View Full Version : Question about Solfege

09-12-2003, 06:35 AM
A question about Solfege, which I have been practicing after Guni posted his articles on Solfege. Thanks to Guni, after practicing for a while, I seem to be able to pick up a note or 2 when I listen to Satch's Starry Night.

But when I listen to Flying in a blue dream, it sounds minor so I got all confuse. So here's my question:

when the song is in A minor, should I listen as

do re ri fa sol si li do


la ti do re mi so fa la

A minor is a mode, so it seems more logical to listen as
do re ri fa sol si li do. ??

The Bash
09-12-2003, 07:12 AM
Actually the songs Lydian, if your refreing to the main theme.

But do should always be the I chord.
Which, I belive, is what your asking.
for lydian you'd have a Major scale with a #4.
So you need to alter the 4th of the scale up a 1/2 step.

09-12-2003, 07:29 AM
Yes it is Lydian. I can't tell the mode by purely listening.
But in general, I think we can classify songs into two main
categories: major and minor? regardless of the mode they're in.

Eg. Lydian is major (characterized by it's major third). But
when I listen to "Flying in a blue dream" it sounds minor to me.
Why is this so? Am I wrong, because according to theory Lydian is a major mode?

09-16-2003, 07:55 AM
Hi loveguitar,

I can't think of an explanation right now why lydian sounds minor to you. But I remember when I started out with ear training and I was really concentrating on analyzing a song by ear that sometimes I confused the hell out of myself. What I wanna say is that it took quite some time to associate sound and theory.

Watch out for using the correct syllables. Solfege follows the same rules as naming intervalls, eg a minor third from 'a' is 'c' and not 'b#'. The correct solfege for this is 'do' and 'me' (not 'ri').

if I translate your syllables into notes:
do re ri fa sol si li do
A B B# D E E# F## A

The correct syllables for natural minor are:
do re me fa sol le te do

09-16-2003, 08:21 AM
Thanks Guni. I think I understand now.

Eg. A dorian is

A B C D E F# G A
Do Re Me Fa So La Te Do

while A Lydian is

A B C# Eb E F# G# A
Do Re Mi Fi So La Ti Do


Just for curiosity purposes, how long
did you take to associate sound and theory,
and how far has your hearing taken you by pure listening?

09-16-2003, 08:58 AM
Yes that's it - just use D# instead of Eb in the Lydian example.

Well, how long did it take me and how far did I get? mmm tough questions as this sort of thing will never stop and I can't imagine that there is something like 'the ultimate goal'.

It's about 15 years ago that I started with ear training. A friend of mine played the piano and we went through many different exercises on a daily basis, eg intervals, chords, progressions, melodies, etc .... in the beginning I really had a hard time. I guess after about 2 to 3 months I saw some first improvements.

It was a lot later that I started with solfege, ie when entering Berklee and this gave me another big eartraing skills boost. I realised that it's very important to sing, to use my own voice - to 'feel' scales etc ...

How far did this take me? There are many situations when these skills come in handy. What comes to mind is that I started to sing while improvising (to me this was a big step), sing while writing lines for the brass section, transcribing became easier, etc etc .... and not to forget telling other musicians when they hit a wrong note :D


09-16-2003, 03:05 PM
I don't understand anything anymore...

As I learned solfege, "Do Ré Mi Fa Sol La Si Do" means "C D E F G A B C". And A dorian is then La Si Do Ré Mi Fa# Sol La

I mean Do is always C, and La is always A !
In french and other latin languages (at least in portuguese that I know of), it seems to me there is no derogation to that rule. We don't use the letters system. (I find the ABCD... system much easier to learn and follow, but everybody around me only knows Sol7 instead of G7. And Sol7 is always G7, never F7 or D7 depending on the mode or anything).

What do you use "do" "re" "fa" for, then ?
I mean, if in french we were to change the "value" of Do all the time, we wouldn't have any referential anymore (as we don't use the A,B...), music wouldn't make any more sense...


09-16-2003, 03:32 PM
Good points! Let me explain what often causes this confusion.

There are 2 solfege systems out there: the 'fixed DO' and the 'movable DO' system. I know that in States like Italy, France, Belgium etc... people get to learn the fixed DO system, ie the note C is always Do.

Now with 'movable Do' Do is always the root of the key you are in, thus A is Do in the key of A, etc ... which has the advantage that all and everything can be easily transposed into different keys. For sure the fixed Do system was the first system. I couln't base this on any facts but I think that the movable Do system evolved from the fixed one because it works well for modern theory and it's great for gaining relative pitch.

I only worked with the movable system so I wouldn't be able to use fixed Do (actually, this would drive me crazy :D). I guess for you it's the other way around.


09-16-2003, 04:54 PM
Ok, it now makes much more sense... Maybe that's why also saxo players use a different Do...

Actually, the letters system (A,B,C,...) exists since the ancient greeks. But in the XI th century, an italian monk called Guy d'Arrezo composed an hymn (sp ?) to Saint Jean-Baptiste, "patron des musiciens" (sorry, really don't know how to say that in english - the Saint "responsible" for musicians). He gave to each note the first syllable of each phrase :

Ut queant laxis
Resonare fibris
Mira gestorum
Famule tuorum
Solve polluti
Labii reatum
Sancte Iohannes

Nobody knows why the italians changed the Ut for Do in the XVII th century.

This system has been spread to most (if not all) latin based languages in the world, only the "saxons" and the "germanics" stayed with A,B,C.

Stupid monk !

So we can conclude the letters system is more than 2000 years old, the Italian system is 900 years old and the movable system came after 1600 A.C.

It's so much easier to remember B is after A than Si is after La.
There's one advantage I see to the latin system : you can sing along better on Do, Ré, Mi, ... than C, D, E, ... Moreover, everybody says Do the same way, try this with E in german, french and english : 3 ways of saying it. But the mnemotechnic possibilities of the italian system are worth s**t and render the system uselessly harsh for beginners like me. That's why I decided to learn only the letters system, and when communicating with others I do the translation. After all, even in maths we use letters in hexadecimal : from A to F.

Wasn't music supposed to be universal ? :p

09-17-2003, 01:30 AM
The fixed "Do" system seems more difficult to use.
Because since Do is always C, one might have to
remember the C sound so that one can transcribe a
song by just listening. That's like absolute pitch.

As I do my practice on Solfege now, I realize that
I tend to listen to inidividual note quality rather than
the intevallic relationship.

Previously without Solfege, give me a C note
I would find B by the intevallic relationship to C,
ie a Maj 7th. But now the sound of Ti (where Do is C)
would come to me more readily than the Maj7th distance
from C.

Don't know if this is good or bad, or does it matter at all??

The Bash
09-17-2003, 06:05 AM
Well, actually that's the point :)
To hear say C-F-C- and think Do-Fa-Do which in turn you go ok, I know the notes or chords are P4 apart. All you need to do now is find the actual key.

BTW. Be sure you undrstand why Guni told you to use F# instead of Gb.

C-G of any kind is a 5th of some type. In your case C-Gb is a b5th.
C-F of any kind is a 4th of some type. In the case of Lydian a #4 is needed thus you need to # the 4th of C, which is F.
C-F# is a #4
C-Gb is a b5 and because it's a b5 it will never be a #4, cause C to G is always gonna give you a 5th of some type.

This might seem like a very small point, but I think it's this little thing that hangs a lotta people up. I know C-Gb and C-F# are the same note on the fretboard, but force yourself not to confuse them. If you keep the simple part of the interval straight (the number) it will make theory life so much easier.

Intervals are based on two things:
The simple number
and the type.
The simple number is the easy part cause your simple counting off alphabet letters.
C-D-E-F distance of 4
C-D-E-F# still distance of 4
So C-F and C to F# are both 4ths however what we haven't come up with is the type of 4th they are. (this part takes a bit more work and is far easier if you fully understand basic chord scale construction).
Anyway, be sure what I said makes sense and that you fully understand why you can't call F# Gb and theory will be a lot more user friendly.

09-17-2003, 08:06 AM
What I understand from the D# and Eb thing is that
it is just a theoretical naming convention. If Lydian mode
had been defined as 1 2 3 4 b5 6 7 instead of
1 2 3 #4 5 6 7, then we would have used Eb instead of D#.

Or maybe in cases like the Locrian scale,
which is 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7, if it had been b5 is replaced
with #4, then we have a missing number 5! But again,
this is a theoretical naming convention.

Practically I still can't see the difference (except that
you might not pass the Solfege exam) by using b5 instead of #4.

Correct me if I am wrong.

If we go chromatic scale, I don't think there is a
theory saying we should go
1 #1 2 #2 3 4 #4.....etc
1 b2 2 b3 3 4 b5......etc

so depending on which one you choose, you might
have sung the Solfege syllabus differently.

The Bash
09-17-2003, 09:06 AM
True you could sing anything u want, even make up your own words :)
But there is a diffrence between #4 and b5
think of basic chord construction.
Acording to theory chords are bulit on thirds.

If we write C Lydian as: C D E Gb G A B C
1) We got two 5ths and no 4th
2) We Get D Gb A for our II (Major II chord)
3) This likwise screws up all 3 triads that previously contained F#
4) Like wise it effects 4 7th chords etc on down the line till we hit 13th chords and then they all got something wrong about them.

I'll give u the fact that yes there the same note.
If u play D-Gb-A You'll still get the right notes for a D triad (soundwise).
But you've screwed up our structure of chord construction cause these chords are no longer bulit on thirds.
I know same notes, so what. But, trust me, even though this sounds a bit anal, this is the very foundation from which chord construction is bulit. And nailing this is a must for understanding theory.
Theory is founded on very strict guidlines. It's a disipline.

Now if I'm showing someone I tune I wrote, and dealing with a lot of players who have great ears but couldn't tell u thing one about theory or even half the notes there playing, I might tell them it's a F# chord when in fact according to the key I'm in it's really a Gb chord. Why cause it's been my experince most guitar/bass players who really don't know how to read or really have much if any theory knowledge tend to find #'s faster than flats. After working with a person long enough u know if he finds Bb real fast and has to think about A# or viseversa. So I call out what I know he can grasp quickly.
This is diffrent than theory.
This is real life application. This is not a test. I'm simply trying to transfer information to someone in what I see as the fastest way possible.

To fully grasp theory you must be able to play by theorys rules.
That to me starts with understanding why F# is a #4 and Gb is a b5. And countines on through understanding chord construction.
3rds are much easier to deal with than trying to deciper a host of enharmonic equivalents notes.

Eample whats this chord. B#-Fb-G-Cb much easier written C-E-G-B
now pile a bunch of 9ths or 11ths or 13ths on it or b9 or #11 or sus something, add something, etc. Now it's a even greater mess than before.

Anyway, hope that made sense and that you see why I'm being a pain in the butt about it. Cause it is important.

09-17-2003, 10:44 AM
Nicely explained!

Another fact is that many other instruments rely extremely on using correct terminology - eg unfretted instruments or transposing instrumets like trumpet, saxes etc .... In general these players know their theory inside out - and they will let you know when you used enharmonic spelling.

It just might make things a lot more complicated than they actually are. Say you wrote this nice funky tune and you have this alto sax line in your head. The tune's in Eb and the line involves the notes eb bb ab g (1 5 4 3). well, I decide that I don't like flats that much so I notate d#, a#, g# and g.

Alto needs to be transposed up a major 6th, so the key the alto is reading this in is C major. Now let's transpose our line up a 6: b#, f##, e# and e. This guy will have a real hard time reading this and his performance will lack some 'soul'. Done correctly this line just says c, g, f and e.

Maybe I went a bit far out here but it's just one example of how correct terminology can help your music. Imagine you do this for an entire Big Band - you'll have more explaining to do than you'll actually rehears ...


09-19-2003, 02:42 AM
Thanks Bash and Guni for the effort to explain to me
the importance of theory.

Well maybe because I have not attended any formal music
training, all of it I know are mainly from the books and the internet. It's great you cleared some of my doubts on Solfege previously :)

The Bash
09-19-2003, 06:08 AM
Welcome :)
My main point would be: Even though Solfege isn't exactly theory itself, you should approach it as such. Thus use the same rules. They real do go hand in hand and both become easier when u approach them in this mannor.
And if you follow the rules theory's not that scarey, well least basic theory. I know Guni could whip something up to scare me.