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Solfege, Solfeggio, Sol-fa, Fasola, Shape Note Singing and sight singing are all terms used to describe a system that was developed to provide the singer with a visual clue for which note to sing. This is achieved either with hand signals or sheet music which uses notes that instead of being oval in shape, are designated with shapes like triangle, square, diamond, etc., or a combination of both hand signals and written music. The system is generally accredited to Guido d' Arezzo (associated symbols ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la and the term "Guidonian Hand") who created this method of allocating shapes to notes on the scale in an effort to help his monks learn chants and melodies for the mass.

Shape note singing has undergone many changes with each adoptive country adapting symbols and systems to suit their preferred methods of teaching and vocal styles. It is said that the English style originally had only four syllables (fa-so-la-mi) which is also popular among the 'Sacred Harp' singing hobbyists in the US and abroad, the French changed Guido d' Arezzo's tonic note from Ut, to Do and added Ti for the last note in the scale, and the Italians used seven syllables (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do).

Solfege C Major Scale Example
'Do' always represents the first scale degree, regardless of the key, the shapes on the bottom line are approximations of Jesse Aiken's more standardised symbols and do not reflect all signs written by various compilers.
Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
^ u <> |> o [] v ^

Although the skill can be demanding and requires the singer to pay attention to the conductor or sheet music, it's simplicity means that anyone can pick it up and start singing simple songs with little or no prior musical knowledge or experience. This has made Solfege popular with community groups and singing teachers, many of whom use the associated Kodaly method to instruct students, whilst the film musical 'The Sound of Music' introduced its use to the general public with the song "Do-Re-Me" originally performed by Julia Andrews as Maria.

Solfege is also an excellent way to identify relationships between notes and chords in a theoretical and musical way, without actually identifying note names. Singers use this method to help develop relative pitch, improve aural recognition (ear training), learn to feel / hear chords, rhythms and harmonic progressions.

Introduction to Solfege
by Gunharth Randolf (20 Jul 02) is the best place to start learning about Solfege. This 4 page article explains what 'Solfege' is, contains a potted history plus diagrams, exercises and audio examples suitable for beginners.

Solfege Books & Exercises

These are just a small example of the extensive links to books, audio books and vocal repertoire we have available in the Solfege Books section

Solfege, Ear Training, Rhythm, Dictation, and Music Theory:
A Comprehensive Course
by Marta Arkossy Ghezzo Mel Powell - Univ of Alabama Pr (Txt)
consists of 51 lessons, starting from basic topics in theory and solfege, and gradually advancing to modern music. In each lesson, a different aspect of ear training, rhythmic reading, and theory is discussed
Solfege at Amazon UK
Solfege at Amazon USA

SolfegeDo Re Mi Fa Fun - Solfege Songs and Activities (Resource)
By Paul Jennings and Teresa Jennings. (Teacher Ed).
Price $19.95
Music First Express. Size 8.5x11 inches. 96 pages. Published by Hal Leonard. (44204019) 2+ pricing available.

The core of this valuable resource is a set of 12 sequenced songs for grades 2-6 to help students learn solfege syllables in an enjoyable way. Includes folk songs, rounds, canons and masterworks, in addition to a very helpful Teacher's Guide with lesson plans, supplemental music suggestions and performance options. Available: Teacher's Manual, Unis/2pt. Singer's Edition, Performance/Accompaniment CD and Reproducible Pak (warm-ups, workouts and activities). For Gr. 2-6.

Contents: Amazing Grace, Angels We Have Heard On High, Fly Away, Frog Went A-Courtin', Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring, Practice Makes Perfect, Simple Gifts, Minuet (Royal Fireworks), Do Re Mi Fa Fun, I Saw A Dodo, Mr. Caruso, You're My Friend
Do Re Mi Fa Fun at SheetMusicPlus

The Kodaly Method 1
Comprehensive Music Education
by Lois Choksy
Price: £80.99
Kodaly Method 1 at Amazon UK
Kodaly Method 1 at Amazon USA

Related Links

These are just a small example of the extensive links to online exercises and lessons we have available in the Singers Articles section, which contains complete listings of lessons, exercises or articles available on each site with direct links to the page (when not a framed site) plus answers to pretty much everything a beginner, intermediate, advanced singer or teacher needs to know! (All links open in a new window).

A Shape Note Singing Lesson
Download a shape note singing lesson in .pdf format provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Education and Museum Studies (requires adobe free acrobat reader). This lesson is one of many in a wide variety of catagories provided by the Smithsonian in Your Classroom, a magazine for teachers that goes out free of charge to all the elementary & middle schools in America.

Aural Comprehension Guide
Solfege Syllables provided by David Loberg Code of Western Michigan University

British Kodaly Academy
Registered UK charity dedicated to working for the improvement of British music education through courses, workshops and demonstrations relating the philosophy and practice of Zoltán Kodály to British musical heritage.

Classics for Kids - Teachers
Kodály Solfege Hand Signs - The Kodály approach emphasizes the importance of students learning how to sing on pitch by using hand signs.

Conversational Solfege
A dynamic and captivating first-through-eighth grade general music program enabling students to become independent musical thinkers with the help of a rich variety of American folk and classical music. The Teacher's Manual is packed with tone and rhythm card games, duplicating templates, and engaging teaching techniques that make learning and participating a blast-and non-threatening. Written by John M. Feierabend - Director of the music education program at The Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Dalton First Program Music
Sample exercises from The Dalton School First Program Sight-Singing Book and Solfege for Grades 2-3 by Janet Chinelli & Leslie Mills plus a selection of songs and arrangements in score format.

Dictation Practice
Pages from School of Music, Western Michigan University, with musical excerpts intended for dictation practice. Each excerpt is accompanied by a brief description and an answer key. In general, each excerpt begins with a full measure counting off the beats. For melodic dictations, these beats are in addition pitched on DO, the tonic for the given excerpt. (Quicktime required)

A starting point to help you find information related to the tradition of Shape Note or Sacred Harp singing which includes articles, sound samples and diagrams plus links to related associations, organisations, groups and internet resources.

GNU Solfege
Solfege is a free computer software program written to help you practise the more simple and mechanical exercises on your own. These are the exercises written so far: Recognise melodic and harmonic intervals, Compare interval sizes, Sing the intervals the computer asks for, Identify chords, Sing chords, Scales, Dictation, Remembering rhythmic patterns

Hand Signals for Solfege
Message and follow ups on this subject at the Organization of American Kodaly Educators website.

J.W. Pepper
Music retailers, use keyword 'solfege tones' to find 2 tone charts available for purchase.

Music 101 for idiots
beginners guide to reading music with diagrams and examples.

Sacred Harp Singing
Is a non-denominational community musical event emphasizing participation, not performance. Singers sit facing inward in a hollow square. Each individual is invited to take a turn "leading," i.e. standing in the center, selecting a song, and beating time with the hand. The singing is not accompanied by harps or any other instrument. The group sings from The Sacred Harp, an oblong songbook first published in 1844 by B.F. White and E. J. King.

Shape Note Historical Background
Solfege is a method of ear-training which uses the assignment of syllables to degrees of the scale to assist a singer's memory of pitch.

Sight-Singing [pdf file]
Simply means singing a piece of written music - at first sight - without the aid of any other instrument. It's a special skill that both singers and instrumentalists can develop, by training with one of several sight-singing techniques. Two of the most widely used sight-singing techniques are called "Solfege" and "Tonic Solfa". Here's a little background on each.

Information, description and diagrams on music theory in French. Cette page a pour but de rappeler quelques bases du solfège rythmique, ainsi que de répondre aux questions posées sur la liste de batterie

Extensive description and explaination complete with syllables outside the major scale from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Solfege & Diction
Chromatic Solfege Guide with vowel and consonant production tips from the American Choral Directors Association whose site also contains posture, health and sight reading tips

Discussion about the development of Solfege at this mailing list group with searchable archive.

Solfege Examples
An example of English solfege type - in the original the staff measures 7mm high. Site also includes Shape-Note Historical Development.

Structured Curriculum Lesson Plan [pdf file]
Music Grade Level: K-3 includes Solfege Syllables and Hand Signals, Learning Do-Re-Mi solfege syllables and hand signals, Patting to the steady beat, Differentiating between the speaking and singing voice, Recognizing letters, words and punctuation plus materials

The Gallery Music and Psalmody site
British West Gallery Music Site for people who research and enjoy the music sung by church and chapel bands in the 1700s and early 1800s containing articles, extracts, resources, who's who, original scores and transcriptions that can be printed out, photocopied and used with your local choir or music group, plus general midi files.

The Sacred Harp Online
A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, Odes, and Anthems by B.F.White provided by the Digital Sources Center at Michigan State University.

UK Shapenote
Set up by the United Kingdom Shape-note Committee Committee to provide a local resource centre for shape-note singing including details of local singings and conventions.

West Gallery Music Association UK
An informal group of singers, instrumentalists and scholars who share an interest in the sacred music, psalmody and hymnody, and the secular music and dance of the men and women who performed from the west galleries of parish churches, in chapels, and around the towns and villages of England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.