Teaching sight singing at the college level poses many challenges if there are individuals in the class who cannot match pitch. A student’s inability to match pitch can be detrimental to the student’s ability to successfully complete their degree requirements. Further complicating this issue is the fact that these classes are often taught by untrained singers who may lack the skills necessary to correct improper or deficient singing techniques. With little literature on nonspecialized singing for college-aged music majors, the aural skills teacher may feel ill-equipped to diagnose and correct issues specific to course objectives. This chapter aims to fill a void within aural-skills pedagogy research that aligns important data from pitch-matching research conducted in the fields of music perception and cognition and music theory pedagogy with the specific goals of teaching post-adolescent musicians accurate pitch-matching and singing skills.
This research is the collaboration between a non-vocalist theory professor and a vocal professor. We identify various deficiencies in poor pitch matching that are broadly classified as audible, visible, and invisible causes. Audible cues are the most obvious to detect, but must be classified between inaccurate and imprecise; some audible cues refer to intonation, volume, timbre, range, and so on. Examples of visible cues include hyper- and hypofunctional breathing, tension, nerves, posture, and mouth position. Invisible cues are more complicated to detect – perception/memory difficulties, audio-motor production/ability, hearing/singing disabilities – and often overlap with one or more other issues. Within each category, we identify issues surrounding auditory perception, vocal production, and possible deficiencies in the audio-motor loop. Each diagnosis is accompanied by several examples from singing manuals and sight-singing resources.