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The SonicFit Curriculum for Choirs:
Music Fundamentals and Sight Reading Training

From our pedagogy to our login tools,
SonicFit is designed with the chorister in mind.

 

The SonicFit lessons are designed to teach music fundamentals and develop musicianship and sight reading ability. There are specific lessons for choral singers, beginning with the basics of reading a choral score through advanced topics like determining chord factors of each voice part for a given harmony. Our goal is to develop singer who are aware of the music as a whole, and how their part fits with the others harmonically, melodically and rhythmically. Students will also become musically literate, knowing the common vocabulary of musicians and the theoretical concepts behind the terms.

The instructor interface aims to serve the different needs of choral directors. Here is just a sampling of ways that SonicFit can be used in choir:

  • assign lesson material to all students for them to learn the same material and to evaluate students against a common standard
  • assign practice logs in which students can pick exercises to practice and change settings to match their needs and abilities
  • offer guided lessons as an optional resource for eager and independent students
  • require guided lessons for students who lack sufficient background but sing really well
  • build a set of assessments that students take as part of their audition

 

Lesson Material:

Choir directors can assign lesson units in which students read content or watch video and then take quizzes on the content and practice exercises that drill for speed and proficiency with the material. Aural skills are developed from the very beginning, as aural development is paced right along side the learning of notation and theory. For clarification of the terms aural skills, ear training, musicianship, notational literacy, music fundamentals, and theory, please go here.

Practice Logs and Customized Units:

In addition to the pre-built lesson units described above, directors can also build customized units of assessments and practice logs. In Practice logs, instructors select a bank of exercises, and then singers pick the exercises that they need to work on and can further adjust settings in the exercise to match their needs and ability. Both singer and director can see everything that the practiced with a list of settings used, time spent, scores etc.

Directors can also custom build assessments- that is, they can adjust the settings of an exercise and then assign it as a quiz for all singers to take. In some settings, it might be beneficial to create a set of assessments and then a practice log along with them. Singers then practice for the assessments before taking them, or alternatively, take the they assessments first, and if scoring poorly on them they would then be required to do the practice. You can also set up pre-test and post test with practicing in between. The system allows you to configure your assignments however you wish.

A Choral Pedagogy

SonicFit’s pedagogical foundation is considered best practice by many choral directors, and aims to serve those choir directors who agree with these convictions:

  1. that scale degree recognition is fundamental and foundational for all aural skills development
  2. scale degree recognition training, both aurally and in notation, can and should begin before learning any other fundamentals
  3. that a system of syllables assigned to those scale degrees aids in learning their aural placement
  4. that interval recognition is a higher level skill, requiring an understanding of theory; that interval recognition is only introduced after fundamentals of scale degree recognition are proficient and theoretical background of intervals are learned
  5. that metric placement and beat division placement are fundamental and foundational rhythm elements, following quickly after the concept of note durations.

SonicFit has a conviction that the best system for scale degree training is movable DO solfege with “LA” based minor. In the lessons, scale degrees are referenced using that system, and the default setting on any exercise involving scale degrees use that system. That said, there are other systems available in the settings including Letters, numbers, and fixed DO. These other systems have their place, but are not the foundation for SonicFit.

Movable DO

  • assigns each note of the scale its own unique syllable
  • has a system in which the vowel presented for the note matches the tendency of the note- the [i] sound (ee), has tendency to go up by half step, and the [e] and [a] sounds (ay and ah) tends to go down with the [o] sound (oh) tending to be the arrival foundation notes.
  • Reinforces good singing- as working towards a good tone on these vowels will improve vowel formation in a choral context. (that said, I tend to use [E] sound (eh) to replace all [e] sounds)

Some directors argue for singing on numbers for scale degrees, claiming that people already know numbers and the mapping is more direct- 1 for the 1st scale degree, 2 for the 2nd etc. Using numbers can beneficial if giving an assessment to brand new singers, so that you don’t have to crash-course solfege. However, for a curriculum of learning, SonicFit chooses solfege because it is much better suited for its purpose, as outlined above, and is easy to learn. more info

LA based minor solfege system

LA based minor is when the tonic for a minor key is LA. This follows both from the derivation of the relative minor from the major, as well as from the modal system in which the Aeolian mode (the minor scale) is LA TI DO RE MI FA SOL LA. Using LA as tonic allows the singer to always know the relationship between the relative major and minor, its ‘modal’ context, and more importantly, to always follow the key signature. The disadvantage of using LA based minor is that students have to re-calibrate their orientation of tendency tones: it takes some training before they feel LA as home base, MI as the Dominant, MI RE DO TI LA as descending triad scale, the strong tendency of FA MI as 6th pulling to the 5th etc. This disadvantage serves as an advantage later in their training, as students learn to tonicize other scale degrees, learn to navigate modulations easily, and learn to sing modal music from the Renaissance.

The huge advantage of LA based minor is that singers follow the key signature. Notes only change their solfege when an accidental is placed on the note. The concept of a raised note can be taught in ear training even before it is taught in theory, and students can aurally grasp a ‘borrowed leading tone’ before even fully learning about keys and scales. more info

Advanced Topics

After students are well versed in these fundamental and foundational skills, they begin to train on more advanced skills. For advanced sight reading and aural comprehension, SonicFit believes that students need a large set of skills that they can draw from and cross-reference. All of the exercises in the Sonic Comprehension column of the Exercise tab are utilized in this training. The ones listed below represent exercises that isolate specific skills:

   Scale Degree Ear Training
   Intervals and Chords Identification
   Melodic Fragments Ear Training
   Chromatic Framework Ear Training
   Beat Division Ear Training
   Harmonic Bass Line Ear Training

SonicFit is most effect when some choral rehearsal is devoted to related exercises. We highly recommend that you have singers sing in duets following Cerwin hand signs that the director shows with two hands, or break into small groups (even pairs) following section leaders in 'reading' hand signs. Rhythm hand signs showing 16th division of beats can also be used in a similar way. Over the 2016-17 school year, SonicFit will add a page showing many of these exercises.

If having read this you agree with the pedagogical convictions spelled out above, then I hope that you contact me, set up an account, or use the free material available. If you feel strongly against any of the convictions spelled out above, then SonicFit is not for you, and I encourage you to keep looking for a resource that matches your convictions, or build your own. The internet is surely big enough to represent different approaches in musicianship and aural skills development. No one resource should fit everyone, and SonicFit definitely doesn’t try to. We actually object philosophically to anyone who tries to accommodate everyone, believe that it waters down and diffuses the approach. SonicFit is for those who agree with the convictions spelled out on this page.