I have got to admit that my least favourite part of music theory was sight reading. I really disliked having to recognize intervals and be able to perform them like a trained parrot. I saw no need at all for having to have in my pocket that a certain spaces between notes sounded like some song. Now, I must say that our Kristy is an ace at helping our singers hear the major 6th is the first 2 notes of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. However, I just wanted to learn the tune and be done with it. Guess what? I still feel much the same even after all these years of teaching choirs. Remember it is Kristy who uses songs to help our singers.
So how do you help people to sing something they have never seen before?
1. Songs - Okay so it really does work for some people. I think my big things was having to memorize those song intervals without any real music to study. It does help some people to be able to have a real song to replicate.
2. Repetition - People can learn easily that notes on one line (space) and then on the next line or space are 3rds, skip a line and then you have a 5th. It really doesn't matter if you learn the name of the interval but to begin to recognize the SOUND that the sets of spaces makes is really important. Our job as leaders is to point them out as they sing. Make certain that the sounds they hear for them to replicate are well done. Learning by rote or by listening rather than reading can be done in tandem with the reading. It is a great way to learn both.
3. Same as above for rhythms plus - The one thing I would add to using songs with similar rhythms & repetition is to clap or say rhythms. Sometimes even walking out a rhythm is helpful.
4. Make it part of the warm ups - It is always wise to put challenges into the warm ups. If there is an interval or phrase that causes some difficulty, then build that into a warm up. Make it fun and let your singers hear it from every angle. You will be surprised at how fast something can be learned when it is done with fun.
Relax. Sight reading can be learned by people who "don't read music". They may not be able to sit down and play a tune but they can tell where the notes are faster and slower and have big and small jumps. It is absolutely imperative that we help each other recognize what that hen scratch called "music" means in sounds. Be patient and give people time to learn. DO NOT be impatient. People are all different and learn in various ways. Bottom line - make it fun and both teacher and student will enjoy the experience.