Easy Rhythm series to fit the skill levels of my groups and I worked
to stretch them. The opening page of each level includes solfege
information/drills but everything else was written so I was free to use
solfege or numbers and I was always free to use fixed do, la-based
minor, etc., as I saw fit. The series left those decisions entirely up
to me. Exercises begin stepwise and gradually include skips. You do
not have to complete an entire booklet of stepwise melodies, but can
skip to more difficult melodies whenever you feel your students are
ready. I used two and four-part exercises, but read one line at a time,
then added the other voices as they were able to handle multiple parts.
The multiple-part exercises gave me that flexibility.
I incorporated the sightsinging exercises at the beginning of every
class/rehearsal, usually right after vocal warm-ups and did it only for
about 5 minutes each day. The students came to expect it and they would
ask about it if, for some reason, I didn't do sightsinging that day. I
would never say that my students became proficient by my standards, but
one student did reveal to me last night at a rehearsal that, when he
used solfege on a troublesome spot, he "suddenly" got it and had no more
trouble. Go figure! :>)
There's my 2 cents on the subject. I do not have stock in Masterworks
Press but I do have a friend who edited/prepared part of their
offerings, a part I did not purchase because it did not fit my
circumstances. Whatever system you ultimately use, I wish you the best.
Tony A. Mowrer, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Music
California State University, Fresno
2380 East Keats Avenue M/S MB77
Fresno, California 93740-8024
Bless you for your desire to improve musicianship in your students!
I am retired and while I worked at sight reading with my students, it was
not a graded part of my curriculum.
Being retired, makes me old enough to have received the "Weekly Reader"
periodical once a week during my grade school years. What I did with my
choirs was to pass out a new song every Monday and collect it on Friday.
Monday's introduction was spent with a brief analyzing look through,
identifying key signatures, meters and possible problem spots, then, off we
would go, rehearsing the song as if we were going to perform it. This
followed warm ups, and I would spend the same amount of time on the "Weekly
Reader" as any of our other songs. The students liked the variety of new
material. Also, I worked at making sure that the level of difficulty was
Skagit Valley Chorale
Cantabile of Skagit Valley
I use the ones in print from Hal Leonard. They are
VERY good, and I don't see a need to reinvent the
wheel. For my beginners, I use the "Sight Singer" by
Audrey Snyder. It's very pictoral.
I use the "High School Sight Singer" by Anna Hamre,
Masterworks Press, Sem. II, and for the more advanced
And for the experienced groups, or Sem. II for a sharp
beginning group, I use the reproducible "Renaissance,"
"Classical," and "Baroque" sight singer from
Reproducible Choral Works, Masterworks Press.
Finally, I have collected All-State audition materials
over the years, and let the students practice those,
as they contain many things in a short space.
Curriculum-wise, 5 min. per day, religiously. I
usually do this at the beginning of class, before or
And after many years of vaccillation, I am convinced
it is MOST desireable for ALL student to learn on some
level. It really makes the Spring go easier!!
Check with Aimee Beckman-Collier (Drake University) about John Armstrong's
reading materials. His stuff is wonderful. Bill Fordice in Dubuque is also
aware of John's methods.
The Jensen Sight Singing Method by Baugess. I can finish it in one year by
doing 10 exercises a week. It starts stepwise and proceeds to skips and
leaps. Some people prefer skips then stepwise (e.g. Kadaly) It has a second
volume which I have never done.
For several years I've been using "Sing at Sight," published by Jenson. I
chose it because it's very basically and carefully sequenced, and the
student books only cost about $3. It doesn't do a good enough job with
rhythm for my taste, so this year I'm starting to do some separate rhythm
We spend about 5 minutes sight reading every day in rehearsal.
I researched a several this summer, and bought one that was developed by
Bruce Phelps in Anoka, Minnesota. I think his web site is
www.brucephelps.com. If not, let me know and I'll look it up. Definitely
worth looking at.
Another one that I really liked was Nancy Telfer's method. It's published
by Kjos. I steered clear initially, because I thought it was a bit young
for high school kids, but have since started using it. They get over the
colors and pictures pretty quickly, and the content is marvelous.
Leyden High School
Franklin Park, Ill.
Carol Krueger has a new book out- "Progressive Sight Singing." It's
the best sightreading book out there right now.
I am currently doing this in my choral classes...
1. This is my first year teaching after my Masters as well. I had an
overwhelming amount of sight reading material, but the text I use is Dr.
Carol Kreuger's "Progressive Sight Singing." It takes a new approach to
sight singing through training the ear, then reading the page. You can
photocopy it (the publisher doesn't suggest it, but I personally know Dr. K,
and she doesn't care. As a matter of fact, I copy some of the pages on
transparencies and put them on the overhead).
2. I always do sight singing at the beginning of class so that I can
incorporate it into my music. I will work on the ear (clapping rhythms,
drawing solfege syllables on the board/point and sing), and then I work on
Director of Choral Activities
West Ashley High School
Charleston, South Carolina
My name is Donna McCommon and I am Director of Choral Activities at Pearl
High School, Pearl, MS. I have taught for 33 years and am advocate for
sight reading for high school choirs. I do not have a sure fire answer for
a method but I use Bruce Phelps method to begin the year. You can view it
at www.brucephelps.com It begins with very
basic examples and progresses with each unit. He has written everything in
the key of C, however after I have determined that my students understand
the concept I will rewrite them in another key. I put examples on the board
every day until we have advanced to 4 part. I have developed a library of
sight reading materials I use for them to read. Some I have written or have
obtained from friends.
I have also used the Jenson series. My colleague at our junior high uses
the Nancy Telfer series. We both combine examples and methods to find what
works with our students. This has worked for us for many years. Our
elementary teachers are also teaching sight reading on their level. We are
lucky to have built our program in the district to this point. We still
have students you come to us in the high school who have never had any sight
reading. One young man this year is new and has caught on easily with the
methods we use. We are in our 5th week of school.
My belief is to sight read everyday!!!!!! When students enter the room the
sight reading exercise is on the board and their assignment is to begin
studying the example. After a vocal warm-up, which includes a warm up on
solfege, we read the example. With the Phelps examples I will have the
students sing it in a round. This also strengthens their listening skills
because it can create harmonies as well as dissonance.
I will be glad to answer any specific questions you may have.
Director of Choral Activities
Pearl High School
I am an advocate of the Kodaly sequence. You are absolutely correct to
stress sight-reading in your curriculum. It gives a choral program real
academic substance and rigor.
Here are books that I like to use:
The High School Sight-Singer
Patterns of Sound, books I and II
Patti DeWitt has several series
There are lots of books with melodies for sight
singing, but few that spell out the techniques to
actually doing the sight singing. I have used movable
do/ la minor, and have used neutral syllables (like
doo or loo). I recommend a book and workbook by Don
Ester (self-published) called "Sound Connections."
This not only addresses pitch reading, but rhythm
reading as well. It's available directly from him;
contact him at
" dester(a)bsu.edu " He's a Music Education prof at Ball
State University. I've also used "Patterns in Sound"
by Joyce Eilers, published by Jensen, I think.
Ball State University
I use the Patti DeWitt Sightreading Method. Advantages: introduces
small bits at a time, utilizes hand signals with syllables, is
sequential, incorporates music to sightread so that sightreading is
not separate from reading music. Plug her name into Google and you
can find ordering information. I try to have the students sightread
10 minutes a day.
Moriarty High School Choir Director
Moriarty, New Mexico
Hi! Good for you! I know that at first it is hard to dedicate the time
to implementing a structured and regular sight-reading program into the
curriculum, but it is definitely worth the work! I've been using the
Bruce Phelps method and I love it! This is not published, you have to
contact Bruce and you pay him (it was $90.00 when I purchased it 8 years
ago) and receive a binder full of 10 different levels of sight-reading
exercises. This also includes info on each unit, and sight-reading
'exams' for each unit.
Bruce uses fixed do. For the first several units everything is in the
key of C. He doesn't change key signatures until the students have a
solid understanding of solfeg.
Another thing I like is he devoted an entire unit to rhythm. You'll
find that in unit 1 everything is quarter notes. In unit 2 all the
notes are f which forces the students to focus on rhythm. I actually
use unit 2 as a separate program. I have the students write in the
counting for a weeks worth of exercises (1-2 per day) and then everyday
after we sight-read I put an overhead up with the correct counting for
them to check their work and then we count and clap the exercise
together. There are enough exercises in unit 2 to last for the whole
I also like the fact that already in unit 4 he introduces accidentals.
I've found this a great place to teach my students the chromatic scale
as well as the 3 minor scales!
His program is also very easy to adapt to suit your own needs. When I
started teaching 8 years ago I searched high and low for sight-reading
programs and looked at everything I could find and honestly nothing
measured up to Bruce Phelps Manual.
I'm sure if you contacted Bruce he'd be more than happy to answer any
additional questions you may have.
Good luck on your quest!
Director of Women's Choirs
Bay Port High School
Please post your results. John Bertalot wrote a book on sight singing.
It's published by Augsburg-Fortress. Although geared to a church choir
situation, some of the ideas may be transferable to the public school
University of Utah
Larry Wyatt here Director of Choral Studies at Univ. of South Carolina. My
colleague Carol Krueger has written a wonderful sight singing book that is
published by Oxford. It is organized around a progression of lessons taking
people from diatonic melodies, skips in the I chord, skips in the V, then IV
etc. She uses moveable do and la based minor. The strength of her "system"
is the large number of lessons within each step of the process.
My caution on teaching sight singing is that you have to watch carefully the
vocal production of the students as they read. The very act of thinking that
intensely makes people sing with more tension. The danger is that their tone
becomes thin and pinched or thin and forced. Carol does a great job of
managing this in her rehearsals but by and large I have found that choirs
that focus on sight reading, often do not have a pretty sound. I'd advise
you to take a look at her book it is wonderful.
Somewhat the same system but with a series of books organized the same way
is materials published by Oxford (about 6 small pamphlet size books) with
songs, I think folk songs, presented progressively for sight singing
purposes. They have been used in England for years.
Larry D. Wyatt
Director of Choral Studies
USC School of Music
813 Assembly St.
Columbia, SC 29208
This is not exactly wht you asked, but I would like to recommend a book I
co-authored: You've Got Rhythm: Read Music Better by Feeling the Beat. It's
fun, and works really well with people of all levels older than age 9 and
gets them to advanced rhythm reading skills quickly and enjoyably. Works
well with a text that focuses on pitch reading. Licensing to copt individual
pages is available. Lots more info at:
Flying Leap Music
friendly tools to learn in-depth music skills,
activating and integrating the senses, intellect, and imagination
you should check out the resources at masterworkspress.com
I use melodia, it is graded and stepwise. there is also a series called the
highschool sightsinger they are both available from this company, and the
best part is.... everything you buy is reproducible
I would be interested in hearing your responses from other people.
Director of Vocal Music
Santa Monica High School
601 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, Ca 90405
For the past five years I have used a sight reading curriculum called "Steps
to Harmony" from Masterworks press with my high school choirs. It is in
five volumes, about 30 pages per volume. Separate sets of 5 volumes are
available for treble and bass clef, with identical music. Each page
contains 3 sets of 3-part sight reading. I usually spend one day per page,
using only one of the 3 sets. The sight reading exercises can be used one
line at a time, but are also designed to be read in 3 parts (I usually
divide Sopranos, Altos, and Men for the exercises, rotating who gets the
top, middle, and bottom line). The volumes progress from 2nds in volume 1,
3rds, in volume 2, through 6ths in volume 5, with each page focusing on a
particular interval (for example d-s, s-d) with review pages after a few new
intervals have been introduced.
After completing Volume 5, my choir moves to another sight-reading product
from Masterworks--an edition of Bach's chorales arranged in order of
progressive sight reading difficulty.
The nice thing about these Masterworks products is that you purchase them as
a set of reproducible originals, and they come with the rights to make as
many copies as you need...forever! I think the original cost for the entire
set in both treble and bass clef was around $300--pretty good for something
I have used every day with 170 students for five years.
Prior to using this curriculum, I wrote my own sight reading exercises, but
I found that with everything else going on, I would run out of time to
compose the exercise for the day. I also wasn't as consistent as I should
have been in sequencing the exercises. Using a published book makes it so
much easier to get the job done! No reason to reinvent the wheel.
I do sight reading every day after warm-ups, and I never spend more than 5
minutes on it...3 minutes when I'm on a quick pace. After the first 2 years
of doing daily sight reading I saw a dramatic improvement of our reading in
literature as well. I also worked with our middle school choir directors to
be sure they are doing sight reading and to coordinate the curriculum 6-12.
Fairport High School
I would recommend that you contact Carol Krueger (sp?) at the University of
South Carolina. She has developed a complete approach to sight singing for
choral singers. You can find her through the music school (choral program)
Trinity Lutheran Church
SC Governor's School
You are right to include a sight-singing component in your curriculum. Do
we teach band intruments by rote? Do we teach painting without an
understanding of color? Do we teach language without reading and writing?
In any case, someday, a few of your students will thank you for doing the
right thing. It will ultimately pay dividends back to your program in the
form of music learned and assimilated more quickly, leaving more time to
address musical expression.
I use a range of materials from various sources:
Jenson Sight-singing Method (David Bauguess) as a starting point.
Easy Bach Chorales (there is a collection of them graded according to
Phrases and sections selected from pieces they will learn at a later time.
A heavy emphasis on solfege
a. daily practice with hand signs
b. patterns and random interval practice
Rhythm reading practice (materials I've picked up along the way).
In a 50-minute class period, I don't have time to do it all every day. I do
try to include some solfege practice daily. It improves their intonation,
blend, and ability to sing intervalically. They are also encouraged to use
it as a problem-solving device (difficult intervals, etc.). The program has
taken some time to "take hold", but I've never regretted the extra time and
effort. I sometimes have students feel "short-changed" when we are unable
to fit reading practice into a class period.
Best of luck to you.
Director of Choirs
The Latin School of Chicago
I use a different curriculum for each choir I teach in the high school. For
most groups, I use the Bruce Phelps sight singing method. For the more
advanced groups, I use the period sight singing exercises through
Masterworks Press. I like both. Really, I am just a HUGE fan of reproducible
anything. I can use these year after year with little expense.
I've created my own exercises from time to time, but not my own method. For
the very, very beginning groups, I create my own exercises on the board,
beginning with by pointing to a poster with solfege syllables and drilling
the intervals, etc. After some time, I transfer the pitches to the board and
work slowly at mastering intervals.
During rehearsals. We routinely do sightreading immediately after warmups.
It is a daily practice for us except for the weeks of concerts. We spend no
more than 5 minutes on sightreading, unless we have a particular issue with
certain intervals. My goal is to complete a page a day. I test the students
using SmartMusic so that the test is recorded, gives them feedback, and
provides a score, all without my presence.
I hope this helps,
Sorry it has taken me a week to get back to you!
It sounds like we are in the same situation. My students can't
sight-sing to save their lives. Yet.
I have been using Walter Ehret's 'See and Sing: A Basic Approach to
Vocal Sight Reading'.
Some things I like about it are that it starts with Do Mi Sol, and
high Do. After a few exercises with only those syllables in different
keys, it adds Re and Fa. Later it adds La and Ti. It also has
exercises with numbers instead of syllables.
I supplement the solfege sightsinging with the solfege hand-signs.
Even though the students sometimes groan when I make them use the
hand-signs, I suspect that they secretly like them.
One thing I don't like about it is that even though the exercises are
written for SATB, they always sing in unison. So there isn't any 2,
3, or 4 part sections to make it more interesting.
In the past I have also used 'Melodia' for sightsinging. If I
remember correctly, almost all the exercises are stepwise with no
skips. I don't recommend it.
Let me know what system you're using, or decide to use, and if you
have any great tips to help the students sightsing!