Solfege in Music (DO RE MI): What is Solfege and How Can it Improve My Music?

Solfege in Music DO RE MI - What is Solfege?
Solfege in Music DO RE MI - What is Solfege?
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Introduction to Solfege in Music

Solfege, also known as Solfeggio is a powerful tool that musicians use to identify, build, and transpose patterns in music.

In this deep dive article, we’re exploring the fascinating realm of Solfege in music, guiding you on how to apply this essential technique to elevate your musicianship. 

Whether you are a beginner musician or a seasoned professional, there’s something to learn for all in this article.


What is Solfege?

Solfege is an age-old method that assigns specific syllables to the pitches (or notes) within a particular musical scale. 

Beginner vocalists and instrumentalists find it very effective at simplifying music theory. This technique improves the musician’s ability to recognize different pitches and intervals. 

Great musicians have developed this aural skill and find it particularly helpful when songwriting and song structure

Example of Solfege from The Sound of Music (1965)


Where did Solfege come From?

Solfege can be traced back to some time in the 11th century. Since then, it has gone through a significant transformation to become the widely adopted musical system we know and use today.

Originally created by Guido of Arezzo, an Italian music theorist, it has been refined and adapted over the centuries. 

These adaptations have resulted in a powerful, well-rounded approach that continues to shape the way musicians learn and study music.


Understanding Solfege Syllables

The Solfege syllables correspond to the seven notes of a Major Scale, providing a simple yet effective way to represent and internalize these pitches. These notes are:

DO RE MI FA SO LA TI

Each syllable matches up with a unique note within the scale.

SyllableDOREMIFASOLATI
Degree1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th

How Solfege Works

By assigning a unique syllable to each note within a musical scale, Solfege allows musicians to recognize, identify, and vocalize notes within the scale much easier. 

What is Solfege?

Solfege on the Musical Staff

This approach simplifies the process of learning scales and understanding the relationships between pitches. Vocalists in particular use this system when vocalizing melodies during their songwriting process. 

The Solfege system is also prevalent amongst pianists and other instrumentalists, as they can visualize the syllables alongside the keys or strings of their instrument.

C Major Scale with Solfege Notes on Piano

C Major Scale on the piano


Fixed Do vs. Movable Do

There are 2 primary Solfege systems that exist today, they are called the ‘Fixed Do’ and ‘Movable Do’. 

In the ‘Fixed Do’ system, the syllable ‘Do’ consistently represents the note C, regardless of the key or scale. This means the musician must understand this and adapt. 

Whereas in the ‘Movable Do’ system, the syllable ‘Do’ is assigned to the root note of the scale being used. This results in the ‘Do’ adapting to various keys across the key range. 

The ‘Movable Do’ system offers musicians a more flexible approach to understanding musical relationships between notes.


Why is Solfege Important in Music Theory?

Solfege plays a crucial role in music theory, as it simplifies ear training for many musicians.

This system equips musicians with the ability to identify pitches with much more accuracy whilst improving their sight-singing abilities. 

By understanding and applying this, you will develop a strong foundation in music theory that will benefit many areas of your musicianship.


Solfege and Musical Scales

Major Scales

Major scales in Solfege adhere to the sequence: 

DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI

This pattern represents the specific arrangement of whole and half steps that define major scales:

C Major Scale with Solfege Notes

C Major Scale on Musical Notation (Treble Clef)

These can also be assigned to other clefs in music notation, such as the bass, alto and tenor clef. This makes it much easier for aspiring and beginner musicians to learn and recall these scales.


Sharp and Flats (Accidentals)

Accidentals in this system are represented by slightly adjusting the standard syllables. 

For example, DI (replacement for Do) represents a sharp, while RA (lowered RE) represents a flat. 

Regular NoteSharp (#) VersionFlat (b) Version
DODI (dee)
RERI (ree)RA (rah)
MIME (may)
FAFI (fee)
SOSI (see)SE (say)
LALI (lee)LE (lay)
TITE (tay)

These adjusted syllables make it much easier for musicians to both identify and play with chromatic alterations within various scales.


Minor Scales in Solfege


Do-based Minor

In Do-based minor Solfege, the pattern follows: 

DO, RE, ME, FA, SO, LE, TE

This sequence reflects the structure of a natural minor scale, with half steps between the second and third, as well as the fifth and sixth degrees. 

These are represented by alterations in the corresponding syllable (e.g. MI to ME, TI to TE). This helps musicians identify music in the minor scale. 

C Minor Scale Solfege on Musical Notation

C Minor Scale on Single Staff


La-based Minor

There is an adaptation within the Solfege system referred to as the La-based minor. The pattern is as follows: 

LA, TI, DO, RE, MI, FA, SO, LA.

The La-based system emphasizes the relative minor relationship, as the sequence begins on the 6th degree (LA) of the major scale and proceeds through the same syllables. 

Whilst moving through the syllables, it maintains the interval structure of a natural minor scale, but with a different starting syllable.

Using the La-based system for minor scales means you do not substitute the original syllables (e.g. MI to ME, TI to TE).

C Minor Scale Solfege on Musical Notation (La-based)

C Minor Scale on Musical Notation (La-based)


Solfege in Melodies and Songwriting

Solfege in Songwriting & Melodies

Solfege can help musicians with their songwriting process in many different ways. Here are some of the most effective and impact techniques:


Transcribe Melodies

Solfege streamlines the transcription of melodies, as it offers musicians a straightforward system for pinpointing and notating pitches. 

Musicians that understand and internalize the syllables can easily recognize intervals, identify the notes within a melody, and transcribe them with greater accuracy.


Develop Melodic Ideas

Aside from using the system to identify notes, Solfege can also be used as a creative tool. Musicians can experiment with various syllable combinations to produce unique melodic ideas. Using this system also helps the musician to develop a deeper understanding of pitch relationships.


Improve Creativity and Improvisation

Solfege provides musicians with an easy-to-understand framework for consuming and building musical concepts. The great musicians that have mastered it can quickly explore different scales and modes, making it an extremely useful tool to both create ideas and adapt them in real-time.


Solfege in Practice: Tips and Techniques

Solfege in Practice - Tips and Tricks

Next, we’re going to take a look at how you can start using it in your songwriting, highlighting some actionable tips and techniques. 


Building a Strong Foundation

Start by familiarizing yourself with each syllable and associating them with their assigned notes. This includes the different scales and systems (including both the Do-based and La-based minor systems). 

It may seem basic, but if you can develop a solid foundation for this, you can begin implementing it into your songwriting and other musical processes.


Practicing Sight-Singing

Sight-singing is a skill where you identify the syllable in a piece of sheet music, and sing along in rhythm. It’s particularly effective in helping you marry up your musical interpretation and pitch recognition skills. 

All musicians, regardless of their instrument, should be learning how to read sheet music. Use this opportunity to go a step further and combine your new Solfege knowledge with reading sheet music. 


Incorporating it into Your Daily Routine

Building familiarity with Solfege can be done much quicker if you can incorporate it into your standard practice routine. Humans are habitual creatures, and we can learn something much quicker if we can tie it into existing habits. The greatest musicians do this consistently and benefit from their full potential. 


A Tool for Ear Training

Finally, it serves as an invaluable resource for training your ears. Being able to recognize and internalize pitch relationships in music is one of the hardest parts of music theory. Luckily, the Solfege system can speed up the process of you developing both a focused ear and a deeper understanding of music in general. 


Summary: Solfege in Music

Musicians across all skill levels use Solfege to improve their craft. The age-old system is a reliable tool to gain a deeper understanding of music theory. 

From relationships between notes and pitches to ear training, techniques such as sight-singing are extremely potent. If you can implement this into your routine, you should see a noticeable improvement in both your songwriting and real-time improvisation. 


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Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith
As Visionary and Chief Editor of 122BPM, Thomas is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of music pioneers. With a degree in Music and 10 years industry experience, Thomas is now shaping 122BPM as the central hub for music and audio education.
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