Solfège

Posted on August 17, 2015 by

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Wikipedia (accessed Aug 17, 2015) — In music, solfège (US /sɒlˈfɛʒ/, UK /ˈsɒlfɛʒ/, French: [sɔl.fɛʒ]) or solfeggio (/sɒlˈfɛɪ/, Italian: [solˈfeddʒo]), also called sol-fa, solfa, solfeo, solfejo, among many names, is a music education method used to teach pitch and sight singing. Solfège is taught at every level of music education in some countries, from primary through graduate level university study.

Many music education methods use solfège to teach pitch and sight-reading, most notably the Kodály Method.

The study of solfège enables the musician to audiate, or mentally hear, the pitches of a piece of music which he or she is seeing for the first time and then to sing them aloud. Solfège study also improves recognition of musical intervals (perfect fifths, minor sixths, etc.), and strengthens the understanding of music theory. Solfège is a form of solmization, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

The technique of solfège involves assigning the notes of a scale a particular syllable, and then practicing by singing different note sequences using these syllables. The sequences gradually get more difficult in terms of intervals and rhythms used.

The seven syllables commonly used for this practice in English-speaking countries are: do (or doh in tonic sol-fa), re, mi, fa, sol (or so in tonic sol-fa), la, and ti. In other languages, si is used (see below) for the seventh scale tone.

There are two ways of applying solfège: 1) fixed do, where the syllables are always tied to specific pitches (e.g. “do” is always the pitch “C”) and 2) movable do, where the syllables are assigned to different pitches based on musical context.

Modern use

There are two main types of solfège Movable do and Fixed Do.

Movable do solfège

In Movable do, or tonic sol-fa, each syllable corresponds to a scale degree. This is analogous to the Guidonian practice of giving each degree of the hexachord a solfège name, and is mostly used in Germanic countries, Commonwealth Countries, and the United States.

One particularly important variant of movable do, but differing in some respects from the system described below, was invented in the nineteenth century by Sarah Ann Glover, and is known as tonic sol-fa.

In Italy, in 1972, Roberto Goitre wrote the famous method “Cantar leggendo”, which has come to be used for choruses and for music for young children.

The pedagogical advantage of the movable-Do system is its ability to assist in the theoretical understanding of music; because a tonic is established and then sung in comparison to, the student infers melodic and chordal implications through his or her singing. Thus, while fixed-do is more applicable to instrumentalists, movable-do is more applicable to theorists and, arguably, composers.

Major

Movable do is frequently employed in Australia, China, Japan (with 7th being si), Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Hong Kong, and English-speaking Canada . The movable do system is a fundamental element of the Kodaly method used primarily in Hungary, but with a dedicated following worldwide. In the movable do system, each solfège syllable corresponds not to a pitch, but to a scale degree: The first degree of a major scale is always sung as “do”, the second as “re”, etc. (For minor keys, see below.) In movable do, a given tune is therefore always sol-faed on the same syllables, no matter what key it is in.

The solfège syllables used for movable do differ slightly from those used for fixed do, because the English variant of the basic syllables (“ti” instead of “si”) is usually used, and chromatically altered syllables are usually included as well.

Major scale degree Mova. do solfège syllable # of half steps from Do Trad. Pron.
1 Do 0 /doʊ/
Raised 1 Di 1 /diː/
Lowered 2 Ra 1 /ɹɑː/
2 Re 2 /ɹeɪ/
Raised 2 Ri 3 /ɹiː/
Lowered 3 Me (or Ma) 3 /meɪ/ (/mɑː/)
3 Mi 4 /miː/
4 Fa 5 /fɑː/
Raised 4 Fi 6 /fiː/
Lowered 5 Se 6 /seɪ/
5 Sol 7 /soʊ/
Raised 5 Si 8 /siː/
Lowered 6 Le (or Lo) 8 /leɪ/ (/loʊ/)
6 La 9 /lɑː/
Raised 6 Li 10 /liː/
Lowered 7 Te (or Ta) 10 /teɪ/ (/tɑː/)
7 Ti 11 /tiː/

If, at a certain point, the key of a piece modulates, then it is necessary to change the solfège syllables at that point. For example, if a piece begins in C major, then C is initially sung on “do”, D on “re”, etc. If, however, the piece then modulates to G, then G is sung on “do”, A on “re”, etc., and C is then sung on “fa”.

Minor

Passages in a minor key may be sol-faed in one of two ways in movable do: either starting on do (using “me”, “le”, and “te” for the lowered third, sixth, and seventh degrees, and “la” and “ti” for the raised sixth and seventh degrees), which is referred to as “do-based minor”, or starting on la (using “fi” and “si” for the raised sixth and seventh degrees). The latter (referred to as “la-based minor”) is sometimes preferred in choral singing, especially with children.

The choice of which system is used for minor makes a difference as to how you handle modulations: in the first case (“do-based minor”) when you move for example from C major to C minor the syllable do keeps pointing to the same note namely C (in other words you go from do = C to do = C; there’s no “mutation”), but when you move from C major to A minor (or A major) then you go from do = C to do = A; in the second case (“la-based minor”) when you move from C major to A minor the syllable do keeps point to the same note, again C, but when you move from C major to C minor you go from do = C to do = E-flat (and when you move from C major to A major you go from do = C to do = A, etc.).

Natural minor scale degree Movable do solfège syllable (La-based minor) Movable do solfège syllable (Do-based minor)
Lowered 1 Le (or Lo) Ti?
1 La Do
Raised 1 Li Di
Lowered 2 Te (or Ta) Ra
2 Ti Re
3 Do Me (or Ma)
Raised 3 Di Mi
Lowered 4 Ra Ma
4 Re Fa
Raised 4 Ri Fi
Lowered 5 Me (or Ma) Se
5 Mi Sol
6 Fa Le (or Lo)
Raised 6 Fi La
Lowered 7 Se Ba
7 Sol Te (or Ta)
Raised 7 Si Ti

Fixed do solfège

In Fixed do, each syllable corresponds to the name of a note. This is analogous to the Romance system naming pitches after the solfège syllables, and is used in Romance and Slavic countries, among others, including Spanish speaking countries.

French_keyboardIn the major Romance and Slavic languages, the syllables Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, and Si are used to name notes the same way that the letters C, D, E, F, G, A, and B are used to name notes in English. For native speakers of these languages, solfège is simply singing the names of the notes, omitting any modifiers such as “sharp” or “flat” in order to preserve the rhythm. This system is called fixed do and is used in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, Romania, Latin American countries and in French-speaking Canada as well as countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel where non-Romance languages are spoken.

Traditional fixed do
Note name Syllable Pronunciation Pitch class
English Romance Italian Anglicized
C Do do /dɔ/ /doʊ/ 11
C Do 0
C Do 1
D Re re /rɛ/ /ɹeɪ/ 1
D Re 2
D Re 3
E Mi mi /mi/ /miː/ 3
E Mi 4
E Mi 5
F Fa fa /fa/ /fɑː/ 4
F Fa 5
F Fa 6
G Sol sol /sɔl/ /soʊl/ 6
G Sol 7
G Sol 8
A La la /la/ /lɑː/ 8
A La 9
A La 10
B Si si /si/ /siː/ 10
B Si 11
B Si 0

In the fixed do system, shown above, accidentals do not affect the syllables used. For example, C, C, and C (as well as Cdouble sharp and Cdouble flat, not shown above) are all sung with the syllable “do”.

Chromatic variants

Several chromatic fixed-do Systems that have also been devised to account for chromatic notes (and even for double-sharp and double-flat variants) are as follows:

Chromatic variants of fixed do
Note name Syllable Pitch class
English Romance Traditional 5 sharps / 5 flats Hullah Shearer Siler Sotorrio
Cdouble flat Dodouble flat do duf daw du (Pe) 10
C Do du de do (Tsi) 11
C Do do do do da Do 0
C Do di da di de Ga 1
Cdouble sharp Dodouble sharp das dai di (Ray) 2
Ddouble flat Redouble flat re raf raw ru (Do) 0
D Re ra ra ra ro Ga 1
D Re re re re ra Ray 2
D Re ri ri ri re Nu 3
Ddouble sharp Redouble sharp ris rai ri (Mi) 4
Edouble flat Midouble flat mi mef maw mu (Ray) 2
E Mi me me me mo Nu 3
E Mi mi mi mi ma Mi 4
E Mi mis mai me (Fa) 5
Edouble sharp Midouble sharp mish mi (Jur) 6
Fdouble flat Fadouble flat fa fof faw fu (Nu) 3
F Fa fo fe fo (Mi) 4
F Fa fa fa fa fa Fa 5
F Fa fi fe fi fe Jur 6
Fdouble sharp Fadouble sharp fes fai fi (Sol) 7
Gdouble flat Soldouble flat sol sulf saw su (Fa) 5
G Sol se sul se so Jur 6
G Sol sol sol so sa Sol 7
G Sol si sal si se Ki 8
Gdouble sharp Soldouble sharp sals sai si (La) 9
Adouble flat Ladouble flat la lof law lu (Sol) 7
A La le lo le lo Ki 8
A La la la la la La 9
A La li le li le Pe 10
Adouble sharp Ladouble sharp les lai li (Tsi) 11
Bdouble flat Sidouble flat si sef taw tu (La) 9
B Si te se te to Pe 10
B Si ti si ti ta Tsi 11
B Si sis tai te (Do) 0
Bdouble sharp Sidouble sharp sish ti (Ga) 1
A dash (“–”) means that the source(s) did not specify a syllable.

Colours assigned by Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton had associated the seven solfège syllables with the seven colours of the rainbow and surmised that each colour vibrated accordingly (a concept possibly related to the modern view of chromesthesia). Thus, red has the least amount of vibration while violet vibrates the most.

Pitch Solfège Colour
C do (or doh in tonic sol-fa) Red
D re Orange
E mi Yellow
F fa Green
G sol (or so in tonic sol-fa) Blue
A la Indigo
Blue Violet
B ti/si Purple
Red Violet

 

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