Learning music with Solfege
  • Jazzer
    Posts: 34

    I'm wondering how many out there use solfege in the teaching of music to non-musicians (or musicians too :)
    In my fledgling choir we are learning Simple English Propers from scratch, and I don't even turn the organ on. We write out the syllables in pencil over the lyric, find Doh or Fa, find our pitches relative to those notes, and then start singing... Slowly at first, then faster and faster. The singers seem to retain the melodies better when they do this, rather than by just playing it to them on the organ and have them parrot it back. They seem to own it more after they have found it for themselves.
    I have a few people who say they don't read music, and I have found this method illustrates to them that they CAN in fact read music :)

    Does anyone else out there use solfege regularly? Any tips on how to integrate it more and more? I have found that it is very helpful for breaking down harmony also. Lets the singer know where they are in the chord...

    Thanks for your help
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    I have used it and it works. I use numbers for the intervals just like I was taught years ago. I don't use the syllables, but they work, too.
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • Drake
    Posts: 214
    Our schola sings the propers from the Liber Usualis on Sundays and feasts. When there is a section that we are struggling with, we go over it with solfege a few times, and we find that helpful.

    I'm not certain what you are asking for specifically, but here is a post I wrote about using solfege for Gregorian Chant. Near the bottom of the post, it includes a recording of an entire tract sung in solfege as an example.
  • If you are starting a choir with middle aged or older adults who have never read music, an alternative is to use numbers (Do=1, RE=2, etc.). Four or five years ago I formed such a group and realized that though they had difficulty remembering solfege syllables, they instinctively grasped the proper placement of numbers. It worked, so I've left the number approach in place. We sing a Latin introit, communion proper, and post-communion hymn at a once-a-month OF Mass. These singers, who couldn't read a note a few years ago, can now pick up an introit and do a credible rendition at sight using numbers.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,445
    What's the number for flat-seven?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    Flat seven. LOL. We were taught to sing like, one, two, flat three, four, sharp five, and etc.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    I was taught using chromatic solfege syllables (DO, RE, MI, ME, FA, FI, SOL, SI, LA, LE, TI, TE, DO, etc) with moveable DO. I have, however, come to embrace for certain purposes the use of fixed DO (DO is always the note C, whichever octave in which it occurs). There are pros and cons of each, and you can't switch back and forth: pick one and stick with it. It is worth noting, however, that the Eastman School of Music now uses fixed DO, as did the Old Italian School of singing. Again, there are pros and cons of each, and you'd have to pick whichever one works for you per your pedagogical approach. Generally, the use of chromatic syllables with moveable DO (LA based minor) is the gold standard (per my professor, Dr. Don Ester, DME, chair of the music education department at Ball State University).
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • Our schola has learned solfege over the last 3 years. Full disclosure: it was hard, and we lost a very capable singer who didn't want to do it. But it has led to a dramatic improvement in our sight-singing ability. Our primary focus is Gregorian chant EF propers, and we have enjoyed an increased efficiency in our rehearsals.

    Older members of the group have had the most difficult time, but also the strongest appreciation for their new-found abilities. Classes, or self-study, outside choir rehearsal was, frankly, essential. On the other hand, young members (teens) learned solfege very quickly, but have less awareness of how it has helped them.

    I have noticed that singers who are already pretty good at sight singing have to work just as hard as the others to learn the method, but they don't realize the same degree of benefit at the beginning. However, once they become proficient they get even better at sight singing.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Everything Arthur just said is absolutely essential. His observations will ring true in the majority of situations, I believe. If I had forced solfege learning on my choir, I am certain I would no longer have much of a choir, as many don't want to put that kind of work into it. It's sad, I know, and really in the long run we'd probably be better off, performance wise, without those individuals, but when you're facing an existential crisis as a choir, you can't afford to lose anybody.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 890
    Any tips on how to integrate it more and more?

    Try incorporating some intonation exercises (such as those in the Ward Method books) as part of the warm up so that 1) they become more comfortable with singing solfege and 2) they start to hear melodic progressions.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,742
    What's the number for flat-seven?
    Assuming it's not a mutated "four", we sing the monosyllable "flat". At the beginning stage though I encouraged the use of "weird" for all accidentals. Ciphers are easy to remember as homework, but comparing two choirs I've led, a little time to learn solfege syllables ultimately makes up for itself in the time saved reminding "not svvnn, seh!"
  • I have an exercise I use as a vocal warm up: Do-Re-Do-Mi-Do-Fa-Do-Sol-Do-Fa-Do-Mi-Do-Re-Do-Do It helps singers to practice intervallic work.
    Thanked by 2hilluminar Bri
  • Jazzer
    Posts: 34
    Thanks all,

    In particular, I asked that because I am wondering if it is easier to use a moveable Doh system or a moveable numbers one. I am going to stick with the solfege syllables since I am more comfortable with them, and since it's what I started with. I can see the advantages of using scale degrees though. What I do know is that the melodies are getting learned! I'll think about tinkering with the method later, or even just showing them the numerals alongside solfege to show them that there are many ways of thinking about the same thing.

    One thing though: Everyone is very enthusiastic about the 4 line notation! I was most surprised by that! It is new to me, and man is it easy to sightread!
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 755
    When teaching intervals, solfege and numbers can both be supplemented by well known examples, such as Bernstein's "there's a place for us" (dominant 7th) and "Maria" (tritone).
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,742
    A different answer for Adam. I counsel eschewing the velar version of "sahx" for flat 6, on hygienic grounds.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Adam Wood
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    Ward method uses the idea of writing and seeing numbers but singing the solfege syllables - so the singers see 1-2-3 but sing Do - re - mi
    This takes advantage of the ease at which we grasp numbers and the intervals between them but also gains the advantage of adding the correct musical concept. I find it works very well with children and adults.
    if your choir is reluctant start them on sight singing exercises as warm ups, gradually introducing more notes and notation. and before you know it they will be sight singing easily.
    original ward method books are free to download from musica sacra.
    ward centre in Washington provides one week intensive training in method each summer and has scholarshps available.
  • Fixed DO is extremely useful in working in any situation.

    such as Bernstein's "there's a place for us" (dominant 7th) and "Maria" (tritone).


    I can hear Minion's singing these.
  • Techniques from the Ward method would be beneficial. Also, check out www.sightreadingfactory.com for sight singing practice. You can use fixed or moveable DO, and DO or LA based minor. Solfege can be toggled on or off.
    Thanked by 2DavidOLGC Carol
  • nelemme
    Posts: 9
    The propers of liturgical year (1962) sung in solfege with traditional Solesmes rhythmic interpretation can be found here. https://www.nicholaslemme.com/solfeged-propers
    Thanked by 1bhcordova