Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Night Before Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "The Night Before Christmas" by Carly Simon.  I heard it first on an Amy Grant Christmas recording from 1992.  My favorite part is the last verse.  Enjoy this live recording from the 2005 Saint Patrick's Elementary School Christmas Program in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The entire student body sings with student accompaniment on recorders and piano.

The Night Before Christmas by Carly Simon

Children carry through the streets a brightly painted star
Angels gather round the hearth strumming on guitars
And men of great renown and faith say prayers on boulevards
On the night before Christmas

You don't have to be an angel to sing harmony
You don't have to be a child to love the mystery
You don't have to be a wise man on bended knee
The heart of this Christmas is in you and me.

If your heart's been longing; you've been afraid to try
Sorrow's kept you company and the dance has passed you by
I'll lift you up and blaze with you across the moonlit sky
On the night before Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Maoz Tzur at Charlotte Folk Society

Today is the first day of Hanukkah.  The root of the word "hanukkah" is "dedicate".  This Jewish festival of lights celebrates the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem after many years of oppression.  Though the story is part of the Jewish tradition, the message of hope is universal:

Yours the message cheering,
That the time is nearing,
Which will see all people free,
Tyrants disappearing

In honor of the first day of Hanukkah listen to Community Singers performing Maoz Tzur at the Charlotte Folk Society's holiday potluck dinner with Shlomo Snir singing the solo.

Monday, December 5, 2011

singing the circle of fifths

I finally have my singing voice back.  In today's lesson you'll hear the circle of fifths as I sing the scales for each of the keys.  The scales are represented on the chart vertically and the fifth progression goes horizontally.   Go back to my post from 11/21 if you need the introduction to the circle of fifths.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Can I Keep From Singing

I have been putting off recording a new singing lesson until my singing voice returns, so I thought I would share an old recording of me singing and playing (hammered dulcimer) one of my favorite songs, "How Can I Keep From Singing" with "Simple Gifts".

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ukulele Crash Course in January

Saturdays, January 14th and Jan. 21st
10 AM – 12 NOON, $45.00  
You will learn basic chords, strumming patterns and how to transpose any song into a ukulele friendly key.  You'll have fun making music with others. The cost includes an instruction/songbook.  The class will be held at my home and is open to age 14 and up.  For an additional $55.00 I will supply a nice sounding Lanikai soprano ukulele.  If you want to give the ukulele and class as a gift, you can pick up the ukulele from me in December.  Send me an email to register.

Monday, November 21, 2011

circle of fifths

The circle of fifths is a very helpful way to organize the musical keys into a chart that has many uses.  I have written the circle of fifths in two ways in the charts below.  It is not obvious from looking at them why it is called a "circle".  Bear with me and I will explain.  In the first chart, you will see that each scale is written vertically.  The name of the major scale or key is written in blue.  The relative minor key is written in pink.  You can start with any key on the chart and the key to its right will be up a perfect fifth and the key to its left will be down a perfect fifth.  Here is an example:  C major is in the center of the chart.  The key to the right of C major is G major which is a perfect fifth up.  The key to the left of C major is F major which is down a perfect fifth.  Pick any note on the chart: the note to its right will be up a perfect fifth and the note to its left will be down a perfect fifth.

One useful feature of the circle of fifths chart is that it will help you understand key signatures.  You'll notice that as you move by columns (each column is a key or scale) progressively to the right of C major each column adds a new sharp while keeping the ones from the previous column.  As you move progressively to the left from C major, each column adds a new flat.  The video will explain this a bit more and also explain the "circle" part.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

more sight singing practice

Today's lesson gives you practice sight singing in the key of E major in the bass clef.  The key of E major has four sharps in the key signature, F#, C#, G# and D#.  The time signature is cut time which is the same as 2/2 time with the half note getting the beat.  If the rhythms pose any problem, you can slow it down and count it in 4/4 time with the quarter note getting the beat.  Speed it back up and tap only the first and third quarter note in each measure and you have cut time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tie Dye Sale on Nov. 12-13

I will have a sale of my hand-dyed textiles on Saturday and Sunday, November 12-13, noon-6 PM at my home, 7107 Valley Haven Drive, Charlotte, 28211.  Get a head start on your holiday shopping or buy something for yourself.    If you don't need to buy anything, then just come by for some cookies and tea and conversation.  If you'd like to see my tie dye but can't make it on Saturday or Sunday, give me a call or email and we can set up another time for you to come by.  I also have some items for sale at The Bag Lady in Charlotte, The Harvest Table in Meadowview, Virginia and Made in Glade Spring, Virginia.  Here are some samples of some of the items I will have for sale on November 12-13 including shirts, skirts, baby onesies, pants, napkins, placemats, tablecloths and scarves.   I also do custom dying if you have an item that you'd like to have refurbished like white napkins or a table cloth that you don't use because of stains.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

sight singing practice in F major

The song for today's lesson is a very familiar hymn, so pause the video after you get your starting pitch and try to figure it out on your own.

Monday, October 24, 2011

more practice with singing note names in C major

Today's lesson gives you practice singing the note names in C major in the bass clef.  The song uses drmfs (CDEFG)  in the melody.  The chords are the I (CEG) and V (GBD).  For more information about chords go to Lesson 68.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

singing note names for I and V7 chords in G major

Today's lesson gives you practice singing the notes in G major with two harmony parts for the first phrase of "Down in the Valley" and the notes in the I (G) and V7 (D) chords.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

singing note names in F major and G major

Today's lesson gives you more practice sight singing absolute note names.  You'll see a familiar song written in two keys in treble and bass clefs.  It is good to know the notes in both clefs even if you primarily will read one clef.  Notes for sopranos and altos are written in the treble clef.  Notes for tenors can be written in the bass clef or in treble clef with their notes sounding an octave below what is written.  Of course, it makes logical sense that the basses read their notes from the bass clef; but, if a song is written with melody only as in many songbooks and rounds, it is often written in the treble clef and the tenors and basses have to sing it down an octave.  Such is the treble biased reality of choral music.  It may have something to do with the fact that elementary music teachers (I am one of them) mostly teach the treble clef as this is where the range of a child's voice lies. If you learn how to sight sing notes as they relate to the tonal center (solfege singing), you will be able to take any piece of music and sing or play it in the key you wish.  Pretty cool.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

singing note names in G major and C major

Up to this point in the lessons we have been singing only the solfege syllables in order to get the relationships of the notes strongly in your mind and ear.  As I have said before, this solfege singing using a movable "do" enables you to sing in any key as long as you know where the tonic is.

Although it is not necessary to know all of the note names to sight sing, it is desirable to know them so that you can talk about music.  You might also want to use your knowledge of music reading to learn to play an instrument. Today's lesson gives you practice singing the actual note names for "Little Drops of Water" in C major and G major.   The tone set for the song is drmfs and the rhythms are very simple with quarter, paired eighths and half notes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

solo sight singing in F major

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in F major.  Pause the video at the beginning and see if you can do it on your own.  The time signature is cut time, but you can count it is 4 if that makes it easier.  Watch for several syncopated rhythms.  The tone set is s tdrmfs with the tonic as "do".  Have fun.

Friday, October 7, 2011

listening for chord changes to sing harmonies

Today's lesson gives you more practice singing harmonies by ear with "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" in the key of G.  The chords used are I, IV and V.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

hearing chord changes

A good way to prepare for singing harmonies is to listen for the chord changes in a song.  If you can hear when the chords change then you are ready to try singing some simple harmonies by singing chord tones.  Today's lesson gives you practice doing this with "Down in the Valley" in the key of G.  The only chords in this song are I and V7.

Friday, September 30, 2011

sight singing "How Deeply You're Connected to My Soul"

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in bass clef with "How Deeply You're Connected to My Soul."  If you want a challenge, pause it at the beginning and try to sing it yourself.  The rhythms include lots of dotted quarter eighth patterns and syncopation on the last phrase.  The melody is mostly stepwise motion except on the last phrase. 

Remember that sight singing is all about the relationships of the notes to one another.  It really doesn't matter which clef you are reading as long as you know what key you are in (major or minor) and where the tonal center is on the staff.  Depending on the range of your voice you might be singing a song in a different octave than the one that is written.  This song is notated in C major and it starts on D (re).  I sing it in my range which is an octave above what is written.  Please forgive my warbly voice as I have a cold.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

notating "How Deeply You're Connected to My Soul"

In the last lesson I had you listen to "How Deeply You're Connected to My Soul" and try to write out the melody.  The up and down motion of the melody is fairly easy to follow as it moves mostly stepwise, but the rhythm is a little more challenging.  In today's lesson I walk you through writing out the notation in C major. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

How Deeply You're Connected to My Soul

"How Deeply You're Connected to My Soul" is a song I first learned at a Montessori workshop probably 14 years ago.  I don't know who wrote it, but I love the message.  I was reminded of it this weekend at a workshop I went to called Dance for PD where I learned about teaching dance classes for people with Parkinson's Disease.  Rachel and Jennifer, who teach a Dance for PD class in their community, told me that they use this song for the ending circle where the dancers all hold hands and "pass the pulse". 

Here is the recording of me singing it.  The first time you'll hear just the melody and the second time you'll hear the melody plus two harmony parts.  This song is in the key of C major.  It is a really easy one to notate because almost all of the motion is stepwise except at the very end.  Try to write it out on staff paper.  It starts on D.  I will give the correct notation in the next lesson.

Friday, September 23, 2011

sight singing practice in C major

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in C major with the melody and three harmony parts to the chorus of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".   It is a very simple melody (msl l lsm m msl l lsm fmr dd)  with a very satisfying chord progression (Am F Am F C G C).  It has the steady ambling feel of a moderate duple meter with the lilt of the triplet underlying each beat.  To capture that 2 and 3 feel it is notated in compound meter.  I really like the way the beginning of each hallelujah alternates between the eighth quarter and quarter eighth patterns.  Look at yesterday's post for a link to Leonard Cohen singing the song.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

chordal harmonies for Hallelujah

Today's lesson gives you practice sight singing chordal harmonies in C major with the chorus from Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah".  The chord progression is Am F Am F C G C.  Here is a YouTube of Leonard Cohen singing the song with a chorus joining on the hallelujahs.  Listen to this first if you have never heard the song or if you only know it from the movie "Shrek".

Sunday, September 18, 2011


No lesson today, just a very pretty song sung by Celia Cruz with scenes from Cuba:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

sight singing "Dona Nobis Pacem" in F major

Today's lesson gives you practice sight singing in F major with "Dona Nobis Pacem".

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

listening for parts in Dona Nobis Pacem

Today I would like you to listen to "Dona Nobis Pacem".  I recorded this last night at Community Singers practice.  Listen for low voices and high voices.  Listen for three distinct melodies.  We sing through the song two times.  Can you hear differences between the two?  Does it sound like more voices are singing one part than another?  Can you find the tonic?  Each of the three parts ends on the tonic and two of them start on it.  Try to sing along.  Tomorrow's lesson will have notation.  I didn't put it on today's lesson because I wanted you to listen without the music first.  Listening for parts in music will help you be able to sing harmonies by ear.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

chords in minor

In the last lesson I said that the triads used in A minor are mostly the ones used in C major.  Today's lesson explains this a little more using the song "Poor Wayfaring Stranger".  The keys of C major and A minor (natural) share the same scale tones and, by extension, the same triads built on each of these scale tones.  The exception is the chord built on the fifth scale tone or the V chord.

Remember that in major keys the V chord has a strong tendency to lead back to the I chord.  The V chord contains the 7th tone in the scale which is called the leading tone.  It wants to (or our ears want to hear it) resolve upward the 1/2 step to the tonic (the root of the I chord).   In C major this step is from B to C.

In natural minor the 7th tone in the scale is a whole step below the tonic which takes away its strong pull toward the tonic; so, in natural minor keys, the 7th tone is raised to make the V chord have the leading tone.  This makes it a major chord instead of a minor chord.  In the key of A minor the Em chord becomes E. All of this is very hard to understand with just words.  Watch the lesson so that you can see it and hear it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

major and minor triads

A major triad has a major third followed by a minor third.  A minor triad has the minor third first and then the major third.  Watch the lesson to hear the triads for a C major scale and its relative minor A.  The chords (triads) are mostly the same.  In C major you'll use a lot of C, F and G chords.  In A minor you'll use lots of Am and Dm chords.

Here are some of the previous lessons if you need some background information or a refresher:

I, IV and V chords
major and minor thirds

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

comparing rhythms in 3/8 and 3/4

Today's lesson compares the rhythms in the song "Out of Eternity" as written in 3/8 and 3/4 time.  The rhythms include beat, beat division and dotted notes.  You'll see that sixteenth note rhythms are very simple when you slow it down and tap the eighth note as the beat.

Monday, September 5, 2011

solo sight singing in B minor

Today's lesson gives you practice sight singing in B minor.  It is a pretty easy song that follows the natural minor scale except for a few jumps.  The time signature is 3/8 with the beat being the eighth note.  The divided beat is two sixteenth notes.  Pause the video at the beginning and try to sight sing it on your own before listening to the lesson.

Friday, September 2, 2011

sight singing "Poor Wayfaring Stranger"

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in A minor (natural) with "Poor Wayfaring Stranger".  Here is the sheet music for the song with lyrics and chords.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

sight singing practice in natural minor

Today's lesson gives you practice sight singing a song in natural minor.  The key is D minor and the notes are the same as the notes in F major except that the tonal center of the song is "la" instead of "do".  For a detailed explanation and demonstration of natural minor keys go to Lesson 13b.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

ear training in natural minor

Today's lesson gives you more practice with ear training in a minor key.  The key is D minor with "la" as the tonic.  The natural minor scale is ltdrmfsl.  You'll notice that the tones are the same ones used in F major except that you start and end the scale on D which is "la".  Just by changing the tonal center you move from a major mode into a minor one.  Pretty cool! 

The song in the lesson is called "Old Hungarian Round" which I first learned from an old Girl Scout songbook.  I learned it in Kodaly training with different words and a dance.  Listen to it sung as a round with the Girl Scout words. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

ear taining in minor

I haven't done any songs lately in minor, so today's lesson gives you a review of a natural minor scale with "la" as the tonic and then some ear training with the la minor scale.  I start out the lesson by playing "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" on the dulcimer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

partner songs part 2

Did you figure out "Make New Friends" from the last post?  Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in 6/8 time with the "Sing, Sing Together".  It is fun to hear how these two songs work together as partner songs even though one is in simple meter (2/4) and one is in compound meter (6/8).  I play one and sing the other on the video, but it's much better to have two or more people so you can sing both parts. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

sight singing partner songs

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice with a familiar song in 2/4 time.  It is one we have done in these lessons.  I think you can figure it out on your own.  In the next lesson we will do a song in 6/8 time that can be sung with it. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

comparing rhythms 2/4 and 4/4

Yesterday's lesson had four beat rhythm patterns in 4/4 time using quarter notes, paired eighth notes and half notes.  Today's lesson takes these same four beat patterns and shows you how they would look if written in two beats with 2/4 time.  Don't let the sixteenth notes make you think the rhythms are difficult.  Just take it slowly and tap on each eighth note (the divided beat in 2/4) and you will see that it is just as easy as quarter and eighth note rhythms. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

practicing rhythms in 4/4 time

Today's lesson gives you practice with rhythms in 4/4 time.  The rhythms are combinations of quarter notes, paired eighth notes, quarter rests and half notes. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

solo sight singing in F major

A few weeks ago I was at my Uncle Ervin's house in Bluefield, Virginia for our family reunion.  He had several boxes of things for us to look through that had belonged to family members.  The song for today's sight singing lesson was in one of those boxes.  It is a song written in my Aunt Robbie's hand.  She directed the children's choir at her church for many years and this is probably a song that she sang with them.  Try to pause the video at the beginning and figure it out on your own before watching the lesson.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

singing harmony for "Little Liza Jane"

Today's lesson gives you practice singing harmony with the song "Little Liza Jane".  The harmony mostly follows the melody in parallel thirds.  There are a few places where it jumps to perfect fourths.  You can go back to lesson 121 for the melody and lesson 118 for the rhythms.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

sight singing in Bb major

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in Bb major.  The melody is pretty easy.  It uses a pentatonic scale (drm sl) with a high "do".  The rhythms are a bit harder using eighth and sixteenth note patterns as well as syncopation.  You can go back to lesson 118 for a review of the rhythms if you need to.  Go to lesson 79 for an introduction to reading syncopated rhythms.  Pause the video and try to figure it out on your own before watching.  This is actually lesson 121 rather than 120 as it says on the video.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Clementine" harmony

One way to practice singing harmony is to play the chords for a song and sing one of the notes in the chord.Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice with a harmony part for "Clementine".  With the exception of a few passing tones, all of the harmony notes fall within the chords.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

sight singing "Clementine" melody

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in D major with a compound meter.  The time signature is 9/8 which means that there are 9 eighth notes in each measure and the dotted quarter note gets the beat.  The melody is a combination of stepwise motion and skips that outline the I (one) and V7 (five seven) chords.  In the key D major the I chord is D  (D, F#, A) and the V7 chord is A7 (A, C#, E, G). 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

practice with simple and compound beat division

Time signatures can be divided into two categories depending on their beat division.  Simple meter songs use a duple beat division.  Examples are: 2/4, 4/4, 3/4, 2/2.  Compound meter songs use a triple beat division.  Examples are: 6/8, 9/8, 12/8.  Today's lesson gives you practice reading rhythms in simple and compound meter.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"At Summer Morn" in 3/8

On July 17th I posted a hammered dulcimer version of the round "At Summer Morn".  In today's lesson I use this same song to give you sight singing practice in G major and 3/8 time.  3/8 is triple meter and can be counted in one or three depending on the tempo.  On the video I sing it slowly enough to count three beats in each measure.  The eighth note represents the beat.  A faster tempo would be counted with one beat per measure with the dotted quarter note representing the beat.  The beat would then be divided into three parts for the triple meter feel.  This triple division of the beat is often called compound time as opposed to simple time which has the beat divided into two parts.  Several previous lessons go into more detail about this:

Feb. 16 - Compound Time Signatures
Feb. 17 - Simple or Compound?
Feb. 18 - Triple Meter: Simple and Compound  (part 1)
Feb. 20 - Triple Meter:  Simple and Compound (part 2)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Now All the Woods Are Waking

I finally got my issue with Google Docs solved and can share the recording of Community Singers singing the round "Now All the Woods Are Waking" at our practice this week.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

sight singing a mystery song

I had planned to put a recording of the round "Now All the Woods Are Waking" on my blog today, but I am having trouble getting into my Google docs account.  I will post it as soon as I can.

Today's lesson gives you practice sight singing a simple folk song in the key of C major.  Pause the video at the beginning to see if you can figure out the song.  It has a small range (drmfs) and very simple rhythms (quarter, 2 eighths, quarter rest).  The second half of the lesson gives you practice singing simple harmonies by following the notes in the chord progression.  The song uses only the I (one) and V (five) chords.  The I chord is named that because it is a triad built on the first degree of the scale (C in the key of C major).  The V chord is a triad built on the fifth degree of the scale (G in the key of C major).

Monday, July 25, 2011

sight singing practice in major using s drmfsltd

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice with the song "Now All the Woods Are Waking".  The melody is all scale wise motion with the exception of the skip from "so" up to "do" and back down again.  It uses all of the tones in the D major scale and extends down to the "so" below "do".  Pause at the beginning and see if you can sight sing it on your own. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

good intentions

I had good intentions of doing my blog while I am on vacation, but I am just having too much fun visiting, tie dying and planning a wedding shower for my nephew.  I will be back to my lessons on Monday.  Have a good weekend.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

a new round

I am excited to have new strings on my hammered dulcimer.  It was long overdue since I haven't ever put new strings on it and I bought it 17 years ago.  I was on my way to a music workshop in Harrisonburg, Virginia, so I drove through Bedford, Virginia and visited James Jones' dulcimer workshop.  He built my dulcimer back in 1992.  He spiffed it up with new strings and a proper dusting.  I forgot my electronic tuner, so I spent a long time this morning tuning with only a pitch pipe and my ears. 

Since I am away from my video recorder for this week, I will do some audio recording.  Here is a pretty little round in triple meter that I just learned from one of my round books.  I accompany it on my hammered dulcimer.  fyi...Philomel means nightingale.

At Summer Morn
At summer morn the merry lark heralds in the day.
At eventide sad Philomel breathes her plaintive lay.
Warbling sweetly all her grief away.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

notating "Skip to My Lou" in 3 keys

I hope you'll take the challenge and try to write out the notation for the song "Skip to My Lou".  Watch the video to get you started.  You'll need staff paper and pencil or you can print out this large staff and use pennies as moveable notes.  The melody of "Skip to My Lou" outlines the tonic triad (I) and then the dominant seventh chord (V7) and ends with stepwise motion to end on "do" (surprise, surprise).  Remember that sight singing is a skill and, just like any other skill, it takes practice.  Don't worry if you don't get all of the solfege syllables correct.  The most important thing is that you are hearing the intervals when you see them on the page.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

notating "Polly Wolly Doodle" in D

Today's lesson walks you through the process of notating "Polly Wolly Doodle" starting with the rhythm, adding the solfege and, finally, putting it all on the staff.  There is a short explanation of straight beat versus swing beat.  "Polly Wolly Doodle" has a swing beat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

ear training with dulcimer

Today was the Charlotte Folk Society's Ice Cream social at the Historic Rosedale Plantation.  After a delightful (despite the heat) afternoon of playing dulcimer and fiddle and singing I came home to do my music lesson for the day.  I had lots of music from the day going through my mind, but the song that came to me when I sat down with my dulcimer was "Polly Wolly Doodle".  I haven't sung or thought about that song in years.  It was one I enjoyed singing in elementary school.  Maybe the old fashioned feel of the day at Rosedale triggered the memory or maybe it was trying to think of a song with lots of the pattern drm.  Anyway, today's lesson is ear training on the dulcimer with "Polly Wolly Doodle".  You will echo the phrases by singing the solfege which stays within the range tdrmfs with the tonic being “do”.  You will also find the tonic when I stop the song at random places.  It is always important to know where the tonal center of the song is.  This will help you sing in tune.

Friday, July 8, 2011

sight singing "Jubilate Deo" in two keys

Today's lesson gives sight singing practice with the round "Jubilate Deo".  It is notated in A major and B major on a grand staff with unison in the treble and bass clefs.  Since the song is only one line long you can compare the lines and see how the patterns in the different keys and clefs are the same even though they start at different places on the staff.  This is the beauty of the moveable "do" system of sight singing:  Once you know the tonic and the starting pitch, you can sing in any key (provided you can hit the pitches).  "Jubilate Deo" has a large range (drmfsltdrm) and works well in A, Bb or B.  If you pitch in higher or lower than these keys, then some people may not be able to hit the higher or lower notes.  You can listen to the round sung in six parts by Community Singers at practice this week.  We are singing it in Bb.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

singing arpeggios in G and A major

An arpeggio is a chord that is sung or played one note at a time.  In today's lesson you will practice reading and singing arpeggios for the I, IV and V chords in G and A major.  Being able to move easily among the tones in a chord will help you when singing harmonies.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

harmony - "You Are My Sunshine"

Today's lesson is a harmony part for "You Are My Sunshine".  It moves in parallel motion to the melody.  It is very obvious when you see the notation that the contours of both parts are the same.  The harmony part is a third above the melody.  Pause the video at the beginning and try to sight sing the harmony before watching.

Friday, July 1, 2011

sight singing practice in A major

Today's lesson continues with the round "Gaudeamus Hodie".  I have notated it in A major in the bass clef so that you can check yourself if you tried writing it out in yesterday's lesson.  I realized after recording the video that I played the tonic up an octave from the way it is notated.  Altos and sopranos will sing it where I sing it.  Tenors and basses will sing it as written which is an octave below where I sing in the video.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

syncopated rhythms in cut time

The song for today's lesson is "Gaudeamus Hodie".  I learned this song many years ago, but I can't remember where.  I think it was in Girl Scouts.  I remember singing it in Latin and English.  As I recall we sang, "O, be joyful, O, be jubilant, Put your troubles far away" and I forget the rest.  It is a really fun round and is good practice with syncopated rhythms.  It is notated in 2/2 which makes it easier to read the rhythms.  In today's lesson we'll sing the melody with the solfege tone ladder and read the rhythms.  If you want a challenge you can write out the melody on staff paper in the bass clef.  The song is in A major.  Part two is the easiest to notate because it just goes up the scale.  Tomorrow's lesson will have the notation so you can check yourself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

chordal harmony for "Peace Like a River"

Today's lesson demonstrates how to sing simple harmonies for "Peace Like a River" by following the notes in the chords.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

sixteenth-dotted eighth rhythm in "Peace Like a River"

A few days ago I had you sight sing Peace Like a River.  The notation I included with the lesson had a mistake in the rhythm for the word "river."  I notated it as two eighth notes,  but the way I sing it is a sixteenth note followed by a dotted eighth note.  This is a new rhythm pattern and the first part of today's lesson introduces it briefly.  You'll also sing the chord progression for the song which uses only the I, IV and V chords for C major which are C, F and G (see explanation if needed). Part two of the lesson (tomorrow) will teach you three simple harmonies that you could sing following the notes in the chord progression.

Friday, June 24, 2011

sight singing practice in C major

Today's lesson is sight singing practice with "You Are My Sunshine".  It is in the key of C major and notated in the treble (G) clef in 4/4 time.  If you tried to notate it yourself, you may have run into a problem in the first phrase.  That is because there is a note in the melody that is not in the C major scale.  This is called an accidental.  On the words "my only sunshine" the E becomes E flat and then goes back to E natural. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

solo sight singing - "Peace Like a River"

Try to sight sing Peace Like a River.   It is in the key of C major, but you can just pick a comfortable pitch for the tonic (C) if you aren't close to an instrument to give you the C.  If you do have an instrument to get your starting pitch and/or the tonic, trust yourself to figure out the rest without playing it first.  The song starts on "so" and ends on "do".  You can listen to the song to check yourself, although I sing the words rather than the solfege. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"You Are My Sunshine"

Today's lesson is a listening exercise.  A big part of singing is listening.  This recording is of my two sisters and me singing "You Are My Sunshine".  Can you hear all three parts?  Is it duple or triple meter?  Duple feels like walking and triple feels like waltzing.  Can you find the tonic?  Remember that a song usually ends on the tonic.  Listen for other places in the melody where you hear the tonic.  Try pausing the recording at random places and singing the tonic.  If the melody is easy for you, try to sing along with one of the harmony parts.  One is above the melody and one is below.  You can also try to tap the rhythm in one hand and the beat in the other hand.  If that is all easy for you, try to write out the notation.  It is in C major and the melody starts on "so".  Have fun.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Man's Life's a Vapor" in cut time

When you see a song written in cut time (two beats per measure with the half note getting the beat) you can count it in four if that helps with the rhythms.  Usually it is a bit cumbersome to count it in four once you are up to tempo.  At that point it should be easy to switch over to tapping or counting on the half note beat.  Watch Today's lesson to see and hear what I mean.  The song is a round called "Man's Life's a Vapor" which I learned from Charlite Chilton in Abingdon, Virginia.  It is notated in F major and has lots of stepwise motion with a great scale pattern at the end: sfmrdtlsltd.  You have to get some friends together to sing this round.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

common time and cut time

Common time is another way to describe 4/4 time.  It is written with a large C in the place of a numerical time signature.  The C is not actually an abbreviation of the word "common" as many of us were told in music class.  It is actually half of a circle which represented "imperfect" or duple meter for music theorists in the 11th-14th centuries.  The circle represented "perfect" or triple (as in Holy Trinity) meter.  This was logical in this time period in Europe as much of the developments in music, both performing and composing, were happening in the church.  Today's YouTube lesson gives a short comparison of a rhythm pattern notated in common time, cut time and 2/4 time. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

sight singing "Cindy"

In today's lesson you will be sight singing the tune "Cindy".  I have notated it in 4/4 time to make the rhythms easier to read, but it is actually sung in two.  This is called cut time.  Rather than 4 beats per measure you have 2 and the half note gets the beat.  This may sound difficult, but it is really happens quite naturally when the song is sung up to tempo. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

sight singing practice in F major

Today's lesson gives you sight singing practice in F major.  The tone set (notes used in the song) is s tdrmfs.  Try pausing the video and figuring it out on your own before watching it. 

Adventures in Learning dulcimer songs

Yesterday I taught a dulcimer class for Adventures in Learning with Shepherd's Center East.  Here is a video of the songs we learned.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ear training with the dulcimer

Today's lesson gives you more practice with singing the solfege for a melody ("Simple Gifts") played on the dulcimer.  This one is a little harder than yesterday's song.  The range is expanded (s tdrmfs) and there are more skips (mostly thirds).

Monday, June 6, 2011

ear training with dulcimer

Today's lesson will give you practice singing the solfege for and notating a simple melody.  The song is "Going Down the Valley".  I play it on my dulcimer and then have you sing back the solfege.  The dulcimer plays it in D major and the vocal example from yesterday was in G major, so I show the notation in those two keys plus F major. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

solfege for "Going Down the Valley"

Yesterday's concert was great fun.  Here is the YouTube of the beginning of the concert.  There are several things you can listen for as you watch the first song.  First, as you listen to the first part (the chorus) see if you can pick out the melody from the four parts that are being sung.  Next, as you listen to the verse (sung in unison) see if you can figure out the solfege to the first phrase.  It starts and ends on "do" and only uses drmf.  It uses mostly stepwise motion.  The words begin "We are going down the valley one by one..."  If all of that seems like way too much work, just watch the video and enjoy. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Concert and sing-a-long

Community Singers will present a free concert tonight 7-8 PM at the Unitarian Unversalist Church of Charlotte, 234 N. Sharon Amity Road, Charlotte, 28212.   We will sing songs from many styles and cultures including many familiar folk songs for singing along.  In addition to many a capella pieces you will hear accompaniment on dulcimers, guitar, recorders, xylophone, harp and ukulele.  Join with us in an evening of music making for all ages.

Here are several YouTubes of last year's concert:
Part 1
Part 4

Friday, June 3, 2011

sight singing practice in G major

Today's lesson gives you practice with sight singing a song in G major in the treble and bass clef.  The ascending pattern "so, la, ti, do" is repeated at the beginning of the first three phrases.  The skip from "la" to "re" may seem a little tricky, but it is the same as the skip from "do" to "fa" which is a perfect fourth.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

singing a simple harmony

Singing harmony can be as simple as singing a three note bass line.  In today's lesson I will show you how to do this with the song "Skip to My Lou".  The chord progression goes back and forth between the I and V chords.  Since the I and V chords share one tone ("so" or D in the key of G major), you could sing this note throughout the song and be singing harmony, but this would get monotonous and you would not get the feel of the chord changing.  A better way to do the bass line is to use the common tone and then add another tone from the chord as it changes.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

solo sight singing

Try your hand at sight singing this mystery song

Friday, May 27, 2011

practice with sixteenth note rhythms

Today's lesson gives you practice with reading sixteenth note rhythms as you sing "Red River Valley" while tapping the rhythms for "Skip to My Lou".  It's not as hard as it seems.  It's kind of like rubbing you head and tapping your stomach, but with different rhythms.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

sixteenth note rhythms

Today's lesson uses the song "Cripple Creek" to practice rhythms with eighth and sixteenth notes.  It is notated with 8/8 and 4/4 time signature.  The difference between the two is that in 8/8 time the eighth note gets the beat and in 4/4 time the quarter note gets the beat. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

ear training with dulcimer

I am teaching a workshop tomorrow on playing the Appalachian mountain dulcimer, so I thought I would do an ear training lesson today using my dulcimer.  The dulcimer is well suited to solfege singing because the frets are arranged so that you play a major scale when you start at the 3rd fret and play consecutive frets through number 10.  If you tune the dulcimer strings to DAA then you can play melodies on the A string closest to you and let the other two strings (D and A) sound a drone throughout.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

intro to sixteenth note rhythms

This lesson is an introduction to subdividing the beat using the quarter note as the beat.  You'll practice various rhythm patterns with eighth and sixteenth notes and learn how to notate and read the rhythms in  "Skip to My Lou".

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Michael Row - part 2 - rhythms

Here is part two of notating "Michael, Row You Boat Ashore." 

Monday, May 16, 2011

notating "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore"

Today I found a video that I recorded over a month ago where I show how to notate "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore" in the key of C major.  I am not sure why I didn't post it.  It could be because it ends very abruptly.  I am posting it today as it will be good practice with notating a song that you already know the melody to.  Try to write it out on staff paper before you watch the video. Don't worry about the rhythms; just try to get the melody down.  The first three notes outline the tonic triad (d, m, s or C, E, G) and the only skips in the melody are between those same three notes.  Everything else is stepwise motion.  Good luck!  The next lesson will add the rhythms.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

notating Big Ben tune

Today's lesson shows you how to sing and notate the mystery song from the last post.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

sight singing a famous London tune

I just returned from a wonderful visit to England and Wales and was thinking of what I could post today, music wise, related to my visit.  I heard beautiful choir music at Christ Church Cathedral and Exeter College's Chapel in Oxford, but I did not record these as both were part of Evensong services.  Then I thought of the perfect tune that I heard in London.  It is very short and can be heard in London every day.  I won't give any more details as it will give it away.  Challenge yourself to figure out the tune before watching the video.  It only uses do, re, mi and the so below do.  Pick any pitch to be the tonic (do).  You might want to follow the notes on your tone ladder sheet.  Each line has the same rhythm pattern, three quarter notes followed by a half note.  The video is pretty cool and has many related videos that are interesting too. 

d   m   r   s
d   r   m   d
m   d   r   s
s   r   m   d

YouTube of mystery song

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

June 4th Community Singers Concert

I lead a community chorus called Community Singers whose purpose is to promote peace through music.  Please join us on Saturday, June 4th for a free concert of joyful music for all ages. You'll hear songs from many styles and cultures along with familiar folk songs for singing along. You’ll leave with a smile on your face, a song in your heart and a deeper sense of the common bonds that unite us all. The concert is on Saturday, June 4th, 7-8 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, 234 N. Sharon Amity Road in Charlotte.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

taking a break until May 12th

I will not be posting any new music lessons until May 11th or 12th.  I've got some catching up to do.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

sight singing "Crawdad"

The song in this lesson is an old fiddle tune, "Crawdad Song" also called "You Get a Line and I'll Get a Pole".  This song gives you practice sight singing syncopated and dotted rhythms in 4/4 and cut time.  Cut time is when the song is written in 4/4 time and you make the beat the half note rather than the quarter note.  This makes the time signature 2/2 instead of 4/4.  The song is notated  in D major on the bass or F clef and uses only the pentatonic scale tones sl drm sl.  The tonic is D.  Try pausing the video and sight singing the song on your own before watching the video.

Friday, April 22, 2011

chords for Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)

This lesson adds the chord progression (I, IV, I, V) and the high part for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".  The back up "Wimowehs" are sung on the chord tones in the chord progression.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

syncopation practice in 4/4

Today's lesson gives practice sight singing syncopated rhythms and the scale tones drmfs in the key of G major.  You will only sing the melody in this lesson.  Subsequent lessons will add the harmony and chord parts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

comparison of syncopated rhythms

Today's lesson compares three syncopated rhythms and shows how they are actually all the same pattern.  The time signatures used are 4/4, 4/8, 4/16, 2/4 and 2/8. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

sight singing with syncopation

Today's lesson gives you practice sight singing dotted and syncopated rhythms with a comparison of the rhythms in 4/8 and 2/4 time. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

syncopation practice

Today's lesson gives you rhythmic and melodic sight singing practice with "Tom Dooley". 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

introduction to syncopation

Syncopation is when the rhythm of a song has the accents on the upbeat rather than the downbeat.  Today's lesson gives you an introduction to syncopated rhythms with the eighth-quarter-eighth pattern.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

sight singing "Pachelbel's Canon"

Today's lesson is sight singing practice with a simple version of "Pachelbel's Canon".  The soprano and alto parts move with stepwise motion in parallel thirds as the bass line moves in descending 4ths.  There are also two simple melody lines.  Get a group together and sing all five parts.

Friday, April 8, 2011

major and minor thirds

Today's lesson explains and demonstrates major and minor thirds in the context of a C major scale.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

sight singing practice in G major

Today's lesson gives the answers to yesterday's solo sight singing of "Down in the Valley" with the melody and two harmony parts.  You can sing along with me or try singing a different part than the one I sing. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

solo sight singing

Here is "Down in the Valley" with the melody and  two harmony parts.  It is in a major key. Remember to find the tonic first by looking to the last note in the melody. If you don’t have a pitched instrument to give you your tonic pitch, just pick a note that is comfortable for you to sing. The beauty of moveable “do” is that the relationships of the notes remain the same regardless of which key you sing it in. Tomorrow I will give you the answers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

sight singing practice in D major

Today's lesson is sight singing practice in the key of D major.  Try pausing the video and doing the sight singing yourself before I guide you through it.  Hopefully, you will be able to recognize the song before I tell you what it is.

Friday, April 1, 2011

sight singing "I Love the Flowers"

Today's lesson is sight singing practice with the song "I Love the Flowers".  This is a great round that I learned in Girl Scouts many years ago.  If you like, you can listen to it sung as a round and print out the song sheet.  The song sheet and audio file are in a different key from the YouTube lesson.  See if you can figure out the key.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

hammered dulcimer

Today I am tooting my own horn.  I have posted several YouTubes of me playing hammered dulcimer. Two of the songs, "Mountain Sunrise" and "Interpretations", are ones that I wrote.  There are also several slow versions of songs to help my students learn them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I, IV and V7 in Red River Valley

When I am sight singing, I find it helpful to look for patterns in the music.  I look for the places where the melody moves by skips and try to relate those notes to chord tones.  In today's lesson you will see how this works with the song "Red River Valley".  I will show you the melodic line along with the chord progression (I, V7, I, IV, V7, I) so that you can begin to recognize when the melody outlines a chord.

Monday, March 28, 2011

notating and singing I, IV and V7 chords

Notating a chord is kind of like building a snowman. Instead of stacking three big balls of snow on top of each other you stack up thirds. If the root of the chord is on a space, then the third will be on the next space up and the fifth on the space above the third. If the root of the chord is on a line, then the third will be on the line above it and the fifth on the line above the third. Watch today's lesson to see and sing the I, IV and V7 chords in several different keys.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

comparing dotted rhythms

Today's lesson takes the dotted quarter-eighth rhythm found at the beginning of "Auld Lang Syne" and compares it to the dotted half-quarter and dotted eighth-sixteenth patterns that occur in the same song if it is written in a different time signature.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I and V7 chords

Watch today's lesson to learn about the V7 chord.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I, IV, V chords

Watch today's lesson to learn about the tonic (I), dominant (V) and subdominant (IV) major triads or chords.  These three chords (plus a few minor chords which we will learn later) are the backbone of a large portion of the songs that you will encounter.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What key? - flat keys

Watch today's lesson to learn how to determine the key of a song when the key signature has flats in it.  The last flat in the key signature is "fa" in the scale.  To find the tonic ("do") for major you just go up a perfect fifth or down a perfect fourth from the last flat. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

harmonic minor - Ah, Poor Bird

So far in our lessons we have done songs in natural minor.  The natural minor has the same notes as its relative major key (e.g. C major and A minor) with the tonic being "la" rather than "do".  In harmonic minor the tonic is still "la", but 7th degree of the scale ("so") is raised a half step.  Watch today's lesson to hear the difference between natural and harmonic minors.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2/2 or 4/4?

Up to this point in our lessons we have had time signatures for simple time with a four on the bottom indicating that the quarter note gets the beat (2/4, 3/4, 4/4). It is important to know that there are other time signatures in which the beat is not the quarter note.  Watch today's lesson to learn about 2/2 time which has the half note as the beat.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What key? - C major and sharp keys

In order to sight sing a song you need to know what the tonic is and whether you are in a major or minor key. Today's lesson explains how to figure out the key of a song by looking at the key signature and the last note in the song. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

notating and sight singing "Make New Friends"

Today's lesson walks you through notating and sight singing "Make New Friends" in the key of C major written on a bass (F) clef.  You'll need blank staff paper if you want to write out the notation yourself; or, if you prefer, you can also just follow along with me as I notate the song.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

sight singing practice in major using s drmfsl

Today’s lesson on YouTube gives you practice sight singing the beginning few measures of some familiar songs.  The songs are all in major keys and the tonic (“do”) is marked with red to give you a reference point.  The melodies contain stepwise motion and skips that outline the tonic triad.  Try pausing the video on each new song to give yourself time to figure it out before I sing it.  Have fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

sight singing "Shalom Chaverim"

Watch today's lesson for sight singing "Shalom Chaverim" in D minor (Dm).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

notating the tonic triad

Today's lesson guides you through writing the notes for "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" which has the tonic triad in the melody.  You will also practice rhythms that include quarter, eighth and half notes. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

tonic triad - Red River Valley

Today's lesson has more practice singing tonic triads in the context of a song.  If you know the tune to "Red River Valley", try singing it before watching the video to see if you can find the tonic triad (do, mi so) in the melody.  The song actually starts on the "so" below "do" just like the beginning of "Auld Lang Syne".

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shalom Chaverim - natural minor

Watch today's lesson on YouTube.

Friday, March 4, 2011

tonic triad - "Auld Lang Syne"

A tonic triad is a chord built on the tonic.  The notes in the tonic triad in a major key are do, mi and so.  In today's lesson you will sight sing "Auld Lang Syne" which has the tonic triad outlined in the melody.  It is notated in the key of F major.  In this key the note names for the tonic triad are are F, A and C.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

hearing the tonic (tonal center)

A melody is more than just a succession of notes.  Each song has a distinct tonal center also called the tonic.   Just as the beat is felt even when it is not audible, the feel of this tonal center is present even when it is not being sounded by voice or instrument.  Today's lesson is practice with keeping this tonal center ("do" in major mode) present in your mind as you sing a melody.

Monday, February 28, 2011

rhythm practice

Today's lesson will give you practice reading rhythms in 2/4 and 6/8 time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

duple, triple and compound

Watch today's lesson to practice rhythms in duple and triple meter.  This is a follow up to the Feb.19th post that asked you to listen to songs and determine whether they were in duple or triple meter.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Old Hungarian Round" - sight singing

Today's lesson walks you through sight singing a song in A Minor.  This is the same key signature as C major.  You'll also learn about repeat signs and D.C. al Fine. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

relative minors

Each major key has a relative minor key which uses the same key signature.  The relative minor scale starts and ends on "la" rather than on "do" as in major scales.  Watch this lesson on YouTube to hear the comparison of major and minor.  Also, practice this singing exercise in minor.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ode to Joy - sight singing

Here is the YouTube of today's lesson.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

notating a song in 9/8

Today's lesson takes you step by step through the procedure of notating a known song.  The song is "Down in the Valley" and I will notate it in 9/8 time in the key of D on a bass clef.  I suggest that you participate by writing the notation as I walk you through it.  You'll need a pencil and a blank staff.

Monday, February 21, 2011

key signature review - major keys

Here is the YouTube of today's lesson reviewing major scales and key signatures for major keys.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

triple meter: simple and compound - part 2

Here's part 2 to the lesson comparing triple meter songs written with simple and compound time signatures.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

triple or duple meter

I was going to post part two of the YouTube lesson from yesterday, but I am away from home and have not been successful at uploading the video; so, listen to the following songs today and try to determine whether each is in triple or duple meter.  Tap the beat, divided beat and/or the rhythm.  Can you find the tonic pitch in each song?

Ash Grove
Shalom Chaverim
Irene, Goodnight
Make New Friends
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Friday, February 18, 2011

triple meter: simple and compound

Watch today's lesson on YouTube.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

simple or compound?

The song for today is written in three time signatures: 3/.4, 3/8 and 6/8.  Listen to the lesson as you read the notation

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

compound time signatures

Songs written with compound time signatures use a dotted note to represent the beat. The beat is divided into three parts and the top number in the time signature is always divisible by 3.  They have a triple meter feel because of this beat division.  Listen as you follow the notation for "Down in the Valley" written in 9/8 time.  A dotted quarter note represents the beat in this song.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

drmfs and dotted quarter eighth practice

Today you'll sight sing a short section from a Mozart piano sonata.   It has the familiar dotted quarter eighth pattern and also a small range of notes (drmfs).  I think you might recognize this piece.  Listen as you follow the notation. Listen for the dotted quarter eighth pattern in other songs that you hear throughout the day.  See if you can tap the beat and rhythm at the same time or you could say the rhythm and tap the beat.   Also try to sing the tonic every time you hear it in a song.

Monday, February 14, 2011

songs for Valentine's Day

Here are a few songs for Valentine's Day:  "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "You Are My Sunshine".  One is in duple meter and one is in triple meter.  Sing them to yourself and see if you can tell which is which.  Now listen to the lesson as you follow the rhythm notation.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

sight singing practice

Here's some practice with sight singing in the key of G.  You can listen as you follow the notation or you can try it solo and then check by listening.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Twinkle, Twinkle in 3 keys

There are 14 different key signatures that can be used to write music.  This may seem like a daunting fact as you are learning to read music, but the cool thing is that you only need to know what the tonic note is and then you can sing all the notes in relation to the tonic regardless of how many sharps or flats are in the key signature.  You'll see what I mean in today's lesson.  Print out today's worksheet and have a pencil handy as you listen to the lesson.  Don't forget to keep practicing the scale exercises. Here is the answer sheet for today's lesson.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

key signatures

Today's lesson teaches you about key signatures.  Listen as you follow the notation.  This lesson assumes that you understand whole and half steps.  If you need a refresher, listen to the lesson on chromatic scales.  I hate to have a day without singing, so keep practicing the scale exercises too. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

scales and rhythms

Here are the answers to yesterday's solo sight singing.  Today's lesson is a singing exercise and some aural rhythm patterns.  The more you sing these exercises the easier the sight singing will become because the patterns will be in your ears.  Follow the notation as you listen and echo the patterns.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

solo sight singing

Today is a big day.  You are ready to solo sight sing.  I have written out four songs that we have been singing in the previous lessons.  The songs are in either 2/4 or 4/4.  I have indicated the tonic ("do") with a box and the beat with dots under the notes.  The tonic is also the name of the key of the song.  You may use an instrument to get the tonic pitch or just pick a note that is comfortable for you to sing. Sing the major scale (d r m f s l t d t l s f m r d) to get your mind thinking in the key of the song.  Tap or say the rhythms.  Now add the melody.  Number 1 and 2 use only drm.  Number 3 uses drmfs.  Number 4 is a little harder as it goes up to "la" and down to low "so", but I think you will recognize the song before you get to those parts.  Good luck and I'll put the answers in tomorrow's post.

Monday, February 7, 2011

rhythmic and melodic practice

"Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" is good practice with the dotted quarter/eighth rhythm pattern.  Listen as you follow the tone map.  You will also practice recognizing and singing familiar melodic patterns (e.g. drmrd) within the song.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

C major singing exercise

Echo the patterns in this singing exercise as you follow on the Tone Ladder for major scales.

Friday, February 4, 2011

drmfsl dictation

You will need the blank staff and pennies for notes or a pencil and today's worksheet to write out the exercises that I dictate in the lesson.  This may seem hard at first, but it really will help you sight sing well if you can write out patterns that you hear.  The answers are at the bottom of the worksheet.  Good luck and have fun.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

reading s drmf

Follow the notation as you listen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

dotted rhythm practice

Yesterday's post linked to "Music of the Universe" instead of "This Land Is Your Land".  Sorry about that.  You could still do the exercise, but I chose "This Land Is Your Land" because it has lots of dotted quarter - eighth patterns.  As you follow the notation for today's lesson you will notice that there are only note stems and beams in exercise one.  This is called stick notation.  It is a quicker way to write rhythms if you are trying to write as you listen.  You can go back and add the note heads later.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It is important to be able to feel the divided beat in a song as well as the beat. If the beat is a quarter note, then the divided beat is two eighth notes.  Listen to "This Land Is Your Land". Tap the beat (quarter note) with one hand and the divided beat (two eighth notes) with the other hand.   Now tap the divided beat with one hand and the rhythm (the words) with the other hand.  If that was easy then you can try tapping the beat with your toe, the divided beat with one hand and the rhythm with the other hand?   Now turn around as you do all of this (just kidding).  I am getting a little punchy as it is 11 at night...way past my bedtime.  As you go through the day try this beat and divided beat thing with other songs you hear.  Just don't do it while you are driving.

Monday, January 31, 2011

reading drmfs

Follow the notation as you listen to today's lesson.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

dotted rhythms practice

Listen to the lesson as you follow the notation.  If you printed out yesterday's lesson, today's lesson is on the same sheet.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

dotted rhythms introduction

So far we've read and written rhythms using quarter, eighth and half notes.  This lesson will introduce you to dotted rhythms.  Follow the notation as you listen.  There will be lots of practice to follow.  Remember that, just like learning to read, learning to read music takes practice.

Friday, January 28, 2011

grand staff

This lesson reviews the names of the lines and spaces on the treble and bass clefs and their relationship to each other.  It also presents an explanation of a grand staff.  Use the worksheet from yesterday as you listen to the lesson.  Check your answers on the answer sheet.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

writing rhythms in 4/4 time

In this lesson you will write the rhythms for a song that I sing called "Old Hungarian Round".  Print out the worksheet and have a pencil ready as you listen to the lesson.  Here is the answer sheet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

rhythm practice in simple meter

Today's lesson is a continuation of rhythm practice in simple meter.  The worksheet is the same one that you printed out for yesterday's lesson.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

rhythm practice in simple meter

Print out this worksheet and have a pencil handy as you listen to today's lesson.

Monday, January 24, 2011

natural minor

The sound of a song in a major key and a minor key is very different.  The notes are the same for a major key and its relative minor, but the tonic (the home tone and tone you end on) is different.  Print out the Tonal Ladders and Lesson 23 sheets to use as you listen to lesson 23.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

note heads and stems

This lesson demonstrates how noteheads and stems work together to indicate pitch and rhythm.  Listen to lesson 22 as you follow the notation.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

flags and beams

The stems, flags and beams on the notes tell the rhythms.  The note heads are only important in rhythms when the note is a whole or half note. Sometimes an x is used instead of a note head when notating rhythms for drums and other non-pitched percussion instruments.  Listen to the lesson as you follow the notation on the worksheet.

Friday, January 21, 2011

3/4 and drm practice

For today's lesson you will need to print out the worksheet and have a pencil handy because you will be doing some writing.  Have the answer sheet ready to check your work as you listen to the lesson.  If this lesson is easy for you, then you can try tapping the rhythm with one hand and the beat with the other hand.  It's not as easy as you might think.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

rhythm practice in simple meter

Follow the notation as you listen to today's lesson.  You will practice rhythms in 2/4, 4/4, 3/4 and 2/2 time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

clefs and keys

Follow lesson 18 on the worksheet as you listen.  Note that I say Lesson 17 on the recording, but the sheet says Lesson 18.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

C major exercise

When music is notated on a staff there is a clef at the beginning to indicate the names of the lines and spaces.  It is important to know the names of the notes on the staff; however, it is not necessary to know the note names in order to read a melody if you know solfege.   All you need to know is where "do" is.  See what I mean as you sing this exercise with the C major scale while following the music notation.   The first "do" is indicated with a box around it.  You will notice that the exercise is written twice.  The first one is in bass clef for lower voices (tenor and bass) and the second one is in treble clef for the higher voices (soprano and alto).  You could follow the exercise on either staff.  The relationships of the notes are the same regardless of which clef is indicated.

Monday, January 17, 2011

C major scale with solfege

The name of a scale is its starting and ending place.  This note is called the tonic or home tone.  It is the note to which all other notes in the scale are compared.  Sing the C major scale using solfege syllables.  Use the Tone Ladder as a visual reference as you sing.  As you sing, notice where the whole and half steps are in the scale. 

Now sing the exercise again while you follow the notes on the staff.  You no longer have the reference for the whole and half steps.  All of the steps look evenly spaced on the staff.  This is why it is important to have the sound of the scale in your mind.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recap of lessons 1 - 15

Each daily entry in this blog builds on the ones before it, so I thought it would be good to do a review to keep new people up with what we've covered. If you are unclear on any of the information, click on the links or go back to the previous lessons. I apologize for my late posting of today's entry.  My excuse is that it is Sunday. 

Music is notated on a musical staff that consists of 5 lines and four spaces. Each of these lines and spaces has a distinct name depending on the clef that is assigned to it. (There will be a lesson later on clefs and note names on the staff.) If you think of the lines on the staff as a ladder, the pitches of the notes get higher as you go up the ladder.

A scale is a stepwise organization of the pitches in a song. There are many different types of scales each of which has its own distinct sound related to the pattern of whole and half steps. Two common scales are the major scale and the natural minor scale.

Solfege is a system of reading music that assigns a syllable to each note in the scale. The syllables are do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti. Most people know these from The Sound of Music. In the moveable "do" system, "do" becomes the tonic (home tone) for the major scale regardless of which key you are in. Once you learn the system, this enables you to sing in any key as long as you are given the "do". It's a pretty amazing tool.

Rhythm is hard to define but easy to identify when we hear it. Rhythm is what we hear that moves the song forward in time. It is the sound of the song if you tap it out rather than sing or play it.  If the rhythms have an underlying feeling of a pulse, then we call this the beat. The way the beats are grouped is called the meter. If a song has the feel of two, like marching or walking, we call this duple meter. If it has a feel of three, like waltzing, we call it triple meter.  Read and listen to Lesson 14 for practice with rhythms in simple duple and triple meter.

When notating rhythms, we can group the threes together and count each group as a beat. This is called compound meter and has to do with how we notate music not how we hear it.  It is important to understand note equivalencies in order to notate rhythms.  You can print and cut out these flashcards to reinforce your understanding of note equivalencies.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

compound meter

Compound meter or time is when the beat is divided into three even parts.  "Pop Goes the Weasel", "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" are examples.  These songs have a feel of two beats.  You could easily march to them, but they also have a feeling of three within each beat. 

Print out the worksheet and follow the instructions for some practice with compound meter.

Friday, January 14, 2011

meter and time signatures

First, the answer to yesterday's question: "Out of the Depths" and "Shalom Chaverim" are in a minor key and "Sing, Sing Together" and "Make New Friends" are in a major key.

Time signatures come at the beginning of songs and tell you how the beats will be grouped or measured, how the beat will be divided, and which note will get the beat or pulse. You can choose any number of time signatures when notating a song. Study the time signatures section on your music information sheet to see the particulars.

Meter is the feel of how the beats are grouped. There are really only two choices in meter: two or three. Waltzes have a feel of “one, two, three, one two, three" while marches have a feel of “one, two, one, two". 

Print out this worksheet and follow the instructions to practice rhythms in simple two and three meter.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

major and minor

Songs are either in a major key or a minor key.  You can usually tell which it is just by listening.  A scale is the notes that are in the key.  Watch these YouTube videos that demonstrate each type of scale. 

major scale
minor scale

Listen to these songs and see if you can tell which are major and which are minor. 

Shalom Chaverim
Sing, Sing Together
Make New Friends
Out of Eternity

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

musical alphabet

Today's lesson has two parts.  The first part teaches you the musical alphabet in relationship to a keyboard including the concept of sharps and flats.   Print out this music information sheet as a reference.
The second part teaches you what a chromatic scale is and the difference between a whole step and a half step.  The whole steps and half steps are very important in understanding major and minor scales which will be tomorrow's lesson.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

d,r,m dictation

Watch today's lesson on YouTube.  You will need your musical staff and notes (pennies) from Lesson 6.

Monday, January 10, 2011

active listening

Happy Snow day to those of you in the Charlotte area.  We have about 4 inches where I am. 

Listen to these songs and consider the speed of the steady beat or pulse. This speed is called the tempo.  Do the songs have the same tempo or different?  Is it fast, slow or in between?

"Out of Eternity"
"Shalom Chaverim"

Now listen again.  Do you hear any instruments being played?  How many voices do you hear?  Are the voices singing the same thing?

This time listen for the melodies.  Listen for the stepwise motion and for the skips?  Which song has more stepwise motion?  Which one has the largest skips or leaps?

This time sing along.  Here are the words:

Out of eternity the new day was born.
Back to eternity it will return.

Shalom chaverim, shalom chaverim,
shalom, shalom
Le hit raot, Le hit raot
shalom, shalom
(Peace, my friend, until we meet again)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Note Equivalencies

Pitch and rhythm are two essential elements of music.  Pitch refers to how high or low the notes are.  Rhythm moves the music forward in time.  In music notation the rhythm moves horizontally (left to right) across the page and the pitch moves vertically (up and down). 

Most songs also have a steady beat or a pulse.  The rhythms are notated in relationship to this beat.  It is important to understand how the duration or length of each note is related to other notes.  This relationship remains constant regardless of which note receives one beat or pulse.  Study the note equivalencies on this music information sheet

Optional: Print and cut out the self checking note equivalencies cards to practice.  For example:  Two eighth notes end to end are the same length as one quarter note.  Four quarter notes end to end are equal to one whole note. 

Echo the rhythms in this exercise.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

more rhythms

Watch Lesson 8 on YouTube.

Print out the flashcards for extra practice and for use in future lessons.