How to Sight Sing

Two Parts:Learning and PracticingSight-Singing a Piece of Music

All classically trained musicians learn to read music, but singers have to be able to turn this into notes without using the physical manipulation of the instrument as a guide. This is a tough skill that takes plenty of practice, but you do not need perfect pitch to accomplish this. Make sure you have the fundamentals covered, and keep practicing every day, and eventually you'll be able to sing pieces without any advance preparation.

Part 1
Learning and Practicing

  1. Image titled Sight Sing Step 1
    Learn the solfege system. You may have heard singers sing ascending scales like this: Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do. (If you haven't, listen to an example to learn the intervals between notes.) "Do" is always assigned to the "tonic" or "root note" of the scale, such as the C in the C major scale or G in a G major scale. By singing the solfege scale ascending from here, you will hit each note in that scale.
    • Some singers reinforce the different syllables by changing hand shape as well. This is optional.
    • A minority of singers prefer other systems, such as "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1."
  2. Image titled Sight Sing Step 2
    Use solfege for minor scales. This is explained here so you can refer to the solfege system directly above, but you may want to wait until you've got plenty of practice with the solfege system before you try this. In minor scales (which exist in several forms), some of the intervals between notes are lowered from a whole step (such as from C to D) down to a half step (C to C♯). In solfege, these notes halfway between certain intervals are indicated by changing the vowel sound in the solfege syllable. Here are some examples, with the lowered notes in bold:[1][2]
    • Natural minor: do re me fa sol le te do
    • Harmonic minor: do re me fa sol le ti do
    • Melodic minor, ascending: do re me fa sol la ti do
    • Melodic minor, descending: do te le sol fa me re do
    • The chromatic scale, which goes up only in half steps, includes some syllables that are rarely used in songs. Learning it is not recommended until you are comfortable at sight-singing.
    • Knowing these can help you sight-sing a note in the sheet music that's a half step up or down from the scale you are singing in. These are marked with a sharp symbol ♯ (half step up) or a flat symbol♭(half step down).
  3. Image titled Sight Sing Step 3
    Practice solfege with your favorite songs. Learning solfege is tough, especially without a music teacher to guide you. Practice as often as you can by choosing your favorite songs and trying to identify the "tonic note" of the piece, which you will sing as Do, then sing the entire song in solfege. There are a few ways to find the tonic note:
    • When a note in the song feels like it is "coming home" or reaching a conclusion, this is often the tonic note. Songs often end on this note.
    • Try to play the melody on the piano, while listening to the song. Turn off the music and attempt to sing "Do Re Mi..." while using only the piano keys used for the song. Keep trying different notes for "Do" until you succeed.
    • If you hear an abrupt shift in the emotional tone of the melody, it may have changed keys. Focus on just one section at a time, since changing your "Do" note mid-song can be very tricky for beginners.
  4. Image titled Sight Sing Step 4
    Learn how to read music. It is possible to start from the first note on the page and count the number of spaces and lines up or down to the next note. Learning to read music is a much more efficient way to go about this, and will let you sight-sing faster and smoother. You can start by memorizing the mnemonics below, but to get it to sink in you'll need daily practice, perhaps with an online note recognition tool.
    • In the treble clef 𝄞, remember the lines from bottom to top by repeating Every Good Boy Does Fine. The spaces between them spell FACE.
    • In the bass clef 𝄢, remember the lines from bottom to top with Good Boys Do Fine Always. And for the spaces between them: All Cows Eat Grass.
  5. Image titled Sight Sing Step 5
    Practice counting from C. This is the note usually used as the baseline note for singers. Play C on a piano, or use a metronome with a pitch function that produces C. Practice singing up or down the scale to find a different note. This is the process you'll use to find the starting note of a song.
    • If you want to train perfect pitch, you can try to find a song you know by heart that begins with C, and use it as a baseline. Keep in mind that people often start singing a song in a different key each time, so test yourself with a piano to make sure you can start on the right pitch each time.
  6. Image titled Sight Sing Step 6
    Practice jumping across intervals. The most important skill for sight-singing is the ability to jump from one note to another without making a mistake, even if the two notes are nowhere near each other in the scale. Incorporate solfege exercises like the following into your daily practice routine:
    • (low)Do Re Do Mi Do Fa Do So Do La Do Ti Do (high)Do
    • Sing a song you know by heart using solfege. Slow down and repeat as necessary until you can sing the whole song using the right syllables. (It helps to sing the solfege scale in the right key a couple times before you begin.)
  7. Image titled Sight Sing Step 7
    Practice rhythm. One way to do this is to subdivide while listening to a song or reading sheet music. Clap to the beat of the song, but divide each beat into subsections, chanting aloud "1–2" or "1-2-3-4" between each clap.
  8. Image titled Sight Sing Step 8
    Practice sight-singing. Sight singing is a tough skill, and it requires a great deal of practice to get to the point where you can comfortably sing any sheet music that comes your way. Search online or in libraries for sheet music of unfamiliar songs, attempt to sing them, then check whether you got it right by finding a recording online. Repeat this daily if possible.
    • Sing it with solfege first, then with the lyrics if there are any.
    • Make sure the sheet music is written for your vocal range.

Part 2
Sight-Singing a Piece of Music

  1. Image titled Sight Sing Step 9
    Identify the key. At the beginning of the sheet music, next to the clef sign, sharp ♯ and flat♭signs make up the "key signature." These tricks will help you memorize what each key signature looks like:
    • If there are no sharps or flats next to the clef, the scale is C major, so C will be Do for this song.
    • The rightmost sharp in the key signature is Ti on the solfege scale. Go up one half step (a space or line) and you'll get the root note which the scale is named for, and which you can think of as Do. Alternatively, use this mnemonic to identify the scale by how many sharps there are (starting at one): Funny College Girls Dance And Eat Bananas.
    • The rightmost flat in the key signature is Fa, and the flat to its left is the root note Do. Identify the scale by the number of flats there are, starting at one: Bunnies Eat Apples Daily Getting Coats Fuzzier.
  2. Image titled Sight Sing Step 10
    Listen to the root note. Unless you have perfect pitch, you'll need to listen to the root tone. This is always the note in the name of the key signature, so when you're singing a song written in A, you'll want to listen to an A. You can use a piano, a metronome with a pitch function, a tuning fork, or pitch software on a phone app or website.
  3. Image titled Sight Sing Step 11
    Run through the solfege scale. Using the root note as Do, sing the solfege scale up and down once or twice to get a feel for the notes you'll be singing. Remember to use the minor solfege syllables for minor scales.
  4. Image titled Sight Sing Step 12
    Check the rhythm and tempo. The vertical bar lines on sheet music will help you detect the beat of the music. Tap this onto your leg with your fingers if it helps you get a sense of it. There may also be a tempo mark telling you how fast to sing, such as "90" for 90 beats per minute. Feel free to sing it slower if you need to, unless you are being accompanied.
    • Italian words are often used as tempo descriptions as well, such as andante for a "walking pace" of approximately 90 beats per minute. Allegro for fast and adagio for slow are two of the most common.
  5. Image titled Sight Sing Step 13
    Cope with difficult passages. If you are singing alone, especially when you are practicing, slow down slightly when you're having trouble with a passage. If you are being accompanied or singing in a group, lower the volume instead while you're struggling, but keep a confident, clear tone. As you train your sight-singing and get a feel for the song you are singing, even your guesses will be right more and more often.


  • You can use popular songs and jingles to remember what intervals sound like. For example, a fourth interval is used at the start of the wedding aisle song "Here Comes the Bridge" (Here → Comes).
  • If you find reading music difficult, look up information on the "shape notes" system often used for church congregations.
  • Some singers try to train perfect pitch, or the ability to identify a single isolated pitch. This is not necessary for sight-singing, but if you're interested, you can sing the actual note names instead, or use a "fixed Do" system in which Do always represents the note C.
  • Some people prefer using what is called "la-based minor," because singing from La to La is the same as a natural minor scale.


  • Learning to sight sing takes patience and practice, and it takes the right kind of practice. Be careful to choose a system that that will grow with you and won't restrict you to simple tonal music.

Article Info

Categories: Singing