Author Topic: No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège  (Read 92 times)

Peter Anderson

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No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège
« on: June 22, 2020, 05:26:37 AM »

 Solfège

In my youth, we had a man in our church that brought a very large hymn book to church.
I discovered that it was a music book, that he sang tenor from, but there were no scores printed in it.
Instead it had a, what was to me, a weird set of meaningless words, laid out in four lines above the lyrics. What use was that?

I was informed that it was tonic solfa.  I was non the wiser.

During this period of Coronavirus lockdown, a series of stage plays and musicals have been available to watch free on YouTube. It has been an incredible opportunity to watch a first rate show for nothing!

During May 2020, we watched the stage version of The Sound of Music, from which, of course, the film that Starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer came into being. Released in 1965, this film is still a first rate watch.

The well known song, Do, Re, Mi features in this and, yes, you guessed it, my wife and I couldn't stop singing it for the rest of the week.



It was used to teach the children how to sing.

That got me looking in more detail at tonic solfa or solfège.

So now I have committed myself to posting this Pearl.
In the next Reply, we will try to explain how Solfège originated.

Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2020, 07:00:19 AM »

So, what is Solfège?


Solfège, which is also called solfa, or solfeggio, provides a framework for melodies by establishing recognizable relationships between pitches, and helps train our ears to hear patterns in music.

Italian "solfeggio" and English/French "solfège" derive from the names of two of the syllables used, namely  sol and fa.

The generic term "solmization", referring to any system of denoting pitches of a musical scale by syllables, including those used in India and Japan as well as solfège, and comes from French solmisatio, from the Latin solfège syllables of   sol and mi.

The verb "to sol-fa" simply means to sing a passage in solfège.

Take a look at this hymn, and compare the Latin words and translation. 

Do you spot anything, that may register with your knowledge of solfège?

             

                         

There is more than one idea for the origin of this system, but the common one goes back to the eleventh-century in Italy, where the music theorist Guido of Arezzo invented a notational system that named the six notes of the hexachord after the first syllable of each line of the Latin hymn Ut queant laxis, the "Hymn to St. John the Baptist", yielding   

                ut,   re,   mi,   fa,   sol,   la.

That is what you've just seen above.

Notice that each successive line of this hymn begins on the next scale degree, so each note's name was the syllable sung at that pitch in this hymn.

In the music score above

             Ut queant laxīs   
              resonāre fībrīs

               ra gestōrum   
               famulī tuōrum,
               
Solve pollūtī   
               labiī reātum,

               Sancte Iōhannēs



These words were written by Paulus Diaconus in the 8th century.

They translate as:
                  So that your servants may,   
                  with loosened voices,
                  
Resound the wonders   
                  of your deeds,
                  
Clean the guilt   
                  from our stained lips,
                  
O St. John.


Ut  was changed in the 1600's in Italy to the open syllable  Do,   at the suggestion of the musicologue Giovanni Battista Doni, wich he based on the first syllable of his surname,           and    Si    from the initials for Sancte Iohannes was added to complete the diatonic scale.

In Anglophone countries,    Si    was changed to    Ti   by Sarah Glover in the nineteenth century so that every syllable might begin with a different letter.

Ti     is used in tonic sol-fa, as you recall from the famed show tune Do-Re-Mi.

This, to me at least, seems a logical and most likely possibility for its origin.

There have been some alterations and variations to the system over the centuries, but Solfège is still used for sight reading training, to this day.
 
In the U.S., traditional American country music was first recorded in the 1920's by solfège-trained singers, often too poor to afford a piano, who used sight reading as a way of making printed music into entertainment.
Flanders Bays and "Singing Bob" Leonard were traveling music teachers who trained hundreds of students, among them The Carter Family, who recorded the first nationally distributed recordings of regional "country" music.

In the next Reply, we find out why solfège is advantageous.

Peter
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Re: No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2020, 06:43:19 AM »
To many people, the words Do  Re  Mi  are simply nonsense words, but as The Sound of Music song, suggests, solfeggio or solfège is simply a method of naming pitches.

It works by assigning a syllable to each note of the familiar musical scale.

So rather than, say, using the scale of C major as an example:

                                C    D   E   F   G   A   B   C

        you can name it instead as 
 
                               do   re   mi   fa    sol    la    ti    do.

This syllabic approach carries a great advantage, since the syllables are easier to sing than the letters.
Just try playing the C major scale on your Yamaha AR, and singing along with the scale with the solfège syllables like this, instead of the traditional note names:

       

This also demonstrates another great advantage of solfège, in that it works for any scale and any key you wish, not just the major scales.

Because, with some small adjustments, that we’ll cover later, you can even use it to recall melodies based in minor and non-traditional scales, too.

But in the next Reply, we focus on the syllables
                    do  re  mi  fa  sol  la  ti
                                    and how they relate to the scale degrees of the major scale.

Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2020, 07:30:44 AM »

There are two solfège Systems.

              Moveable   Do           and               Fixed   Do

In the moveable do system,     the do is always the tonic.

This is regardless of the scale being used, because   do    is assigned to the first scale degree, no matter what.

Here, for example, is the E major scale, with E taken as the tonic or  do .

Try playing along on your Yamaha AR, and seeing how the solfège syllables still work in a different key:

           


In the      fixed     do    system,
                         do is always C,
                         re     is always D,        etc.


 Initially,  you might think this is the easier way to go, but moveable    do     has many advantages.

One of the biggest being that any major scale can be represented with   
                                  do   re   mi   fa   sol   la   ti!
           
In the next Reply we find out why it is worth learning solfège.

Peter
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2020, 06:51:19 AM »

So why should I consider learning solfège?

Solfège helps you to understand music theory better, especially with singing and songwriting.

Therefore, solfège is a valuable tool to have in your musician’s tool bag.

Learning solfège will help you to do the following.


                1   Recognize recurring patterns in music


Each piece of music may be unique, but there are a finite number of intervals, or distances between notes.      Solfège will help you recognize these intervals in songs, and eventually, you will be able to recognize intervals in a series, which we know as melodies.

You will also be able to recognize when pitches are raised or lowered based on whether they fit in with major scale solfège or not, and that in turn will lead to a deeper understanding of melodies, chord progressions, and song structures.


                2   It will improve your sight-singing and sight-reading skills


Just imagine being able to look at any sheet of music and sing the melody written on the staves, without having it played out loud for you first!

With time and practice, the syllable/pitch associations of solfège will become second nature, and you will be able to hum or sing anything placed in front of you.

Solfège is also highly useful for improving your sight-reading skills, because solfa improves our relative pitch.

Therefore, it makes it easier to hear the music on the page in our heads before we even begin sight-reading.   
If you already have an idea of how the music goes, sight-reading becomes even more intuitive.

               3          Transcribe Music

Solfège works wonders for transcribing music  or simply writing down what you hear,  whether it is a favourite piece of music or a tune you are hearing in your head.

               4          Improve your Composing

Learning solfège can also greatly assist your ability at composing.

With enough practice, you can progress from sight-singing and the sight-reading of existing songs to making up beautiful melodies on the fly, because you will already have a good idea of what they will sound like.
You will also be able to remember them and easily write them down in order to commit your ideas to paper or share them with others.

               5            Learn relative pitch

Relative pitch gives you the ability to identify or re-create a musical note by comparing it to a reference note.    Providing, that is, that you can identify the distance, or the interval, between the two notes.

This even works with intervals where notes have been raised or lowered by a semi-tone.

Solfège gives you a solid and an easy system for relative pitch.
Surely this is something all of us aspire to be able to do.

               6          Recall melodies at will

Being able to recall melodies is incredibly useful not only in theory, but in songwriting and improvisation.
 
There is no need to fumble around on your Yamaha AR and try to get the right order and series of notes.     
Solfège gives you a system to remember pitches in the order that you hear or play them.

In the next reply we see why this is almost a magic system.

Peter
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Re: No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2020, 07:08:43 AM »
Solfège is an aural, musical language that will help translate what you hear into something that you can write down.
It is used in music to teach pitch, sight singing, and sight-reading.

The trouble is that many people associate    do re mi fa sol la ti   with children’s music classes.

However, in reality, solfège is an empowering system of pitch recognition for musicians of all ages.

As you learn solfège, you are training your ear to recognize some of the most common patterns in music.
Eventually, you will hear a melody and be able to recognize intervals and chords by instinctively hearing the solfège syllables.

It seems almost like magic, but it is actually a definite skill that just requires a little effort to acquire.

By illustrating key relationships between pitches, solfège breaks melodies down into smaller pieces and provides a frame of reference when learning or transcribing new music.

So solfège is for everyone.
Whether you are a beginner looking to understand the inner workings of a scale, or a seasoned musician looking to hone your inner ear, learning these syllable-pitch associations will go a long way in helping you see the bigger picture of  the relationships between the notes in any melody.

In the next Reply we discuss some more advantages that it can provide.

Peter
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Re: No__131__Tonic Solfa - Solfège
« Reply #6 on: Today at 06:18:19 AM »
Why should I bother to learn Solfège?

Let us take an example.

Suppose you hear 2 notes and can recognize them as

                              so      going up to      do.

This immediately tells you several important things…..

                  1      The pitch movement is from scale degree 5 to 1   or   dominant to tonic

                  2      It implies the harmonic chord motion of      V–I

                  3      The interval is a perfect fourth

How can we know all that from just two notes?


With      movable do    solfège assigns     do     to the tonic of the key of the melody.

That means that if the song you are listening to is in F Major, then do is F.

So, (sorry about the pun) the rest of the syllables follow in sequential order, as shown in the F major scale, where I have added the solfège
syllables:


                         


So if I am hearing     so – do     and already know the song is in F Major, then I know I have heard the tones    C – F.

In the next Reply, we explore how we handle, if we don’t know what key we are in.

Peter
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