The Music Corner for Piano Lovers

Solfege: The No-Memorization Method for Constructing and Learning Scales!

06 Jul 2014 News

If, like me, you hate having to memorize anything other than music - which comes naturally to me, in any case - you'll love the method I use for formulating and playing any major or minor scale.

If you've seen The Sound of Music, and know the songs Julie Andrews sings in that movie, in particular, "Doe, a deer," you're already familiar with Solfege, the method I'm referring to. Singers use solfege to practice scales and sight sing. As a pianist, so can you.

The major scale has a particular pattern or melody, if you like. And this is how it goes: 
 Do Re  Mi  Fa  Sol  La  Ti  Do. Sit at the piano, and play the C Major scale, singing the syllables Do Re Mi...for each note you play.

When you play the scale descending, sing: Do Ti La Sol Fa Mi Re Do.

All you have to remember with this method is that every note or syllable of Solfege is a whole note apart EXCEPT for Mi and Fa, which are a half step apart from each other, and Ti and Do, also a half step apart.

Let's construct a scale using this method. How about the Db Major scale? Sit at the piano as you do this exercise.  We start on Db. That's our Do. Re is a whole step up. That's Eb. Then comes Mi, a whole step up from Re. In this case, that's an F. Now Mi and Fa are only a half step apart from each other. So, our next note, Fa, is Gb. Moving on to Sol, we get Ab. La is a whole note away from Sol, which gives us Bb. Then comes Ti, a whole note up from La. This is C,  and that brings us back to Do, a half step up from Ti: Db.

I find it easier to use Solfege than to remember the formula W (whole note), W, H(half note), W, W, W, H. Assigning a syllable to each note is so much easier. The second advantage of singing your scales as you play them (aloud, at first, and then in your head) is that you're also training your ear, making it easier for yourself to remember scale patterns and the relations between each note within the scale to the other.

If you're interested in teaching yourself how to play by ear, this is an important first step.

I'll discuss minor scales in my next post and follow that up with a post on fingering for scales. In the mean time, practice singing Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do, and play any major scale you like. Try E Major next and then, just for fun, Ab Major!



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