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Ear-Training: Bona self-study (Solfege, Rhythm)

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Steve Freides, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    As I said I would in another thread, here is a concrete thing to work on for anyone interested. I must, of course, give a bit of background as to _why_ I recommend this, but I'll start with ...

    What To Get: http://archive.org/details/completemethodfo00bona

    The above is only if you want it for free. If you're willing to spend $5 or $10, buy the book, which is "Complete Method for Rhythmical Articulation" by Pasquale Bona. It's put out by several different publishers - any will do.

    Why: I realize we have a very diverse group here so apologies in advance if you already know some of this is. I also have no doubt some of you will disagree, and a few will disagree with great passion, about what I'm about to suggest - that's life.

    "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." In a nutshell, that's why we study Theory and Ear-Training. Our understanding and appreciation of music, not to mention our ability to play it well, is the sum total of a lot of things. It's what we know about our instrument, it's how well we play our instrument, it's informed by our knowledge of general history as it relates to any piece we play or listen to, and to the specific music-related history that's relevant as well. Perhaps you walked into college knowing enough of all these things already - if that's the case, I'm delighted for you!

    Another important area that can effect our success as musicians is our fluency in the written language of music. My aim is to help you address particular deficiencies you may have in this area.

    In a conservatory, everyone must take courses in what is broadly called "Theory" or "Theory and Ear-Training" - I will use the latter designation.

    Theory is beyond my purpose here; I will focus on Ear-Training. When I was both student and teacher at the Mannes College, each area, Theory and Ear-Training, was typically a 2-hours-per-week course or thereabouts. Let's talk about Ear-Training.

    ET is typically divided into two sub-sections: Ear-Training proper, and Dictation. Dictation is progressive course in which more and more difficult music is played, almost always at the piano, and the student must write it down. Dictation is also beyond my scope here - I will talk about Ear-Training.

    Now that our focus in narrowed to Ear-Training, we're talking about once-a-week one hour class. I'll talk about the two things one can do in an ET course, and then further limit my focus to - finally! - the reason for this thread, and what takes up about about 30 minutes of class time per week in a conservatory.

    The first 30 minutes of our weekly Ear-Training course, and the part we'll _not_ focus on here, is singing. One must sing in order to become a better musician, and the time-honored, tried-and-true method is to sing on the names of the notes - they become the words for the tunes you sing. Note - this is important! - that you must also _conduct_ while you sing. A musician must always be aware of where he/she is in the measure, and conducting assures that.

    The names of the notes, in a traditional conservatory, aren't the American/English names, they are these: C is called Do, D is called Re, E is Mi, etc. - see below:

    C = Do
    D = Re
    E = Mi
    F = Fa
    G = Sol
    A = La
    B = Si

    Note that this also the convention across much of the Western world as well, e.g., if you buy a piece of music in the key of "A minor" published in France, it will say that it's in the key of "La mineur" on the cover.

    But, as stated above, this part of the study of Ear-Training, singing on the names of the notes, is also not my concern here. Rather, we will use the book given at the top, by Bona, to _speak_ the names of the notes in rhythm while, as with the singing version of the same basic idea, we continue to conduct. This is the other 30 minutes per week of an Ear-Training course.

    Why speak and not sing? Precisely to rob you of your musical ear and to therefore isolate the "brain" component of reading music, if you will. If you are like most musicians, you'll find it easier to sing on the names of the notes and conduct than to just speak those note names while conducting - your ear helps you, and we want to take that help away in order to isolate the particular skills of identifying the notes and rhythms on the page in front of us.

    And now, finally:

    What To Do: The Preliminaries

    Job 1 is learning to conduct, something again beyond my scope here but something you must do. Look up conducting patterns and learn to conduct in 2, 3, and especially 4 as we'll make the most use of 4.

    Job 2 is learning the names of the notes as Do, Re, etc. Practice by using any music you have at your disposal - it's not hard. Think of it like what it is, learning seven words in a foreign language.

    What To Do: We Begin!

    When you know the note names and conducting - and you don't need to be great at these, just sort of have them a bit under your belt - is performing exercise #3 in Bona, speaking the names of the notes, conducting in a 4 pattern, while a metronome clicks away at 50 to the quarter.

    NB: You don't need to perform the exercises as written in treble clef if you don't read it and don't want to read it. Simply pretend that there is a bass clef at the beginning of each line - #3 will start therefore with Mi, or the note 'e'. If you wish to be better at treble clef, then practice everything in both clefs - it's that simple. The same approach can be applied to learning other clefs, e.g., alto and tenor.

    And there you have it, Lesson #1. If anyone wishes to do this, please feel free to post a link to a video of yourself for me and others to critique.

    And if you don't wish to do this but have taken the time to read my lengthy forum posting, I hope it's been helpful to you in some way and I'm more than happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability.

  2. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
  3. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Inactive

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Correction is necessary. Ti is the Seventh (major) scale degree.

    Si is the raised fifth degree.

    In C Major:

    Sol = G
    Si = G#
    Ti - B

  4. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    No, correction is not necessary, please read the link I posted.

    I am not using what you call moveable do solfege but rather just the names of the notes in a foreign language or what is referred to as fixed do solfege.

    Please read about fixed-do solfege before commenting further since that is what I am doing here, and thanks.

    Fixed do solfège

    The names of the notes in Romance languages.
    In the major Romance and Slavic languages, the syllables Do (Ut for the French), 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, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel where non-Romance languages are spoken.

  5. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Inactive

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Thanks, but I speak/type English - not a Romance language. And, I'm never stuck to a key center - I need to be movable.

    I'll stick with Sol (fifth scale step), Si (raised fifth scale step), Ti (seventh scale step) (of the major scale). More precise, no confusion.

    Remember: Ti, a drink with jam and bread. :eek:

    But hey, if your thing works for you... :D
  6. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Folks, I'm not going to debate the relative merits of moveable and fixed do. What I proposed here is how it's taught at Juilliard, Curtis, Mannes, and a whole bunch of non-American schools. The concept is to sing on the names of the notes, not to create a system that reflects a note's position in a key.

    This issue has been beaten to death a thousand times; if you want to follow the tradition the finest schools use and with very good reason, I'm happy to help. If you don't, this thread's not for you.

    If you want to start a debate/flame war on the subject of fixed versus moveable do, start another thread and knock yourselves out. I'm just trying to be helpful here.

    If anyone is interested in doing this, let me know. Otherwise I will refrain from replying further on this thread.

  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Thanks for this Steve. I've been thinking about doing this sort of thing but didn't know where to start. Now to find the time to do it.
  8. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Inactive

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Not trying to "start a debate/flame war on the subject", but so what if Ti is used instead of Si?
  9. Do what you want for yourself. Since Steve described the very common solfege system as used almost everywhere, just accept this make do the personal translation into your system for yourself.
    Personally, I never heard of Ti before I read it here. Maybe the europeans are closer to the italian tradition ...

    As Steve said, don't argue about note names (open a new thread if you want to argue about solfege note names if you want to discuss it), he is very nice to describe his method to us.

    You might want to discuss the method here, but not the standards using to describe it (unless they are very uncommon, which they are not).

    Some might not have understood that absolute pitches (C, D, E, ... relative to a tuning note) are different to solfege (relative to the tonic), but that Steve uses them as fixed (binding Do to C, Re to D, ...) pitches without accidentals.
    This is a bit strange to me too, because I learned the relative to the tonic approach but also because of the missing clarity of intervals, but we might need to accept this.
    Maybe Steve wants to explain why this is not a critical point. Otherwise we need to accept his way and at least should thank him for his generousity to explain his method her. (What I do, thanks Steve!)
  10. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    I hope you will appreciate my restraint when I say that this subject really has been debated to death and I have no need to further debate it here.

    If you put

    fixed or moveable do?

    into Google, you'll find plenty to read. Among the entries is the Wiki


    Scroll down to "Comparison of the two systems" if you wish to read one person's take on the subject. As I said yesterday, the subject has been discussed and argued to death; I could expound on it again here but I will not.

    The question of whether or not what I'm suggesting is a worthy pursuit is, to my mind, along the lines of asking why we need to keep our bow arm relaxed - because it produces good results. Sure, you can decide that you're going to learn to bow with maximum tension - knock yourself out but I'll decline to join you, thank you very much. We learn from teachers and we mustn't always understand why our teacher chooses to teach us something as long as we have confidence that this something works.

    If you don't read music as well as you'd like to, this will help - you won't particularly be aware of any connection, you'll just start reading better a few months down the road. Starting a piece in the middle will be easier, you'll make fewer mistakes when sight-reading, and your overall fluency in the written language of music will have demonstrably improved. Results are guaranteed if you follow the instructions, very much along the sames lines of your playing improving if you do what your teacher tells you to do.

    I repeat the offer to help anyone here who wishes to try this. It requires practice much along the lines of the practice of an instrument. Although perhaps less demanding in terms of time, it's no less demanding in terms of mental focus on the task at hand. It is simple but not easy.

  11. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Inactive

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    From the supplied link:

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search
    For the Fumi Yoshinaga manga, see Solfege (manga).

    In music, solfège (French pronunciation: [sɔl.fɛʒ], also called solfeggio, sol-fa, solfedge, or solfa) is a pedagogical solmization technique for the teaching of sight-singing in which each note of the score is sung to a special syllable, called a solfège syllable (or "sol-fa syllable"). The seven syllables commonly used for this practice in English-speaking countries are: do (or doh in tonic sol-fa),[1] re, mi, fa, sol (so in tonic sol-fa), la, and ti/si, which may be heard in "Do-Re-Mi" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's score for The Sound of Music, as well as the Robert Maxwell song "Solfeggio". In other languages, si is used (see below) for the seventh scale tone, while its earlier use in English continues in many areas.

    Hmm... :D
  12. Silevesq


    Oct 2, 2010
    I'm gonna try to make it clearer... In French Speaking Country
    Ti=Leading seven (what you refer to)*We don't even talk about that...*
    Si=Note name

    Do, Ré, Mi would be C, D, E it is not moveable in this execercise.
    So in G it would be Sol, La, Si instead of Doh, Re, Mi(note how I didn't put the *É* and put the *H*) and to push it even further in G there is a F# we would say (if possible) Fa Dièse.

    I'm hoping that people will understand that there is a bunch of different way to do it.

    -Singing the note name(english *C, D, E...* or french name*Do, Ré, Mi...*)
    -Moveable Doh (Doh, Re, Mi...)
    -Number (1, 2, 3...*Can almost be related as to French moveable*)

    All of the above can be use while beating the tempo and also when a note is flat or sharp there is arms movement that can be related to it, if you want to go that route...

    If I was a teacher I would strongly recommend learning them ALL. Such a great tool in any situation, it just make you a more versatile and stronger musician.

    There is no wrong or right there it's just a bunch a tool to make you better...
  13. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    My purpose in starting this thread was not to initiate a wide-ranging discussion of solfege, of what teachers should and should not learn or teach, etc.

    The curriculum I described addresses everything that needs to be addressed in order to read music well but, of course, not all of those things are addressed in the portion I propose to work on here.

    It may illustrate my point best to remind everyone that I'm not suggesting singing at all. Yes, it's nice to know how to sing, e.g., an augmented fourth on demand; no, what I am proposing is not going to help you do that - it's about another aspect of the world of ear-training, one which might more rightly be called brain training for the musician, to be accomplished by speaking the names of the notes in rhythm while conducting and with a metronome going.

    My purpose was to make a specific offer to help others here and I gave detailed information about what that offer was, a piece of a conservatory program which I explained in some detail. I understand that limiting a thread to the topic about which is was started is somewhere between difficult and impossible but I renew that request nonetheless.

    And the offer still stands.

  14. Silevesq


    Oct 2, 2010
    Hey Steve, didn't meant to open it up to much I just felt that people didn't knew there was other possibility then the one they knew!

    But, I'm curious to know, so basically you say the note in rhythm only? I didn't check the book so maybe I've miss something!
  15. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Former Mannes College Theory Faculty Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Ridgewood, NJ
    Worry not.

    It's not in the book that it's to be used as I described, but that's the way it's used. Other materials are used for singing the pitches.

  16. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    I'm with 'diddy, thanks for putting this up.

  17. Thanks Steve for pointing to the Wikipedia article, I didn't know there was one and also not about these differences. Seems like I growed up in the Germanic tradition (rather obviously).
    I think everybody who wants to comment on the solfege should read this Wikipedia article referenced by Steve and think twice about posting a comment about this (or better keep it for himself).

    Steve, please continue with your lessons and don't care about any solfege related comments here any longer.
  18. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    You're right, DM. Enough of the syllabic crap. To each his own. I, personally, don't use either, just La, La, La, etc.
    But be very careful with Wikipedia. It's useful, but not always a trustworthy source.
    Remember the old adage, Garbage in, garbage out. :)

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