Fixed-Do Solfège Study & Its Role in Music Literacy
I first started studying fixed-do Solfège at the age of three, under the tutelage of my piano teacher Jackie Darvill. Solfège (sometimes referred to by its Italian name Solfeggio) is a French pedagogical tool used to help musicians discriminate and articulate pitches and rhythms by ear and voice. It is sometimes a method for attaining what’s known as “perfect”/”absolute” pitch, and also for training musicians’ ability to hear pitch qualities in comparison to one another (what’s known as “relative pitch”).
At New England Conservatory, all undergraduate students are enrolled in a four-course sequences of classes that give instruction in Solfège.
From the NEC Academic Catalog:
This four-course sequence develops essential music skills. You will attain fluency in sight singing and sight reading through a fixed-do pedagogy, where the focus is on problem solving in performance instead of memorizing materials. Solfège and rhythmic development are measured by sight singing drill and practice in class, and exams. Appropriate clefs are used to negotiate various transpositions. Aural development is measured through daily drill and exams. Competence in each semester is demonstrated by passing a departmental exam.
As an undergraduate classical bass performance major, I took all the Solfège classes offered by the Conservatory – not so much because I “needed” to take them for credits or curriculum requirements, but more because I was interested in learning about how the courses would be taught. Because after all, I couldn’t honestly remember how I had learned to sight-sing, or remember intervallic relationships between notes, since I had done it so early on in my musical training.
Solfège: My Entry Point into the Study of Teaching & Learning
In many ways, my interest in learning about the methods and theory of Solfège teaching was my first major entry point into the realm of education. I say this because, even from my first Solfège classes at NEC, I was able to focus on observing how classes were taught and what strategies were being used. In my sophomore year at NEC, I took Solfège from Dr. Larry Scripp, who was both the director of the Music-In-Education program, and also a founding father of the way Solfege is currently taught & assessed at the Conservatory. That same year, Larry asked me to help him as a Teaching Assistant for his Solfège classes, and I’ve been working in similar capacities since.
I’ll be detailing some of his teaching strategies here, perhaps as a reference for other students who take his classes, and also posting rubrics and worksheets that I have developed.
Note Reading / Clef Reading
Dandelot, Georges. Manuel Pratique: Pour L’Etude Des Cles Sol Fa Ut. Editions Max Eschig: Paris, 1928.
Dannhauser, A. Solfege des Solfeges, Book III. J. H. Cornell, Trans. G. Schirmer: Milwaukee, 1891.
- Weber, Alain. Soixante Lecons de Lecture Rythmique, 1st Cahier. Editions Musicales Alphonse Leduc: Paris, n. d.
- Rueff, Jeanine. Etudes D’Intervalles: 18 Lecons de Solfege. Editions Musicales Alphonse Leduc: Paris, 1964.
- Ottman, Robert W. Music for Sight Singing. Prentice Hall: New Jersey, 1996.
- Thomson, William. Advanced Music Reading. Belmont: California, 1969.