Written by Katy Myers
Even if you don’t realize it, you probably already know what solfege is. If you’ve seen The Sound of Music, you definitely know the solfege syllables. Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do - the sounds of a major scale. If you’re like most, you know of these sounds, but not necessarily just how immensely valuable they could be for your ear training, improvisation, transcription, and general musicianship.
Our brains are wired to make connections and group stimuli together. This is because our brains are lazy. Innovative and very efficient, but lazy. Rather than recognizing each individual frequency that we hear, our brains catalog musical tones by type or effect in relation to the key. By assigning each type a name and practicing using the names (solfege), you can tap into the music-processing superpower that you already possess.
Solfege training has been used with children for decades, is nearly 1,000 years old, but few have really figured out how to help adults get the most out of the tool. With adult learners in mind, Jazz Night School has developed a ten-week online class called “The Secret Edge of Solfege.”
While getting to know the twelve tones of solfege one by one, you can explore and archive your own personal ties to each one. Maybe “fa” sounds round to you, or “ti” always feels like it’s pulling you along to “do.” Depending on how you process sound, maybe there are tastes or colors or physical sensations that go along with certain tones. Rather than suppressing all of these useful associations, “The Secret Edge of Solfege” will help you harness them.
By pairing your personal solfege associations with ear training exercises, “The Secret Edge of Solfege” connects our conscious mind to what our unconscious mind already knows. Once you’re comfortable with all twelve solfege syllables, you’ll start to understand better how they relate to each other and the key they are operating in. This understanding will help your ear training, improv skills, and overall musicianship.
If you have already been studying music theory, and know all about jazz theory and chord scale theory, solfege will integrate beautifully and easily into your knowledge base. If you are looking for a beginner music theory class, or want to learn to improvise, this is also a perfect first step - because although you might think you’ll be starting from the beginning, your brain knows you’ve been learning it all along!
Jazz Night School is a vibrant and welcoming community-based nonprofit music education program that is home to hundreds of like-minded learners. In this post-COVID world, we are also an online music school. Currently we offer online music lessons, online singing classes, online music theory courses, and general music classes online. Whether online or in person, Jazz Night school offers great opportunities to meet other dedicated jazz students and artists. Whatever your skill level, beginning, intermediate, or advanced, we have a place for you.
If you’re ready to begin your solfege journey, sign up for a free skills assessment today! NOT an audition, skills assessments allow us to get to know each student individually and make sure they are registering for classes/combos that will be a good fit for them. (If you’re a returning JNS student, you can skip this step and register here!)
Your brain on music: The sound system between your ears, Kennedy Center
What’s the Deal with Do Re Me? The Story of Solfege, WQXR Public Radio