Learn Tonic Sol-fa with GridPlay

Tonic sol-fa is a way to aural recognition of the relationship between the various notes of a scale. This supports inner hearing, singing from solfa notation and, ultimately, sight-singing from music notation. It facilitates memorisation, playing by ear and transposition, and also makes it easier to learn scales and to grasp many aspects of theory. Because it is a matter of internalising aural impressions of melodic intervals, it is extremely difficult to master it without a teacher, unless one can already read music notation sufficiently well to play the intervals on an instrument. Frequent patterning and checking of the pitches is necessary before a ready aural recognition and identification can be achieved.

Nowadays, there are few teachers in Europe and North America who teach the system to adults. Children start with just two pitches and gradually extend their range, following a developmental sequence of pitches common in the spontaneous singing of children from an early age. Adults do not have the luxury of growing up in this gradual progression and generally find it quicker to follow the stepwise movement of notes in a scale, moving on to leaps between notes of the tonic (Key) chord, and then to leaps in the primary chords built on the fourth and fifth degrees of the scale.

Several years ago, I published printed resources for  those who can already play an instrument from notation which helped some people. However, some  readers of this blog, who are not instrumentalists, would like to learn sol-fa. I have now prepared some GridPlay resources which I hope will enable them to do that. With these grids, learners will be able to check their accuracy in reproducing the intervals by playing the notes on  ‘modulators’ and ‘staves’. They can also practise playing familiar tunes ‘by ear’. They are in the treble range, since most melodic material is written in the treble clef, but they can be sung by male voices an octave lower.

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GridPlay: Learn Tonic Sol-fa will probably also prove useful for classroom teachers who are learning with their classes. Several Grids in GridPlay: Creative Explorations Level 1 (ages 3-7) are suitable for Kodaly-based classes and, as an example, I have included one, LSMRD.GRD, in this sol-fa set. If you are a teacher and would like to create resources like this yourself, or customise my grids, you can do so with MIDIgrid, the parent-program in which I authored these materials. You will find a free download of GridPlay: Learn Tonic Sol-fa at the bottom of the website Software page: GridPlay: Learn Tonic Sol-fa

Several posts on my blog deal with aspects of tonic sol-fa, so if you don’t see what you want in this post, check the ‘Category’ menu in the sidebar for more on this subject.

9 thoughts on “Learn Tonic Sol-fa with GridPlay

  1. Having bad experiences of aural teaching at University level, doing a music degree as a mature student, I was determined to teach aural from square one when I took up piano teaching. (I had a lot of music teaching experience in school before that). I teach my beginners a very simple set of ditty`s, mostly composed by myself but including TOMMY THUMB which includes, doh sol doh, mi fah sol and mi re doh, and a simple Steeple Bells Song which also teaches doh sol dol from the first lessons. I adjust my teaching of sol fah quite deliberately to the aural test requirements, concentrating on d re mi for Grade 1. I explain to the student that if they can sing variations on this, they will find it easier to echo sing because they will recognise the patterns. This works very well. I give them a sheet with tunes excluding everything but doh re mi (composed by myself) first, then for Grade 2 I expand to little songs and also exercises of my own ranging between doh and sol. By the time they get to Grade 4 they can easily cope with the requirements, and also those for Grade 5. Personally the most helpful book I found when desperately trying to improve my aural for Grade 8 Piano was Janet Bailey`s SIGHT SINGING MADE EASY, originally published by Kevin Mayhew, now unfortunately out of print and only available in America as a very expensive second hand. Echo singing above Grade 5 involves the minor scale which is far more hazardous but here again, I use what I call Scale Songs, setting comical words to the Harmonic and Melodic Minor Scales. I am encouraging my Grade 6 student to sing these and notice the difference between the descending scales. By this stage, of course, sight singing needs to go hand in hand with theory, which is why ABRSM sensibly insist Gr 6 students have taken Gr 5 Theory. If student is able to
    identify triadic patterns, and even, hopefully the Dominant Chord, they can cope.
    At least it takes complete guess work out of the picture which is what I found most alarming. Basically sight singing, and sight reading, is about learning to identify common patterns – some students need labels to be able to do this.

  2. Friends–I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Hand Signals for teaching Solfegge…..I’m working with a child who is blind and has CP who has grasped this concept. He “sees” my signals in the palm of his hand. He is so musical, I’m hoping that one day he may be able to dictate melodies to me by selecting hand signals, or by singing the melody. “Solfegge rocks,” as we say in the US!
    Victoria Vosa

    • Brilliant! It’s surprising the range of situations in which solfegge comes up trumps! Yo might be interested to know that, with MIDIgrid, the cells in a GridPlay grid can be set to be triggered from an external MIDI instrument, so each pitch could be played by a switch or a key on music keyboard. These could have Braille labels and used to play music from solfa. This would work particularly well if the keyboard were turned on its end or the switches vertically positioned. If you wanted to try this with a keyboard, I could adapt a grid and email it to you. With switches it would have to be set from your own MIDI switch system, though, because they’re all different. Just a thought.
      Thanks for your lovely comment!

  3. Pingback: Teaching Sol-fa and Standard Notation Simultaneously | Making Music Matters!

  4. Pingback: Sol-fa Syllables for Some Major Scales | Making Music Matters!

    • Meran,
      I’m so sorry that I have not replied before now! The system whereby I am informed when there is a comment pending seems to have failed in this instance! Yes, you may certainly share my post.

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