C. Why use Tonic (or moveable do) Solfa

“If you cannot teach me to fly….

Teach me to Sing!” JM Barrie – author of Peter Pan.

One thing I am most often asked is why do I use Tonic or Movable do solfa to teach?

I believe that one of the most important goals for a music teacher is to teach true music literacy. This is the ability to see what you hear (as if it were written on a score) and hear what you see (hear the notes you see on a staff) – inner hearing.

“He who cannot hear what he sees and cannot see what he hears is not a musician” Zoltan Kodály.

To  truly and profoundly UNDERSTAND music, musicians need an absolute and a relative system for referring to pitch – letter names is our absolute system (therefore we DO NOT need fixed do solfa as well – if C is always do then let’s just call it C) and tonic or movable do solfa is our relative system.

Here are just SOME of the reasons why I teach tonic solfa:

  1. Music, unlike other abstract universal languages e.g. maths – is most meaningful when actually EXPERIENCED – therefore we experience music and express music as sound, hence we SING (and play too of course!).
  1. Tonic solfa gives you a language to use to “spell” music you see or hear;
  1. It helps you to hear music internally (in your head with NO external stimulation) and understand what you hear;
  1. It allows the musician to interpret and name each note’s function in a given key and in relation to one another. This is REGARDLESS of key, clef or instrument. In other words, do is ALWAYS the tonic of a Major key, so is ALWAYS the dominant in a Major key, la is ALWAYS the tonic of a minor key etc.
  1. It allows students to hear and experience patterns in all music – not just know them at an intellectual or academic level;
  1. It allows for the integration of the aural, theoretical, spatial and kinesthetic in an approach to learning the musical language (the use of handsigns)