Interval Guides for sight singing

• Sep 13, 2013 - 02:48

This isn't a feature request, because I've already done the coding, but it isn't an announcement of a new feature either, because it hasn't been incorporated into the codebase. This is a request for comments. Let me know what you think.

For most singers, sight reading a piece of music is quite difficult. Even if the singer knows how to sing a minor third step versus a major third step, it is difficult to tell which one is written, because it depends on the staff, the key, and the accidentals. This feature, which is called Interval Guides, marks the positions of the half steps in the scale. The interval just below the tonic is shown in red, and the interval between the third and fourth degree is shown in blue (actually cyan). Knowing whether the particular interval to be sung crosses one or more interval guides, together with any accidentals, allows the singer to determine the quality of the interval very quickly.

To simplify things for the moment, we'll assume that we don't have any accidentals. Then a second that traverses a guide line is a minor second; one that does not is a major second. The same goes for thirds. A perfect fourth and a perfect fifth cross one line. A fourth with no line is a diminished fourth. A fifth traversing two lines is an augmented fifth. For sixths and sevenths, the major intervals cross one line and the minor intervals cross two.

For example, consider the example below. It contains four voice parts: tenor and lead on the upper staff and baritone and bass on the lower staff. The first two notes of the lead do not cross a line so it's a major third interval. The first two notes of the baritone part do cross a line, so it's a minor third. All three intervals of the bass line cross one line, so we can quickly read: perfect fourth, perfect fourth, perfect fifth.

MuseScore screen shot

The two colors allow the singer to quickly locate "do," which sits just above the red line, and helps to read solfeggio: do, re, me between red and blue; fa, so, la, ti between blue and red. The proximity of each note to a guide line makes it easy to tell the degree at a glance. This feature can also be used to make harmonic analysis a bit easier.

The guides are toggled on and off with a menu item in the View menu (shown circled in yellow above).


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I have mixed feelings.

It seems extremely special purpose, and pretty far outside the scope of things MuseScore would ordinarily have dedicated commands to do. It seems much more in keepng with the sort of thing one might expect in a plugin. Except that I'd be willing to bet this actually cannot be done via the plugin framework.

On a couple of occasions when I or others have proposed features that one could say the same about, I've proposed the idea of a new "Utilities" menu. This would hold things that didn't fit neatly into the framework of what MuseScore might ordinary do but were not doable in plugins. Isolating these things there seems less "messy", assuming they are to be included at all.

During 30 years as a church director of music, I have never needed anything like this, and IMO would only serve to confuse my singers.

It seems very OTT to me.

In reply to by ChurchOrganist

I wouldn't recommend this for the average church choir. Singers in a church choir rarely have to sight read music. There's usually a keyboard nearby. Even when they sing a cappella, it's usually Gregorian chant, where the voice leading is quite predictable.

But sight singing is important to many singers. A search for "sight singing" produced about 591,000 hits on Google, about 12,900 on YouTube, and 1,226 books on Amazon. That's a lot of books. And the AP Music Theory Exam still tests sight singing.


In reply to by MmAlder

I don't think anyone questions the value of sight singing. I think the question is about how valuable the proposed feature is for sight singing. Most people sight sing without marking scores in this way - I've never heard of it either. I wonder how many of those 1226 books recommend this sort of notation? If this notation is your own personal invention, or something found used only by a small handful of people, then it seems it doesn't really belong in the core of MuseScore - or indeed any notation program. But if it's a commonly accepted style of notation, then MuseScore should of course support it.

Somehow it's important to read music. If it makes things simpler, I'm all for it, but another layer to confuse readers is counterproductive.

Notation, complex though it is, has to be designed to be the simplest way to convey a gesture. As a reader, ANY speck on the page has to be processed and better be important.

I'm sorry but I can't see how this simplifies anything. You still have to learn to read some music, and on top of that learn that "guide" system, which after reading the description a few times, I still can't figure out how it's supposed to work, what it means and how it's going to make anything easier.

And what do you do when you suddenly have to read some sheet music where the "guide system" hasn't been written?

I mean, how hard is it ? You have two flats, you're in B flat, D is the major third, etc, etc. No red or blue line is ever going to get around learning that, and it's not that difficult - at least not as difficult as learning some red and blue scheme that I've never seen anywhere. So how about learning to read music the proper way ?

Sorry for being maybe a little harsh but I think we need to concentrate on core features here.

In reply to by BigJack3

The intervals that I am talking about are the intervals between two successive notes in a vocal line, not the intervals between the tonic and the other notes in the scale. Sight singing is actually quite hard to learn.

I'm not trying to force anyone else to use this feature; I'm just offering it to anyone who thinks it may be useful. I can use my local build to run it. I already have what I need. I don't have to read some sheet music where the guide system hasn't been written. I just use SmartScore to scan it in, save it as MusicXML, load it in MuseScore, turn on this feature, and print it out. If anyone else cares to try it, they could send me a MusicXML or MuseScore file and I'd be happy to send back a PDF.

Actually, now that I'm using MuseScore, I'll be working on bug fixes. Which core features are you working on?


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