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1 How to use Solfa in the choir with David Vinden Relative Solfa (Curwen s Tonic Solfa) enables the development of the Inner Hearing. It takes time to teach it according to Kodály s principles. Most choir directors do not have the kind of time span we are talking about to teach it in that way so is it worth trying to smuggle aspects of it in? Most certainly YES! Today I m not describing how to teach Kodály from the beginning but more of how to use it with your already functioning choir tomorrow morning! Solfa is not just something which is done for children but is used throughout the musical life and unlocks aspects of music which are often left locked up! It is fairly simple for us to describe the major scale as:- d r mf s l td and its relative minor as:- l, t,d r mf si l The beauty of this is that the genome of Western Music, if you like, is totally wrapped up in this. Our understanding of Harmony, and Modes can be drawn out of the simple expression of the major scale as above. Each degree of the scale can be sung as a triad as follows:- Root chords Major ] [ Minor ] s l t d r m f s m f si l t d r m m f s l t d r m d r m f si l t d d r m f s l t d l, t, d r m f si l I II III IV V VI VII I I II III IV V VI VII I We can expand the root position triad to include all triadic positions as follows : Chord sequence [ Major ] s l l l t t t d d d r r r m m m f f f s s m m f f f s s s l l l t t t d d d r r r m d.c d d d r r r m m m f f f s s s l l l t t t Chord sequence [ Minor ] m f f f si si si l l l t t t d d d r r r m m d d r r r m m m f f f si si si l l l t t t d d.c. l, l, l, t, t, t, d d d r r r m m m f f f si si si MODES can be expressed in Solfa as follows :- Ionian d r mf s l td Dorian r mf s l td r Phrygian mf s l td r m Lydian f s l td r m f Mixolydian s l td r m f s Aeolian l, t,d r mf s l Locrian t,d r mf s l t 1

2 The above can be turned into warm-up exercises for choir members. Hymn tunes which tend not to modulate are a very good starting point with which to learn Solfa. I personally don t have access to Danish hymn tunes so have I chosen a well-known song to show what I mean :- The solfa could easily be written above the notes and in time the children will just latch onto it. Try singing in Solfa and I think you will begin to feel how do is the tonic of the piece. Of course some church music is quite complex in terms of its harmonic structure and it will take time for children to fully acquaint themselves with the concept of modulation but the basics will be in place and far stronger than if the children had just sung to la la la. If all hymns were learned in Solfa this would help to smuggle the Solfa into the Inner hearing. Rhythm Rhythm is perhaps more important in the early stages than pitching. Songs which children learn can be used for the development of pulse and rhythm. Taking a simple canon such as :- There is a way of teaching pulse and rhythm which takes longer but you need to start with children aged four and a half and build up their experience over a period of time before making various rhythm patterns conscious. One can introduce rhythm patterns bit by bit and use rhythm flash cards to develop some very important skills. I have a four part sequence which we will now try:- 2

3 Select say two or three or four cards the rhythm solfa of which you know the children have learned. 1 st activity:- Hold the cards (one behind the other) with the rhythm facing the class. Count 1, 2, 3, 4, etc to a steady pulse. The children clap and say the rhythm they see and on the 3 rd count the teacher removes the first card to reveal the second underneath. The children have begun reading the second card whilst finishing off the first.the same for the third card etc. This makes them memorise and read ahead. How important is it to train pupils to read and look ahead?! 2nd activity:- Taking the same cards as in no. 1 and lay them out in a line. The children clap the whole line of four cards and then they decide which card to turn face down. This is repeated until all four cards are turned face down and they have memorised the whole line. Who will be first to be able to clap the whole line from memory? The more able pupils will obviously volunteer first. The less able get more hearings of it so when their turn comes they will probably succeed. 3 rd activity:- Taking the same cards ( shuffled) and hold them on your lap face down. Count 1, 2, 3, 4 and on 2 flash one card for one beat.finish 3, 4 and on the next 1 the children clap what they saw.saying the rhythm solfa as well. Do this individually with all cards. They have to read a whole card in one beat. 4 th activity:- As with no 3 but do it continuously. As the children begin to clap the first card you reveal the 2 nd and so on. They are developing the skill of doing 2 things at the same time and looking ahead.vital skills for any musician. If rhythm reading is secure then the chance of sight reading being more accurate is greatly enhanced. I have to say that singers are often the worst culprits when it comes to maintaining good pulse and rhythm! A new Canon to sing:- 3

4 Let us see solfa applied to choral music from the late Mediaeval period to the Renaissance:- Basses and tenors can add a drone F and C. 4

5 5

6 6

7 Modes Defining the modality of a piece of music. This very easy with the knowledge of Relative Solfa, and the knowledge of all key signatures:- The key signature will tell you what is do 3 sharps, A is do; 2 flats, B flat is do; 4 sharps, E is do and so on. Any problem so far? If you have 3 sharps and the piece ends on C sharp this comes out in solfa as mi and mi is the Phrygian mode. If you have 2 flats and the piece ends on F this comes out in solfa as so and so is the Mixolydian mode. If you have 4 sharps and the piece ends on F sharp then F sharp is re and re is the Dorian mode. 7

8 Mode Modal Solfa Modern equivalent I onian d r m f s l t d d r m f s l t d D orian r m f s l t d r l, t, d r m fi s l P hrygian m f s l t d r m l, ta d r m f s l L ydian f s l t d r m f d r m fi s l t d M ixolydian s l t d r m f s d r m f s l ta d A eolian l, t, d r m f s l l, t, d r m f s l. L ocrian t, d r m f s l t l, ta d r ma f s l [ I D on t P unch L ydia M uch A fter L unch ] Musica Ficta Musica Ficta is quite a minefield so the following represents only a small part of the thinking. Its name suggests fictitious and originally was not written in by the composer but was an activity belonging to the singers. One common application was to lower the middle note of what appears to be an upper auxiliary note or (neighbour note) and raise the middle note of a lower auxiliary note. The latter happened particularly at cadence points. Musicians were also at pains to avoid the tritone so introduced accidentals to avoid this. Over several centuries modality lost its ground and the tonalities that emerged were the diatonic major and minor scales with which we are familiar today. There were other factors such as the desire for greater accessibility to the more remote keys. Undoubtedly Bach s 48 preludes and fugues contributed to the decline of the modes as did his reharmonisation of many of the old modal chorale melodies. See what happens when you apply musica Ficta to the old modal tonalities. What evolves is the major scale based on do and the relative minor scale based on la. 8

9 In the following notes above the stave are suggested Musica Ficta. See how the Dorian Mode is turned into d minor with the effect of Music Ficta. (2 sharps D = do. It begins and ends on E which is re ; Re is the Dorian mode. 9

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