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Solfege syllables

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by skaboy, Jul 3, 2002.

  1. skaboy


    Oct 16, 2001
    Yes I wanted to improve my ear and to do that I am going to start a daily ear training routine. They say solfege syllables were the best place to start. So came across a lesson which will improve your ear but the problem is the whole concept of solfege syllables is confusing. I mean it says :we use solfege syllables : do, re,mi,fa,so...... named for the different scale degrees: "do" refers to the 1st scale degree, "re" refers to the 2nd etc. So that means if you're in C major the first note would be the do as being the 1st scale degree. But if you go in to F major the first note would be f and it would sound "do" as being the 1st scale degree. The thing that really hits me in the face like a pie and make be go bonkers is how can "do" be the same pitch for two different sounding note??? (do= c and f??)
    I'd always thought the note "C" was "do" and it always stayed that way.
    This is probably stupid but the smart music scientists of this forum hopefully can beat some sense into me...... :confused:
  2. jblake


    Aug 30, 2001
    Gray, ME
    The solfege syllables aren't tied to any specific key. You can use them for any scale in any key.
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    You have to rid yourself of this pitch idea.
    It's really only referring to the scale degree, it's showing a relative position, not an "absolute" one.
  4. skaboy


    Oct 16, 2001
    hmmm so does that mean the sound "do" only refers to the 1st scale degree of any scale?
    I guess you're right but it still does n't hit me that "do" can be the 1st scale degree of any scale. Surely a "C" in a C major scale and "D" in a D major scale does not sound like "do". I mean if "do" can be sounds for all these scale notes then how the hell would I tell the difference between all these scales since all the 1st degree scale notes are all "do". The problem is, I still cannot get rid of the idea of the "pitch". Truth is, iam probably getting myself really confused.
    But would be nice if somebody can explain it to be fully with all the juicy details because clearly I've gone blank.
  5. It not that hard of a concept to grab if you think about it.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    In academic circles there's been an ongoing debate about "fixed Do" (Do is always C) versus "movable Do" (where Do is the tonic of the key) for as long as I can remember. As a jazzer with a background in legit theory, I find them both outdated, especially if you ever plan on reading any chord charts in your lifetime.

    For whatever it's worth, I think that the numbers system (which is always movable) is head and shoulders above either type of solfege because the numbers relate directly to the chord tones and extensions that appear on every chord chart in popular music and jazz.

    I mean, think about it: when was the last time you saw a chord chart that said G7bRe?

    I bet it's been awhile.
  7. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Use of solfege to denote a key or scale degree isn't uncommon in formal composition, eg. Piazzolla's "Milonga en Re," but as Fighting Fitzgerald notes, it doesn't nearly convey as much information as the number system; it says nothing about chord structure.

    It's still a nifty thing to know, though, particularly if you're a singer. I sing like crap, so I don't bother with it.
  8. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    I think solfege is better than the number system.. why? because what do you do when you see a raised note? you can't say one and a half.. where as with solfege you can say di or ri.... Numbers are good but solfege IMO once you get it down is more beneficial than numbers.. But then again I was forced to learn both
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Gosh, I just hate to question my hero Chris Fitzgerald. In fact, I never have questioned anything Chris says, but the above statement set me to thinking. Solfege in vocals is about singing and a vocalist sings single notes, not chords.

    The solfege names (do, re, mi, sol etc.) are guides to singing single notes for the singer. There wouldn't be any real need to use them in chord notation.

    Furthermore, chord names aren't notated in solfege. If they were, the chord sited above, G7bRe would be notated as Sol7bRe.

    That said, here's some background. I learned most of the paltry theory I possess in South America where we use solfege symbols for the letters commonly used in the U.S. In Spanish (C=do, D=re, E=mi, F=fa, G=sol, A=la, B=si). (Yeah, I know "B" is "ti" in English. ) So even in a chord notation, G7bD, we would say, "Sol siete, re bemol". We didn't use the names of the letters. That took me awhile to grasp, believe me, because I was wedded to the letter system.

    Now having explained all that, I do agree that the number system mentioned by Chris is the most easily workable. I came to that conclusion when I was so frustrated trying to get solfege and letters straight. In other words if I saw a written "C", I had to translate it to "do." It slowed me down so much, I developed my own number system, but, lo and behold, I discovered when studying books on theory written in English in the U.S. that "my"number system was in common use in the U.S.
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Thanks for the kind words...I've never been described as a "hero" before, and I'm afraid I could never live up to it, so I won't even try - but the sentiment is appreciated. :)

    What I meant about the "G7bRe" example was simply that if you learn to sing by numbers, you very quickly learn to hear by numbers, and this is useful when trying to mentally "hear" what different color tones on chords (which are NOTATED as numbers) are going to sound like when reading so that you can be hearing the color of the chords before you actually play them. When you start doing this, it raises the level of your playing considerably because you're never surprised by what a chart sounds like when you actually play it...and when this happens, you will play with 100 times more confidence than when you are hearing it for the first time while playing.
  11. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    You know what, Chris...you gave me a great idea! I still tried to sing in solfege symbols, while I was thinking about actually playing in numbers. Singing in numbers would really be far superior, just as you say...at least for me. I already have the "map" of scale numbers (and scale and chord degrees) in my head for relating to the bass. It would be a very simple matter to sing in numbers, too. Time to bid solfege good bye. I wonder why so many music schools cling to the old ways.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    The "Old Ways" have tenure. :)
  13. skaboy


    Oct 16, 2001
    Alrighty, thx guys for making it much clearer.
    I'll put scale degrees and solfege in to pratice.
    Iam on my way to a good ear.. yepiee di doodlee!

    PS: Got the solfege thing from bass magazine.
    if you have any reference for ear training stuff would be sweet as.
  14. dan price

    dan price

    Mar 24, 2000
    I don't post much here, just lurk, but I've got some newbie questions for Chris. I've been out of playing for a while, so I've been practicing scales while singing the note that I'm playing on the bass. Is this considered a type of solgege?
    My other question is.. how do you do the number system of solfege?

  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    It's pretty simple - all you have to do is take a scale and assign a number to each scale degree. For instance, if you're working with Cmajor, then:

    C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7.

    For D major, it would then be:

    D=1, E=2, F#=3, etc...

    Or for C minor, you'd have:

    C=1, D=2, Eb=3, etc...

    Does that make sense?
  16. dan price

    dan price

    Mar 24, 2000
    Yes, that makes sense now. That's what I thought. Just wanted to make sure.

    I don't post much, but I do read the forum alot and wanted to thank you for the many informative posts. It's making things much easier.


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