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vickyperkin

how and where did you learn solfege?

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Two French conductors of excellent quality that I have worked with often sang parts in solfege. I’ve been curious about learning. Fixed or moveable? Are there reference works or methods that you would recommend? 

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Here is my rant. If you start to learn it, it has to be movable. We are more isolated here in the US schools and theory text books might share barely a chapter or section in notation, but outside of sight-singing it is more an economic/ time issue for the students. I am sure just about every other established musical programs outside the US uses Solfege as most of my international students have some knowledge of its use. I use Solfege as a teaching tool for examples and show patterns, but not as a substitute for note names.

Solfege can be informative but in a weird way in performance. It is not as important as learning another language for possible better musical understanding. Eventually, words take on meanings that are beyond the original meanings, then sent through cultural blenders. Resulting in? mediocre instruction: Forte > loud, Allegro > fast

I am super impressed by artists and conductors that speak well in many languages. To hear abstracts being expressed using fairly accurate or eye-opening metaphors is time well spent. But when my Swiss friend speaks French Italian and German, it is to impress us. Fixed Solfege is no different than using any assigned key system. If Do is the c- note, the Sol is the g- note. But it is a good place to start vocalizations.

Hearing a student who studied at the Paris Conservatory use Solfege well is very common. Pianist/ conductors who use moveable Do is pretty informative. The relationship to the prominent key is helpful. When describing Fugal motifs shared by all sections, it makes sense to sing the idea in Solfege. In the US we use intervals to describe relationship, major - minor - leading tones - tritones. More clinical and analytical but more musical or intuitive? Here when we use words like triads, their inversions, passing, neighbor tones, it describes the harmonic content. Movable Do has that built in... I use movable Do, but I do the analysis in my head, using a - g notes, or visually on the score, in the notated key... then that minor 3rd becomes a Me solfege note. Do i practice solfege? Yes, everyday just to think through passages. This is where i can still beat some students with perfect pitch. I do know that many students who go to music programs learn either part of the theory or do the sight-reading in Solfege. I try to get them started in middle school if they show promise. Some kids can barely say the alphabet backwards, they also do not read the music. Instead they see a black dot that turns out to be 3rd finger on d- string. Actually, during fast sight-reading mode, i think we mostly do this. 

There are some Solfege-y bowed string friends that love mapping the vocalizations. I hear them singing quietly during rehearsals.

It is the desire for knowledge ( and sensitivity ) required by particular musicians that forces us in this direction. Global sharing of music and instruction pushes younger students to reach out. Language, at least in English, allows us to share ideas. Though teaching in broken english in music programs is rare now, it was very common when i was a student. Some taught in Solfege but many left much of notation and harmony out of the lessons. Arc, Line, direction, articulations, phrasing were more taught through gestures, expressions, and leaping about. They also played their instruments. 

In the old days, great coaches ( i had ) would require us to play a passage many times to sensitize us to what might have been happening musically. This was school. Actually, everyday should be school. I remember a two hour quartet class spent on the 8 measure opening on a Milhaud piece. No harmonic analysis, just playing at different tempos, articulations and sonorities until the passage made sense. Of course with that help of an instructor. What a luxury. This same coach would often de-tune a very old virginal to let us hear how harmonically far Schumann might get from the central key. Originally, we thought it was a tonal and pitch color change but he argued that it was ( harmonic or emotional? ) distress. Pre-Debussy... colour change? He shrugged his shoulders. He suggested that there were colour changes, but it was like television, there were days of monochromatic colour. Now, this level of instruction is very difficult due to costs and the lack of musical intuition from some players, students and circumstance.

If a conductor uses movable Do extensively, it also implies that he can take that that movable Do to secondary dominants and to other harmonic regions, Parallel keys, modes, etc. This is where movable Do excels, but the instructor also has had to have done some homework. Modal work is well suited for movable Do because the frequency of certain syllables, fi ( augmented 4th - sharp4 ) and ra ( minor 2nd - flat2, ) and some teachers are great at pointing this out. Jazz is a study where harmonic analysis can occur in realtime for many players though most of us need to pre-practice our routines. I have yet to meet someone who uses "flexible" movable-Do in jazz though i have not been to UMichigan or NorthTexasU recently. Jazz chord notation ( or charts ) can be very helpful because reading a jazz score can be very difficult to analyze with multiple-key instruments. My experience is that movable Do would be difficult to use for those not familiar with its use. Not saying it is impossible but jazz being arguably an American idiom so the language would be best suited with it's modern notation. 

My mother taught me Solfege first, then a- thru g-, age 3-4. But at the pre-school pre-kinder music school, i remember failing my solfege portion of the class. I was not a bright student. And my mother was mad. Honestly, i do not remember much, but integrating into musical instruction and completing the assignments were not my forte. At university, each instructor had their way of approaching the primary hardback textbook, which i can not remember the author, but we had many many work books. At least two of six instructors gave some solfege assignments. One was a Choral instructor ( makes sense ) and the other was a composition teacher ( also makes sense. )   

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Music school, but never found it useful.  Learning facility with the guitar fretboard was far more useful to my musical understanding.  I am very visual/spatial so working with the chord patterns and intervals was very helpful - seeing them shift and rotate across the fretboard - especially once I realized that I can think about chord positions and shapes on the violin in the same way (same string intervals as mandolin)

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Probably not relevant -- everybody has different skill sets & all that. But I had solfeggio & keyboard harmony pretty much nailed in elementary school by memorizing Beethoven's fifth & working out a simple but good enough piano reduction of it by ear. (Had to cheat by getting a simplified "Great Symphonies Themes" piano reduction of the 1st movement because the Neapolitan [or German ?] 6th in m. 18 eluded me).

Never bothered wasting time in solfege class in school. Solfege teacher wanted to jam me because I couldn't do the syllables along with singing the notes for the final exam in it. Told the dept. chairman (who'd asked what my defense was before co-signing his failing grade) that those things were crutches. Crutches were to help cripples become ambulatory. If you weren't a  cripple, learning to use them just to use them was a waste of time & effort.

He bought it.

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3 hours ago, A432 said:

........do the syllables along with singing the notes..........

You want to get a music teacher's negative attention, use "ooo-eee-ooo-ahh-ahh" in a vocalise.  :ph34r::lol:

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I learned it as a child from a nun in school. It was movable in that DO was always the tonic of the tune's key. She would start the practice by sounding the tonic on a type of circular flute and we all would sing DOOOOOOO until we matched the tone.

It burned into my subconscious brain that, within some practical limit, melody and harmony were relative to an arbitrary reference tone. Years later, when I took music theory in college, it was easy to understand what was happening in music without being a slave to a note's  position in a keyboard or stave.

I have not used solfege beyond my time singing choir as a child, but I can sound a vowel as an arbitrary tonic and then sound seconds, thirds, fifths and octaves relative to the previous sound. The ability makes me realize how bad my violin playing is. :(

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Hah!

 

I learned solfège in college.  I was envious of my European friends who could do it at speed.  I was more envious of their theory training.

I just started my first beginner in a long while (9 years old), she's already a good pianist, so I don't need to train rhythm or reading, so instead, I decided to start with solfège.  Along with practicing posture, bow dexterity, and the first two Twinkle variations, she is singing: DO, DO RE DO, DO RE MI RE DO, DO RE MI FA MI RE DO, etc. up to an octave.

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i've looked into teaching it to myself, and it looks hugely time consuming for little reward.  but i have a substitute --- i can sight sing or transcribe from imagining the fingering on violin, and this just naturally happened.  maybe solfege is mainly useful for teaching singers to sight read.

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8 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

i can sight sing or transcribe from imagining the fingering on violin, and this just naturally happened. 

Solfège is the shortcut to this incredibly valuable skill.  I often find myself telling my students that if they can't hear the interval they're aiming for in their head, how will they know if their fingers are in the right spot.

It's hard for me to remember since it was so long ago now, but before I could trained my solfège skills, my sight-singing was way worse than my ability to navigate the fingerboard.

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^i took ear training in school and i don't remember any mention of solfege.  the teacher was one of the best musicians i've ever known, could do anything just innately.  and had a superb tenor voice.   i don't think i learned anything in that class.  but only because the teacher appeared before the student was ready!

one time sitting around, a friend asked me to write down a well-known piece.  using what i (didn't) learned in that class i couldn't do it.  kind of bugged me and stayed with me.  one time as it was staying with me, it dawned on me that i _could_ play the piece by ear somehow.  that was it :)

but i think there's yet another level, where there's nothing intermediate, that a composer needs.  in my case the thought is faster than my ability to transcribe and also my transcribing ability is mainly just one line at a time.  back to square one again

 

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