So often, singers don't treat themselves as real musicians, and I think that needs to change! I am the first to admit that I need to get better about staying on top of my music theory and I love helping my voice students to dive into music theory as well. I take a direct approach to help my singers learn as quickly as possible. So they can jump right in and “fake it til they make it.”
Ear Training and Sight Reading are two techniques that will help set you apart from other performers! Here's the Wikipedia definitions…
Ear training – is a skill by which musicians learn to identify, solely by hearing, pitches, intervals, melody, chords, rhythms, and other basic elements of music. The application of this skill is analogous to taking dictation in written/spoken language. As a process, ear training is in essence the inverse of sight-singing, the latter being analogous to reading a written text aloud without prior opportunity to review the material. Ear training is typically a component of formal musical training.
Sight-reading is the reading and performing of a piece of written music, specifically when the performer has not seen it before, also called a prima vista. Sight-singing is often used to describe a singer who is sight-reading.
I have a few exercises that I do with my students to help them get started on the path toward great sight reading skills. My Beginning Ear Training/Sight Reading video is the most trafficed on my youtube channel (you can find it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8kO2978POo&list=PLG0uy34ZEoSabOdgbBmIjpdTlli0BcItM). So I recently recorded a few more advanced exercises! Yahooo! Here's the first of a few to be released soon… it's the same as my beginning vid, but it's a little faster. (This also happens to be my most favorite video intro yet. I hope you get a good laugh before you start working ; ) )