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Solfège – A Singer’s Best Friend

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What is Solfège?

Solfège is a set of syllables that represent specific pitches in music. The solfège note names are: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, and Ti.

Why Not Just Learn C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, the syllables used in “Do-Re-Mi” are far easier to sing than the letter names. Secondly, by using the “Movable Do” system, solfège syllables can be used for singing any scale in any key!

Why should we learn Solfège?

To sing in tune, we must first train our ear to hear pitches and then practice matching those pitches with our voice. Through the solfège system, singers learn to hear relationships between pitches, understand melodic patterns and practice singing notes more accurately.

Solfège also gives singers and musicians a way to learn and remember songs very quickly and conveniently. If a singer hears or creates a melody she wants to remember, all she needs to do is write down the solfège pitches of the melody. There’s no need to look for an instrument to figure out the actual notes of the melody before writing them down!

Solfège also helps to improve a singer’s sight-singing skills, which is the ability to hum or sing written melodies without hearing it played beforehand –  a very useful skill for any singer or musician.

Because we understand the importance of the solfège as a tool for ear training,

every Happy Little Singers class includes activities that teach this system in fun and engaging ways. We want to make learning solfège as fun a possible for kids so that they will feel motivated to practice this important skill so they have it under their belts should they ever wish to continue learning music more formally later in life!

What are Curwen Hand Signs?

Curwen Hand Signs (developed by John Curwen in the 19th century) are a set of hand symbols that correspond with Solfège. Simply put, for every solfège pitch, there is a way to represent the pitch using your hands.

The Happy Little Singers program teaches young children Curwen Hand Signs as a way to reinforce the learning of relative pitch because it provides physical placements for vocal pitches. It also helps to keep students more actively engaged in pitch learning because hand-signing songs is super fun to do!

Acquiring the Language of Music

What is Audiation?

Audiation is the ability to think musically. As Dr. Edwin E. Gordon explains, “audiation is to music what thought is to language”*. In the same way that children must learn to listen and think before they can speak, children should also be taught to listen and audiate before they learn to sing.

Over the past 10 years as a full-time professional vocal coach, I have worked with thousands of individuals from a variety of different backgrounds, from complete beginners to some of Asia’s top industry professionals. I have witnessed far too many times the frustration and challenges experienced by clients who are incredibly passionate about singing but are disadvantaged as a result of a lack of adequate and appropriate instruction on how to audiate during their childhood. Learning proper vocal technique is a process of listening, imitating and internalising. In many ways, teaching students how to physically control their vocal instrument is the easy part of my profession. It merely requires time, commitment and proper guidance and practice. The real challenge is guiding a student to become artful in their musical application of proper vocal technique. To do this, which is to say, to truly master the art of singing, a singer must first and foremost learn how to audiate.

*Christopher Azzara, Audiation, Improvisation, and Music Learning Theory. (1991, The Quarterly, 2(1–2), 106–109.

Music Development Starts from Birth

There is a significant amount of scientific research that support the importance of early childhood music education. In Music Play: The Early Childhood Music Curriculum Guide for Parents, Teachers & Caregivers, authors Reynolds et. al., explain that children are born with an overabundance of cells to make crucial neurological connections and synapses. If these cells are not appropriately directed to make sufficient neurological connections and synapses related to a particular sense (be it sight, hearing, touch, etc), they will direct themselves to enhancing other senses, and, as a result, the neglected sense or senses will  be limited throughout life.  This essentially means that if a young child is not given sufficient opportunities to develop their music-listening skills, the cells that would have otherwise been used to further develop their aural sense will be directed to strengthening other senses. What’s more, Reynolds et. al. suggest that once these connections and synapses have been established, the effects are irreversible, and “No amount of compensatory education at a later time will be able to completely offset the handicap.”  

To be continued…