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Solfege - Sight Singing Book/References?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by sailorofcheese, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. I've attempted learning solfege in a classroom setting years ago and i remember having so much trouble. I never really picked it back up until now. after doing some research I'm convinced of its usefulness in ear training, recognizing intervals, and transcribing.

    Does anyone have any really good recommendations on Books, Articles, or just some general advice with the approach to practicing solfege?
  2. freatles


    Jan 9, 2014
    My advice is to hire a teacher for weekly class. Or, thats how I am proceeding, anyway.

    You wont need books, just pen and paper (and some empty staff sheets).
  3. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    +1 on the teacher.

    Lars Edlund's Modus Vetus and Modus Novus are the best books I've seen. They're out of print, but you can find them in PDF form fairly easily with a Google search. Both are designed to be used with fixed Do, but Modus Vetus can be done with movable. Music for Sight Singing by Robert Ottman is a popular book, but I don't think it's 5% as good as Edlund's material.

    Edit: I remembered why I dislike Ottman, and it's a systemic problem among musicianship resources. Many sight singing books are little more than anthologies with no instruction, and little method or graduation. Look through the first few exercises in Edlund: he always starts out with melodic fragments and works on approaching the third of a scale, for example, in many different ways (as opposed to slapping you with an entire melody that does not have as specific a focus).

    Let me know if you have any questions on solfege (i.e. the differences between fixed and movable Do, Do-based minor versus La-based minor, et cetera).
  4. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
  5. What are the differences? My understanding in Theory is still pretty elementary.
  6. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    In movable Do, "Do" is the tonic note. So, in C major, Do = C. In D major, Do = D. In C# minor, Do = C#. All pitches are names by their interval relative to the tonic. Here is a C major scale:

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

    Inflected tones receive similar syllables. These are all of the chromatic notes still C major:

    C# = Di
    D# = Ri
    F# = Fi
    G# = Si
    A# = Li

    D♭ = Ra
    E♭ = Me (pronounced "may")
    G♭ = Se
    A♭ = Le
    B♭ = Te

    And you use the same inflected syllabary for the other modes. Here is natural minor: Do Re Me Fa Sol Le Te

    In fixed Do, "Do" is always some kind of C (sharp, flat, double sharp, etc.), "Re" is always some kind of D, "Mi" is always some kind of E, and so on. The one difference is that instead of "Ti" for B's, it's "Si".

    Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. I use movable Do for tonal music and fixed Do for anything without a key center, or if the music is tonal but heavily chromatic.

    About Do-based minor versus La-based minor... stay away from La-based. Here is an E natural minor scale rendered into both systems:

    Notes: E F# G A B C D
    Do-based: Do Re Me Fa Sol Le Te
    La-based: La Ti Do Re Mi Fa Sol

    The idea is that the syllables are going to relate back to the relative major tonic, but that quickly falls apart if you're looking at Brahms, Schumann, Beethoven, you know, the pillars of our tonal music. An example illustrating why La-based minor sucks:

    Notes: D E F# D E F D E F#
    Do-based: Do Re Mi Do Re Me Do Re Mi
    La-based: Do Re Mi La Ti Do Do Re Mi

    La-based minor is horrible for parallel tonalities. Tonic should always be Do, in my opinion.
  7. awesome. some follow up questions...In what context is La-based minor used? why is there a distinction? (I may be getting way ahead of myself by asking that...)
    I've picked up the two books you recommended on PDF, and noticed Edlund's "Modus Vetus" starts off simple enough for me to grasp, so I'm hoping to read up as much as possible before seeing my instructor for lessons.
    Thanks for all the great info, Bainbridge
  8. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Absolutely no context. It's an awful idea. La-based minor says that "A" gets a different syllable if the key is A major or A minor. Do-based minor says that "A" is Do, whether it's A major, A minor, A harmonic minor, A melodic minor, A phrygian, A mixolydian, A lydian, A locrian, A dorian, A half-whole diminished, A whole-half diminished, A phrygian dominant, A lydian dominant...

    Recognize that solfege is a pedagogical tool, not a science (or even an art). I cannot think of a reason for La-based minor other than to deal with lazy music students who don't want to learn about the dominant-tonic relationship (i.e. singers). La-based minor seems to be prevalent among choirs, and, well, choir directors have to fight a constant battle of getting their non-reading, non-(musically)-educated, "I got the music in me, I can really really feel it" singers to sing the correct pitches. I've had to stand in a choir on more than one occasion to sightread something so the rest of the choir could fake it along with me and we could move along with rehearsal, so I don't put too much credence in a system that is tailored to the desires of remedial musicians who don't want to learn. It won't work out in the long run and it gets really ugly as soon as you start putting even a little bit of chromaticism in there, or, heaven forbid, modulate, so I really think it's best that you pretend that La-based minor doesn't even exist. If you find a teacher in your search who tries to get you on La-based minor, run far and fast.

    Modus Novus, on the other hand, starts out crazy and only gets crazier. ;)

    Modus Vetus is definitely a good introduction to ear training and musicianship. You're not only learning to sing Do Re Mi, but also the relationships between tones, training your ear to hear tonal tendencies and the shape of a line. This is training you to hear the music in your head before and as you play it. The implications of that in sight reading, composition, and improvisation are, of course, substantial. Stick with it, and you'll be a better musician.

    You're welcome.
  9. Thanks for that. and thanks again for your input :hyper:
  10. GastonD


    Nov 18, 2013
    Belgrade, Serbia
    Hey, I got some very nice things from this thread - thanks!
  11. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    My experience is the moveable "do" is used here in the US. The fixed "do" is used in Europe, Japan, etc...
    IMO moveable do is much more useful...
  12. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2014
  13. Thanks, David
  14. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Berklee ear training books 1-4.
  15. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Plus the Nashville Number System.
  16. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    la-based minor = completely useless IMO.
  17. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Do you happen to know a source for these? I cannot find them on Amazon or Berklee Press website.
    sailorofcheese likes this.
  18. Same question as the post above ^^. Thanks for the info, David
  19. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    I want to see a Nashville Number System chart of Someday My Prince Will Come.

    I suppose it could be done.

    Maybe I'll work on a Figured Bass chart -- could be fun.