Solfege: What is it and why do we use it?

Solfege is a system for recognizing the intervallic relationships between notes. Each note in a scale or a key are assigned a Solfege syllable in relation to the tonic (foundational) note in the key. This is beneficial for musicians as it allows us to interpret a piece by sight without regard to the key of the piece. A musician simply needs to recognize whether the is in a minor or a major key.

Traditionally in western music, the smallest interval utilized is a half step. This is exemplified as the distance between two adjacent keys on a piano (either a white and a black key, or two white keys if directly neighboring one another). As such, Solfege includes syllables for every half step interval within a key.

In the most commonly used scale, the major scale, Solfege notes include do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, and do again.

In rehearsal, as well as personal practice time, Solfege is beneficial in many ways:

• It helps a musician to develop proficiency in recognizing interval relationships between notes.

• It allows musicians to read music without having ever heard the piece before.

• It can help musicians to learn their part away from an accompanying instrument.

• It can help musicians to identify the relationship between two harmonic parts.

• In sum, learning Solfege can help us to develop the skills necessary to become independent musicians who can perform and compose at will due to an understanding of the underlying structures in music.

In this class, we will learn music styled in ways that many of us are unfamiliar with. Simply learning by call and response will limit the possibilities of what we can accomplish in this ensemble. We will sing powerful, exotic, and sometimes unintuitive pieces that will challenge and grow us as musicians. As such, we must become literate in reading and understanding music. Be prepared to develop your skill as sight readers, but also to be amazed at what you've accomplished when the year is completed. Get ready to grow!

Created with images by Southern Arkansas University - "Choir Concert 11.27.12"

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