Have you ever heard the expression “solfege singing?” My guess is that you probably haven’t. But you may have heard someone using or practicing solfege singing and not realized it. That’s because solfege singing is a very common way for musicians to practice improving certain skills, specifically sight-singing and pitch recognition (those are fancy ways of saying reading music even when you can’t be at your instrument). You don’t need to be a singer to practice solfege singing. In this article we will learn more about solfege singing and some easy practice exercises that you can use to improve this skill.
Solfege Singing: Learning the Syllables
First, we’re going to learn the notes of a major scale using solfege singing. “Solfege” refers to specific syllables that we assign to each note of the major scale – one syllable per note. If you’ve ever learned a C major scale, you know that the notes are (from low to high), C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
Now, we will rename those same notes using solfege syllables:
The first – and easiest way to practice this skill – is to sit at the piano and play the notes of the C major scale one at a time. As you play each note, sing the syllable that matches the note. Focus on trying to make your singing match the sound of the note as accurately as possible. Go slowly and precisely, always in order, up and down the scale.
Solfege Singing: The Sound of Music
There is a very popular movie scene from the classic film “The Sound of Music” which features a song that teaches this skill of solfege singing. The song is a very helpful teaching aid for learning solfege singing. And its a lot of fun to sing along. Check it out – and listen closely to the lyrics. The song begins each new phrase on a syllable of the major scale, beginning with “do,” then “re,” then “mi,” etc.
Solfege Singing: Practice Ideas and Tips
Here are a couple tips to help you practice this skill. The major scale has two half-steps in it. We can highlight these half-steps by isolating them and singing the half-steps. The first half-step occurs between “mi” and “fa.” So let’s practice an exercise in which we sing up to “mi” and practice moving by half-step up to “fa” and back to “mi.”
Sing slowly “do, re, mi. mi, fa, mi.”
Next we’ll practice singing from “do” to “sol.” These two syllables represent the 1st and 5th note of the scale, and in music we very frequently see movement back and forth between the 1st and 5th scale degree.
Try singing from “do” up to “sol” and then from “do” down to “sol.” Listen to the example below, sing along with it, and practice playing and singing at the piano.
By working through these two practice ideas you are solidifying the sound of the major scale in your ear. This will help you to more accurately and more precisely be able to sing the pitches of the major scale.