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13.3.4. Supplementary References

GNU Solfege offers a relatively wide variety of exercises, but no one source can possibly offer all of the exercises and training required to develop a well-rounded set of aural skills. Some of the following books and activities should be used to supplement the exercises available in "Solfege." Note that melodic and harmonic dictation are not yet "Solfege's" strong points, mostly due to a lack of different exercises. This may improve in the future, as the developers improve the software.
  • Taking dictation from real music. Try focussing on one element, rather than writing a complete score. Verify your solution by checking a published score if possible. Remember that some orchestral instruments may not be written at concert pitch.
  • Using your sight-singing skills to sing a melody or rhythm to a friend, who can use it as an example for dictation.
  • Use Bach chorales as sight-singing examples for a group of four or more people. It helps to have friends in all vocal ranges, but it isn't necessary. Remember to use solfa syllables, and avoid the chorale's text.
  • If a mechanical device, like a fan, is emitting a constant pitch, you can practice singing harmonic intervals with that device.
  • Perform exercises for your friends - long and short - on different instruments. This will help to build competence in musical contexts more realistic than a computer can provide, but still in an isolated situation.
Aural Skills Books:
  • Crowell's Eyes and Ears is an open-source sight-singing text, available for free from the URL listed above. This book contains about 400 melodies from the public domain, along with some helpful instructions.
  • Hall's Studying Rhythm is a small and expensive - but useful - book, containing a collection of rhythms to be spoken or spoken-and-clapped. This book also contains some three-part and four-part rhythms. The exercises increase in difficulty. The book offers some performance tips.
  • Hindemith's Elementary Training is a classic aural skills text, but it was originally published in 1949, and a lot of research has taken place since then about how people learn aural skills. The book offers a wide variety of exercises, especially to develop coordination when performing multiple independent musical lines. We recommend that you ignore Hindemith's instructions, and use tonic solfa syllables. For more information on tonic solfa, refer to Tonic sol-fa at
  • Hoffman's The Rhythm Book was developed specifically for the takadimi rhythm system. Like Hall's text, The Rhythm Book progresses fro easy to difficult exercises, and offers helpful instructions for performance.
  • Karpinski's two texts are the result of two decades of research about how musicians acquire aural skills. The Manual contains instructions, exercises, and tips on training yourself to hear musical elements and real music, and how to perform and imagine music. The Anthology is organized in chapters that coincide with the topics discussed in the Manual, and contains very few instructions. The Anthology contains a wide variety of musical excerpts, some from the public domain and others under copyright, taken from the "classical music" canon and from national repertoires. There are some three-part and four-part exercises, which should be performed by a group of people leraning aural skills together.
When you practise sight-singing from any book, we recommend hearing the tonic pitch from a fixed-pitch instrument (like a piano or keyboard synthesizer) before you sing an excerpt. With the tonic pitch in your mind, and without singing aloud, find the starting note of the excerpt, and sing the excerpt in your mind several times, until you are sure that you are singing the excerpt correctly. When you have the melody in your mind, sing the excerpt out loud, as many times as you need to be sure that you are singing it correctly. Only after you sing the excerpt perfectly should you play it on a fixed-pitch instrument to confirm that you are correct.
You should build your ear with as little help from external sources (pianos, and so on) as possible. A significant amount of research shows that this gives you a more flexible musical mind, and that, while the initial learning curve is very steep, you will ultimately be able to learn new concepts faster.

Aural Skills Books

Ben Crowell. Eyes and Ears: an Anthology of Melodies for Sight-Singing. 2004. Ben Crowell .

Anne Hall. Studying Rhythm. 2004. Prentice Hall .

Paul Hindemith. Elementary Training for Musicains. 1984. Schott Music Corp. .

Hoffman. The Rhythm Book. 2009. Smith Creek Music .

Gary Karpinski. Manual for Ear Training and Sight Singing. 2007. Norton .

Gary Karpinski. Anthology for Sight Singing. 2006. Norton .