Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Possibly an over-simplification. Take this example: I want to sight-sing hymns. I know a bit of music theory but it's been cobbled together over the past year in an haphazard fashion. I pick up a hymnal to sing the first hymn and immediately need to look up the key signature (I never memorized them). Then I see the hymn is 12/8 time and realize I only superficially covered rhythm and time signatures. I go on YouTube to refresh my memory. This is before being able to sing a single note.

When I do attempt to sing, my mind's ear says I'm way off (even when I've never heard the hymn before). I'm not hitting the notes. So now I need to learn solfège and music intervals.

Doing the "real thing" requires having the tools and basic skillset first. I suggest the opposite of this article: break the goal down into manageable parts and work the periphery. Get some small wins. Then you can realistically take on the "real thing". There may be no other way.

I think this is actually a good thing, though... you have something real you are trying to do, which guides you to what you need to learn.

I find it is a lot easier to learn in the pursuit of something I actually want to accomplish rather than studying in a vacuum.

So your approach, for example, is better than if you had just picked up a book on key and time signatures and started reading. You first tried to do something, ran into something you didn't know, so started to learn that thing.

True. I wouldn't have known I don't have the competency to sight-sing if I didn't try it first. That said, doing the "real thing" is out of my reach until I level up in other areas.

I’m curious if you have heard about Gnu Solfege. I just read about it here recently via the recent “Ask HN: I'd like to learn vocals, any suggestion on how I can do this?”



No I haven't yet. Thanks for making me aware of it and pointing me to that thread.

Whatever you described (looking up key signature etc. in youtube) is the real thing. You are trying to do sight-singing and you are working on it. And if you keep at it and get to sing the whole piece,then you have truly achieved your goal. But if you languish on watching more and more youtube videos, say watch how someone else plays a piano piece or go into something inconsequential to the original problem in hand, then in your mind you started with something and you have not done enough to help that. I am not exactly telling that sidetracking is the problem here, but you moving farther away and away from the original set aside goal is what I am saying.

I agree that there are some over-simplifications here: I'd propose that there's a distinction he didn't make between "the real thing" and "the whole real thing". Taking a job speaking French when you speak NO French is too big a leap. But thinking that you're making real progress learning a language by memorizing verb-conjugation rules is mistaken thinking, you need opportunities to hear real French spoken, and opportunities to speak it. Expecting that you can sight-sing anything when you've never done anything close before is also too much. (Modulo massive natural gifts). Solfège (I had to look it up) I would argue, is pretty much at the core of the 'real' thing you're trying to learn: sight singing. It's just not the 'whole' thing you're trying to learn. But reading about solfège (or discussing it on HN), isn't the real thing. DOING it is the real thing. Hey, I could use a little solfège myself, how is it that I've never heard of it in 50 years of making music?? dammit :)

Ooh, here's a fun idea: see if you can track down a hymnal that uses shape notes, like those described here:


The basic idea is to make it much easier to sight-read songs in different keys. With shape notes, the "Do" in solfege is always the same symbol, regardless of the key signature. So it'd be a "C" in C Major, but the same shape appears for an "F" in F Major. Once you can recognize the 7 shapes, you can suddenly do two things very easily:

- Find "Do" and feel your way around the song using it as an anchor, without any risk of losing it

- Re-pitch the song so that the melody is in a more comfortable range

The first point helps out a lot with interval training, as it short-cuts the key signature translation steps. You no longer have to remember that a C -> an E (or was it an Eb in this key?) is a major third, you just look at the "Do" shape and the "Mi" shape following it, and hear what you should do.

The second point was especially useful as a song leader in my youth. Some of the composers had an optimistic idea of how high our tenors could comfortably sing, so over time I learned to nudge the key up or down a few steps to keep the voices comfortable. (This was a congregation of worshipers, not a trained choir.) Shape notes made that easy to do, since everybody in the audience could still follow the music and often without realizing that I'd changed the reference key on the fly.

Thanks for the great advice. You are a blessing!

I don't think the author is suggesting that we jump into the metaphorical deep end without taking swimming lessons first. He seems to be addressing the scenario where we use instructional videos on swimming and practicing on land as a means of avoiding getting into the water.

I think the author is mostly suggesting you buy his book entitled ULTRALEARNING (all caps), and reading anything more into his content-driven marketing strategy is a waste of time.

You have fallen victim to the Genetic fallacy

I don't think I have. I think that the vagaries of SEO and the goal of promoting the author's brand/book is definitely the reason this article is several screens instead of a 3 word aphorism that we all just shrug at and move along.

How is this conclusion different than saying that, say, reading anything in any magazine is a waste of time because the magazine sells advertising space?

> How is this conclusion different than saying that, say, reading anything in any magazine is a waste of time because the magazine sells advertising space?

It is different because the business model of the magazine is to create some content that people enjoy, so that they will tolerate the ads that come with it.

Here, the content itself is an ad in disguise. That is the business model of SEO, "content marketing" etc, and this is why it keeps flooding the web with mediocrity.

Have you considered that sight-singing anything is not the real thing? Singing is the real thing.

Among the musical skills that can be acquired, "sight reading" is somewhat specialized, but definitely real. I'm a part time musician, and a fair amount of my performance work over the past decades has involved sight-reading. In addition to its usefulness for performance, it's an efficient way to digest a lengthy or complex work.

It really depends. If you want to make music you don't need to be able to sight-read, but if you want to be a functioning member of a Jazz/Events (i.e. you play what they want) band you need to be good at sight-reading.

FWIW I am useless.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact