1 singing using solfa syllables to denote the notes of the scale of C major [syn: solmization, solfege]
2 a voice exercise; singing scales or runs to the same syllable [syn: solfege] [also: solfeggi (pl)]
- a method of sight singing music that uses the syllables do (originally ut), re, mi, fa, sol (or so), la, and si (or ti) to represent the pitches of the scale, most commonly the major scale. The fixed-do system uses do for C, and the moveable-do system uses do for whatever key the melody uses (thus B is do if the piece is in the key of B).
In music, solfège (, also called solfeggio, sol-fa, or solfa) is a pedagogical solmization technique for the teaching of sight-singing in which each note of the score is sung to a special syllable, called a solfège syllable (or "sol-fa syllable"). The seven syllables normally used for this practice in English-speaking countries are: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti (with a chromatic scale of ascending di, ri, fi, si, li and descending te, le, se, me, ra).
Traditionally, solfège is taught in a series of exercises of gradually increasing difficulty, each of which is also known as a "solfège". By extension, the word "solfège" may be used of an instrumental étude.
EtymologyFrench "solfège" and Italian "solfeggio" ultimately derive from the names of two of the syllables used: so[l] and fa. The English equivalent of this expression, "sol-fa", is also used, especially as a verb ("to sol-fa" a passage is to sing it in solfège).
The word "solmization" derives from the Medieval Latin "solmisatiō", ultimately from the names of the syllables sol and mi. "Solmization" is often used synonymously with "solfège", but is technically a more generic term; i.e., solfège is one type of solmization (albeit a nearly universal one in Europe and the Americas).
Origin of the solfège syllablesThe use of a seven-note diatonic musical scale is ancient, though originally it was played in descending order.
The scale created by Guido of Arezzo went as follows: ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si. The notes were taken from the first verse of a Latin hymn below (where the sounds fell on the scale), and later "ut" and "sol" were changed to flow with the other notes, while "si" was changed to "ti" to avoid confusion with "so[l]".
Ut queant laxis resonāre fibris Mira gestorum famuli tuorum, Solve polluti labii reatum, Sancte Iohannes.
The hymn (The Hymn of St. John) was written by Paulus Diaconus in the 8th century. It translates as:
So that these your servants can, with all their voice, to sing your wonderful feats, clean the blemish of our spotted lips. O Saint John!
The descending major (diatonic) scale: high doh ('Do) High Doh' (The apostrophe indicates high Doh) tee (Ti) Tee - "The Piercing Tone" lah (La) Lah - "The Sad Tone" soh (Sol) Soh - "The Bright Tone" fah (Fa) Fah - "The Desolate Tone" mee (Mi) Mee - "The Calm Tone" ray (Re) Ray - "The Hopeful Tone" doh (Do) Doh - "The Strong Tone"
The descending chromatic scale: Hi doh (Do) Doh' tee (Ti) Tee tay (Te) Tay lah (La) Lah lay (Le) Lay soh (Sol) Soh fee (Fi) Fee fah (Fa) Fah mee (Mi) Mee may (Me) May ray (Re) Ray rah (Ra) Rah doh (Do) Doh
French scholars Laborde and Villoteau suggest that Guido of Arezzo was himself influenced by Muslim musical notation. In Romance countries, these seven syllables have come to be used to name the notes of the scale, instead of the letters C, D, E, F, G, A and B. (For example, they would say, "Beethoven's ninth symphony is in Re minor".) In Germanic countries, the letters are used for this purpose, and the solfège syllables are encountered only for their use in sight-singing and ear training. (They would say, "Beethoven's ninth symphony is in D minor".)
In Anglo-Saxon countries, "sol" is often changed to "so", and "si" was changed to "ti" by Sarah Glover in the nineteenth century so that every syllable might begin with a different letter. "So" and "ti" are used in tonic sol-fa and in the song "Do-Re-Mi".
The modern use of solfègeThere are two main types of solfège:
- Fixed do, in which each syllable corresponds to a note-name. This is analogous to the Romance system naming pitches after the solfège syllables, and is used in Romance and Slavic countries, among others.
- Movable do, or solfa, in which each syllable corresponds to a scale degree. This is analogous to the Guidonian practice of giving each degree of the hexachord a solfège name, and is mostly used in Germanic countries.
Fixed do solfègeFixed do solfège is employed in Iran, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Latin American countries, among others. In this system, each solfège syllable corresponds exactly to the name of a note, so that, e.g., any written "C" is sung as "Do", etc. Since these syllables are, in these countries, the names of the notes for which they are used, this system would be analogous to an English-speaker singing a tune on "A, B, C" etc. The following table shows the correspondence between the Romance solfège note-names and the Germanic letter names. (The pronunciation key shows an anglicized pronunciation in IPA, as shown at the pronunciation key; the syllables not in bold are chromatic)
This does not correspond to the ordinary Romance way of naming the sharp and flat notes, which is done by suffixing the word for "flat" or "sharp" to the ordinary (solfège) name of the natural note.
Movable do solfègeMovable do is frequently employed in Australia, Ireland, the UK, the USA and English-speaking Canada (although many American conservatories use French-style fixed do). Originally it was used throughout continental Europe as well, but in the mid-nineteenth century was phased out by fixed do. In this system, each solfège syllable corresponds not to a pitch, but to a degree of the scale: The first scale degree of a (major) scale is always sung as do, the second scale degree as re, etc. (For minor keys, see below.) In movable do, a given tune is therefore always sol-faed on the same syllables, no matter what key it is in.
The names used for movable do differ slightly from those used for fixed do, because chromatically altered syllables are usually included, and the English names of the syllables are usually used:
If, at a certain point, the key of a piece modulates, then it is necessary to change the solfège names at that point as well. For example, if a piece is in C major, then C is sung on "do", D on "re", etc.. If, however, the piece then modulated to G, then G is sung on “Do”, A on “re”, etc., and C would now be sung on “fa".
Passages in a minor key may be sol-faed in one of two ways in movable do: either starting on do (using "me", "le", and "te" for the lowered third, sixth, and seventh degrees, and "la" and "ti" for the raised sixth and seventh degrees), or starting on la (using "fi" and "si" for the raised sixth and seventh degrees). The later is sometimes preferred in choral singing, especially with children.
One particularly important variant of movable do, but differing in some respects from the system here described, was invented in the nineteenth century by John Curwen, and is known as tonic sol-fa.
In Italy, in 1972, Roberto Goitre wrote the famous method "Cantar leggendo", which has come to be used for choruses and for music for young children.
Solfège in popular culture
- Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti [http://www.myspace.com.thebanddoremi]is an experimental post-rock band based in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, England.
- Woody Guthrie's song Do-Re-Mi uses the term as a slang word for "money", rather than musical method.
- Do-Re-Mi is a song featured in the musical The Sound of Music. Within the story, Maria uses the song to teach the notes of the major musical scale to the Von Trapp children, by identifying six of the solfège syllables, Do Re Mi Fa So and Ti with the English words "doe", "ray", "me", "far", "sew" and "tea"; La is called "a note to follow So". Each syllable of the diatonic scale appears as solfège in its lyrics, sung on the pitch it names.
- The Music Man used solfège in its music, especially in Shipoopi.
- A Japanese animated series with a musical theme is known as Ojamajo Doremi, with the English language version known as Magical DoReMi. In the Japanese series it is about a girl named Doremi and two of her friends, but the dub changed their names to Dorie, Reanne, and Mirabelle. In the original, Doremi's name was to reflect solfège, but in the English version, the first syllables of all their names together make solfège. In the episode "Dustin' the Old Rusty Broom", when they make over the Rusty Broom, they call it the DoReMi Magic Shop, naming it after the first syllables of their names. Patina complains that it's her shop, but Dorie says, "We were going to call it DoReMiPa, but that wouldn't sound right." The fairies in said show are known as Dodo, Rae Rae (Rere in the Japanese version), Mimi, and so forth, all given to reflect solfège as well.
- Hawkwind named their 1972 album Doremi Fasol Latido.
- The Curwen hand signals are used in the climactic scene of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind when François Truffaut's character communicates with the alien being.
- Solfeggio was the name of a song used in a comedy sketch featuring The Nairobi Trio on Ernie Kovacs's television show. The lyrics of the song featured the solfège tones and was played while three cast members dressed in trench coats, gorilla masks and bowler hats engaged in silly situations on-screen. Among Kovacs' celebrity friends both Jack Lemmon and Frank Sinatra are known to have performed in the skit. Seated at screen right at a piano was a female simian (often Kovacs' wife, Edie Adams), robotically thumping the keys. "Solfeggio" was written by Robert Maxwell and sung by the Ray Charles Singers.
- The Aristocats has a section that is a music lesson with scales and arpeggios in French.
- A song by The Enright House, on their album "A Maze and Amazement", is entitled "Do Re Mi" (a tribute to the American opera singer, Brenda Roberts).
- The Japanese rock band Asian Kung-Fu Generation released an album titled Sol-fa.
- The Kokiri, a fictional elf-like race from the Legend of Zelda game series who are largely named after blends of solfège tones.
- A group of genetically enhanced individuals teach their friend to speak properly, who was mute up until then because of problems with her genetic enhancement, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by singing the scale and teaching it to her.
- The American jazz clarinettist Irving Fazola (1912-1949) took his last name from "fa", "so", and "la". Born Irving Prestopnik, he was given the nickname "Fazola" as a child because of his musical abilities.
- The sung libretto to Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach is entirely in numbers and fixed do solfege syllables.
- Composer Karl Jenkins used solfège in his 1997 album Adiemus II in the song Chorale VI
- History of Notation by Neil V. Hawes
- Various scales with their solfège names and associated hand signs
- A search engine for melodies that uses solfège
- An online music notation editor for Sargam, the Indian solfège
- Music theory online: key signatures and accidentals
- Music theory online : staffs, clefs & pitch notation
- GNU Solfège, a free software program to study solfeggio
solfeggio in Min Nan: Solfège
solfeggio in Danish: Solmisation
solfeggio in German: Solfège
solfeggio in Esperanto: Solfeĝo
solfeggio in Spanish: Solfeo
solfeggio in Persian: مبانی موسیقی (سلفژ)
solfeggio in French: Solfège
solfeggio in Italian: Solfeggio
solfeggio in Malayalam: സപ്തസ്വരങ്ങള്
solfeggio in Dutch: Solfège
solfeggio in Japanese: ソルフェージュ
solfeggio in Polish: Solfeż
solfeggio in Portuguese: Solfejo
solfeggio in Russian: Сольфеджио
solfeggio in Finnish: Solmisaatio
solfeggio in Swedish: Solmisation
solfeggio in Ukrainian: Сольфеджіо