• A couple of years ago, I began doing Solfège exercises. I am at the point now where I can often sing a piece of chant (with square note notation) perfectly on the first go, but only if I sing the Solfège syllabus; singing the words and getting the notes right seems to be too much . My current approach to learning a piece of music is to sing it using the Solfège (checking I am at the right pitch using a tuning fork) over and over. My experience is that I can sing it correctly without the Solfège after about an hour of this sort of practice spread over a few days. However, I can also hum chant correctly if I imagine the syllables at the same time. I'm wondering if it's possible to develop the ability to sing the words and imagine the syllables at the same time, which would be much less time consuming. Can anyone with experience with the Solfège give some advice? I'm using movable-do.

    My other question concerns round notes, as we sing a considerable amount of polyphony in our choir. My ability to use the Solfège, even for C Major on the Treble clef, seems to be much inferior for the modern five line stave than the four line chant stave. Is this just because I am much more used to the chant stave? and is the solution just more practice? I also have trouble picking up the right note for entries in polyphony. Is there a structured method for improving this? Thanks very much in advance for answers.

  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    I recommend learning to sing intervals as opposed to solfege... it is the horizontal relationship from one note to the next that is important, not the location of the note on the staff per say. Use the attached excersize which I composed years ago, and make sure you can quickly recognize the intervals within a podatus, torculus and porrectus instantly. The critical intervals are of course everything out to a 6th... 7ths rarely occur, once in a while a P4, P4, which is quite the challenge for most.

    Recognizing intervals is the same with Gregorian notation and modern notation alike, so this is a great thing to work at for both chant and polyphony.

    + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + = + =

    Also, do the FSSP excersizes found on the link below: I use them for my 1st-8th graders.

    Instead of using the solfege syllables, replace them with the intervals, Do to Re (1-2), Do to Mi (1-3) Do to Fa (1-4) and you will then begin to identify the intervals of seconds, thirds, fourths, etc., and hear them in your ear when saying the interval, which is identical to my 'Sing The Intervals' excersize... this is a much more mathematical approach that spans both ancient and modern notation.


    Let me know if you have any questions.
  • Augustinus,

    Intervals transfer easily from staff to staff, so Francis is absolutely correct that the names of the syllables don't matter nearly as much as the location and distance do.

    do- fa is a perfect fourth, but so is soh-do, and so is mi- la.

    When you come to large intervals (anything larger than a major third, for my purposes) COUNT UP BY HALF-STEPS and WHOLE STEPS when you're first learning a piece of polyphony, until you can make the interval without.

    Thanked by 1francis
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    ....as CGZ notes, the intervals are critical...

    the excersizes from the FSSP contain interval driven excersizes that work your seconds, thirds and fourths, consistently within one episode.

    [Because of ear training (interval recognition) back when I was in my early teens, I'm able to sight sing almost anything in both notations old and new without any practice. This is because interval recognition and the ability to sing them, are king.]
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,497
    I too came at this from an intervalic 'dead-reckoning' angle, which works really well as long as you don't make any mistakes: in studying by oneself one learns to develop the memory and learn to backtrack, which is itself a kind of solfeggio.
  • About polyphony.... use the key signature (such as it is) and the accidentals placed within the lines to navigate half-steps and whole steps (and, by extension, larger intervals). Absolute pitch reckoning should help, but if someone in your ensemble misses intervals slightly (especially if it happens consistently) your ensemble will drift off tonal-center. At that point, you're all at sea.

    Remember that sacred polyphony grew out of Gregorian chant in many ways, and that "key signatures" don't often mean what more modern composers mean by them. (Ignore 20th century composers for the moment, since key signatures have reverted to meaning nearly nothing at all in the works of some modern composers).

    Within the context of polyphony, often, but not always a part's entrance is prepared by what precedes it. The ear is led to a certain place. Again, often, but not always in 4-part music wild leaps are avoided within a horizontal line of music.
  • AugustinusLondinii - With regard to your original question, I have used solfège extensively to train singers in sight-singing Gregorian chant. I think the right way to think of this technique is as a ladder that gets you to the point where you can sight-sing on the actual text. It isn't really part of the technique to "mentally" say the solfège syllables while physically saying the actual text.

    If you are having difficulty with intervals or maintaining pitch, you may want to focus on ear training and intervals as suggested above. While solfège can help, it isn't a pinpointed solution for these issues.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,839
    Solfege is excellent for scale awareness. But that's only part of the pitch field. In tonal music, dominant-tonic (sol-do) is an analog to tenor-finalis in modal music. The more you understand about harmony, the easier it will be to tell where your part fits in.

    Be aware of recurrent patterns, like fa-so-la-so-fa-so-so-fa at the end of a chant phrase, or the various triads and 7ths in tonal music (fa-si-la) Also, make sure you work intervals going DOWNWARDS; there's a tendency to do everything up and from Do, but Do down to Fa is very different in feel from Do to sol.

    Read without syllables. Let them be "background information".