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A Drink With Jam And Bread

Developing Musical Understanding Through Solfege
By M idori Koga

was introduced to solfege in the experiences with music making are the “moveable D O ” system to explore, as
early stages of my teaching career most valuable of their lives. This is our I believe the aspects of developing a
when I met Edwin Gordon, a opportunity to guide them to discover sense of harmonic and tonal context
renowned music education schol­ the myriad ways music can resonate are more important to me than pitch
ar, teacher and author. I remem­ through their voices, bodies and ears in recognition. W ithin the “moveable
ber that he spoke so powerfully these very first lessons. Virginia Hoge D O ” approach, I have also chosen
about how children learn and realized, Mead writes, “All initial learning is the “LA based” minor in which the
as a well-intentioned teacher, I some­ through the senses. Thus, an approach relationship between the major scale
times forget about this crucial part of which integrates the kinesthetic, tac­ and its relative minor is highlighted.
the education process. In my effort to tile, aural and visual senses.. .becomes Gordon writes, “The movable ‘do’
focus intently on how I am teaching, I a strong and viable catalyst for learn­ system with a Ta’ based minor offers
sometimes forget about the children’s ing . ” 1 As such, singing, movement and advantages over all other tonal systems
experience. listening activities have always been because it emphasizes the audiation
After pondering this aspect of how important components in my piano of tonality regardless of key. ” 2 Within
children learn, I began to reflect much lessons and classes at the beginning this approach, the “LA based” natural
more carefully upon how I intro­ level. As I incorporated more solfege minor scale would be LA TI DO RE
duce music and piano to beginning into these experiences, I began to see MI FA SOL LA, with the SOL raised
students. In many ways, these first how solfege itself, could provide the to SI for harmonic minor, and so
powerful link between whole body forth. The beauty of this approach is
M id o r i K o g a learning and musical understanding. that introducing new modes becomes
serves as associate a natural “next step.” Dorian is simply
p ro fe s s o r o f p iano, S o lfe g e A p p ro a c h e s RE MI FA SOL LA TI DO RE and
p ia n o p e d a g o g y There are many different schools of the children are able to sing the scale
a n d associate solfege and arguments can be made starting on the RE syllable without
dean o f G rad ua te for the validity of each. The primary an explanation of the theory. I was
E d uca tio n a t approaches, are the “fixed D O ” system already an adult when I was learning
th e U niversity o f (in which the tone C is always DO these scales for the first time, and I
T oro nto . She has been a fe a tu re d regardless of key) and the “moveable found it extremely helpful when it was
c h a m b e r m usician th ro u g h o u t D O ” system (in which D O is the pointed out to me that the syllables
th e U n ite d States, Canada, Spain, tonic of each major key). While there ending with “I” (pronounced ee) such
A u stria a n d Taiwan. are powerful reasons for the use of as MI and TI are always followed by a
either approach, I have chosen the half step. All other intervals are whole


during these first few months of study. of algebraic symbols. ''•y-" H Ti. Kodaly writes. we introduce folk­ finer music in him. the ment. they are intended to be sung by children and Piano Pedagogy Laboratory Program of the University of fit naturally into the vocal range. By nal side. these wonderful artistic the children had to learn from one another were invaluable melodies also become the early playing repertoire for the in the learning process. writes. piano class environment becomes an organic. and they often are eager to suggest different ways of For some of us. singing and moving together. the beginning lessons are with which he has no connection. without any prior explanation. “By honoring open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime. songs with solfege through singing and movement with Music must not be approached from its intellectual. However. solfege may be considered somewhat singing and moving to each of the songs. Dalcroze and Starlight Starbright using solfege syllables. music with their fingers. or as the secret writing of a language Dalcroze. opportunity to explore different tempi. The value had the opportunity to observe and experience the com­ of these melodies is that not only have they withstood the bination of group classes and private piano lessons in the test of time. we aren’t defining any of these terms. the children tion for further musical understanding. instill a thirst for children learn their native language.4 the wisdom of playing games. natural and Zoltan Kodaly states: playful experience.”1 In our program. Mi Re Do Re Mi Mi Mi Re Re Re Mi So So First and most importantly. light. Laban and Gordon. ratio­ the invitation for the children to join in when ready. we encourage continuous folksongs such as Hot Cross Buns. Iranian or Right A t The Beginning Hungarian child in the class. The social environ­ ular wisdom and observation. When I initially analytical and theoretical for early music learning. “It is not enough to teach children to interpret dren begin to play the simplest melodies on the piano. Mary Had a Little Lamb movement using the space throughout the room. the use of solfege within the when they are comfortable.”3 The children absorb the material through musical Repertoire play and deep internal learning occurs. Sing and Dance: paved for direct intuition. in our program at the University of Toronto attend both a private lesson and a group class each week. Again. is free-flowing movement influenced by the teachings of Rudolf Laban (1879-1958).”6 There are two types of movement * r— . .” Goodkin in Play. From the first Movement And Singing class. heavy. ensemble experiences. “To write a Michigan under the direction of Professor Joanne Smith folksong is as much beyond the bounds of possibility as to and Kelley Benson. eventually join in with modes relatively quickly without having to remember where their classmates when they are ready. detached. Hot Cross Buns which allows the children to feel the length. When we have a Korean. character and motion of each phrase. articulation (short.the important thing is that the Mary Had a Little Lamb child should learn to feel music not only with his ear but — H with his whole being. I found there to be many benefits to write a proverb. t r r— j that are explored. The way should be transformed into “play. we speak to the child in the child. nor should it be conveyed to the child as a system incorporating games inspired by the teachings of Orff. we elicit the help of the par­ During my days as a graduate student piano teacher.. a thirst which will last for a lifetime. so. but just by singing Mary Had a Little Lamb Mi Re Do Mi Re Do Do Do Do Do Re Re Re Re Mi Re Do (with solfege) and “swimming” (arms moving fluidly in a AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER 9 . Just as proverbs condense centuries of pop­ working with children in small groups. in traditional songs. and the opportunities to perfection. group emotions of centuries are immortalized in a form polished improvisation. we sing traditional As we sing the folk melodies. are immersed in the folksongs of North America as well as other countries. performance. Children have the and when the half steps occur within each scale. I was heartened to realize how quick­ as a teacher. elongated) and characters in the rep­ Solfege And Play ertoire. children piano students. APrink With And dread steps. It is a matter of how solfege is intro­ Teach music and singing at school in such a way that duced and presented to the children. Similar to the way it is not a torture but a joy for the pupil. once we make the decisions about which ly and joyfully the children absorb the syllables and join in approach to use and why. and the chil­ writes. I was able to sing almost any of the Even those who may be shy at first. laying the founda­ For the first three months in our program. Often a single experience will An Introduction to OrjfSchulwerk. I ents to find traditional songs of their homeland. started this approach. Following this example. Knowing this.

in the water) to “free” (floating as light as a feather). To keep things very simple at these first without too much delay. long as possible until they “breathe” to prepare the next phrase. all we need to do is find the starting key on the piano. One of while siging. they are ready to play these melodies on the piano and have already started the process leading toward reading compre­ hension. so when the child first encounters a symbol. We don’t spend a lot of time with note names the children begin to feel the ebb and flow and direction at the piano. singing and playing become integrated technique. starting from the head and moving downward then back up they are able to bring meaning to what they see. (See Photo TI (wiggle ears) 1. Creating a “Rainbow weekly class recitals for his classmates and sings solfege aloud Phrase” by allowing the arm to arc slowly through the air while he plays. they show the start of the next phrase. which are group class. without any sense of self-consciousness. especially in the first few weeks or so. on the piano. in private lessons and at home in their practice. When from one side to the other is another effective Dalcroze started at an early age. we A second type of movement helps clarify pitch and also realize the importance of entering reading experiences direction of pitch. or initially tapping parts of the entire body and solfege. The start­ of the phrase. However. We explore different lev­ sing the solfege as they play and begin to connect the direc­ els of resistance in the motion from “bound” (swimming at tion of the pitches in their singing voice to how it feels at the the bottom of the ocean and feeling the heavy resistance of piano. While aural and kinesthetic experiences come first. The children also enjoy taking turns to choose patterns for the rest of us. Elowever. heard and sung previously) can now be played 10 APRIL/MAY 2016 . these reading experi­ lessons. At the end of each phrase. From Singing To Playing We do not begin reading symbols until after three months of lessons. in the earliest playing experiences (before reading) it is also important to note we are not having the children simply copy us as we play. another Dalcroze technique:7 my favorite introductory reading activities is to outline a DO (top of head) five-line staff on the floor using masking tape. we use arm motions to show the placement of pitch ences have now been fully prepared through movement either in the air.) The lines are spaced far enough apart that a child’s foot LA (shoulders) SOL (waist) FA (middle of thigh) MI (knees) RE (middle of shin) DO (toes) We may sing a pattern from the song (MI RE DO) and ask the children to sing back the pattern and tap the pitch­ es on their body. and the children will be able to discover how the melody (that P h o to 1 they have felt.breast stroke. through playing. direction and the kinesthetic sense of the stepwise pattern of MI RE DO and other such patterns. the first steps toward developing an understanding of how It is particularly rewarding when a child performs in the to sustain the long line of a phrase. to read­ RE RE MI RE D O — (breath). From that point. MI RE DO— MI RE D O — (breathe and change of From Playing To Reading direction of arm in rainbow arc) DO DO DO DO RE RE Solfege is the link from singing. The children are encouraged to sing all of the time. the group takes a ing pitch might be on “this” side of the three black keys. front stroke or free motion) around the room. When the children begin to internalize the sound. Children are challenged to make the arc last as into the musical process. or deep breath together and changes direction of motion to on “that” side of the two black keys. If they have sung the solfege of the melody and understand the direction of pitch. ing.

a child will change is a different family called DOM INANT.. we can begin. (See Photo 3. I love it when. we duced to me at a Gordon Music Learning Theory work­ might step off and pull out the large black oval cards (note. one inquisitive child who will raise their hand and wonder “well. the children take turns placing note-heads on the pattern is different and initially we have them yell NO! giant staff. But the “D O ” together. that is where the art resides. As the children continue to develop in their musical stud­ After a brief discussion about how we can stand either on ies. children yell TONIC. shop.will fit into the space between two lines..” crosses his face. One of my favorite quotes of Artur Schnabel is. we can introduce this listening awareness of the feeling of stretch and nuance between the intervals of the phrase as they sing. Another benefit of solfege singing is the children learn to the scale and then back down the scale. If I sing MI DO SOL. Next. (See Photo 2. The beauty of sing­ lines. At this point there Solfege And Listening Awareness are no clefs. but we are exploring steps. In another game intro­ through specific three or four note melodic patterns. P hoto 2 instead of being told to crescendo here and slow down there. that’s not what I m eant.) progression. on occasion. we sing the next syllable Gradually the children learn that the SOL FA RE TI group together. the likes to visit her cousins. Requiring very little explanation. AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER 11 .9 children learn that the tones DO MI and SOL are heads cut to fit the large-scale staff on the floor). we must actuality. but the most important thing is that they have the opportunity to develop sensitivity towards the listen­ ing possibilities. How wonderful it is when the child begins to sing the phrase with a sense of line and resistance they feel. children immediately recognize this steps. families. a third example. as why SOL is in both the T O N IC and the DOM INANT he moves to change his note choice. no. and perhaps between MI TI and DO in our voices. ah. we step back. In an example such as Snake Charmer LA TI DO TI LA— LA TI DO MI TI DO LA. we can explore the musical stretch between TI and DO.” and we sing “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. Initially I part of the TO N IC family. the choice of how we may feel the intervals will vary from child to child. Once we are finished. Snake Charmer u n i \ n — W I— F— ' '— 1 ----------------— 1 La Ti Do Ti La La Ti Do Mi Ti Do La Here. we continue to fine-tune reading comfort so the pri­ ing groups of tones in patterns is the children learn to listen vate teachers can begin to show scores to the children in for the context of the harmony. As each choice is made. and we can either step up with of intervallic relationship and develop early sensitivity to the DO RE MI or down with MI RE DO. For expressive qualities between the tones of a second. There is always his mind once he has heard the pitch sung. Using other props such as magnet whether she is at “home” in the TO N IC family or visiting boards and large cardboard sheets on the wall with staff with the D O M INANT cousin family. survey our creation and then sing the entire and while she is a member of the T O N IC family. make the connection between individual notes. “D O . we may all stand on the lowest line and decide or a sixth. the process had begun the moment they sang a also listen to the other tones in the pattern to help us decide “D O ” in the first class.) After sing and hear the harmonic relationships between tonic and becoming comfortable singing and “stepping” up and down dominant right from the beginning. we take a tiny step up into the next pauses between the notes. we find that singing solfege can also create an awareness a LINE or in a SPACE. together. Through these activities they are already the symbols and the music they have already been singing developing the ability to hear harmonic relationships and and playing. but in children learn when we hear or sing a SOL tone. children may place the first card on the lowest line and sing “D O . A great look of. instead of hearing them as their lessons and. We talk about how SOL is part of both families. the D O M INANT family. skips and direction. she also pattern with solfege. If I sing SOL DO MI. At first with parameters of moving up and down only by If I sing FA RE TI. The children begin the process of reading with solfege.” yell TO N IC.”8 space and sing “RE” together and so forth all the way up In these earliest lessons. that today we are going to call this line.

1974). The Eurhythmies ofjaques- Dalcroze. reprinted. NY. Goodkin. (Constable and Company. Hawkes. Classroom. sitivity to phrasing. Edwin. By starting this process of solfege Education. (London: Boosey & (Silver Burdett Company. Zoltan. IL. Audiati on Dalcroze today: An Education through and into Music. Kodaly. NJ. 1994). Leonhard. London. Marie-Laure. (Schott Publications. 2. M y Life and Music. 2000. Miami. Bachman. Eurhythmies in Today’s Classroom. Mead. translated by David Parlett. Ann C.. publications. Dover publications. movement and aural engagement. New York. 1994).. (MENC: The National Association for Music singing and internal listening from the earliest moments of Education. (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Charles. The Selected Writings ofZoltdn Koddly. England. Mark editor. Sing and Dance: An Introduction Trans. NY. 2004). The Selected Writings ofZoltdn Koddly. Lily Halapy and Fred Macnicol. Jaques-Dalcroze. Learning Sequences in Music: Skill. Ltd. Gordon. Chicago. NY. reprinted. Morristown. Your Child’s Music. Artur. 2010). the children hone an appreciation for music and this Goodkin. Oxford. study. a child may start to develop sen­ York. 2003). 1939). The Selected Writings ofZoltdn Koddly. Sing and Dance: An Introduction to spark of understanding will guide their long-term journey O rff Schulwerk. 1988). 4. senses so making music at the piano (or any instrument) is Clements. Kodaly. AMT 12 APRIL/MAY 2016 . shape.. (GIA Content and Pattern— A Music Learning Theory. (London: Boosey & Schnabel. Publications. Ltd. Zoltan. Oxford. Through singing. Virginia Hoge. Gordon. through the music learning process. Jordan. solfege. Lily Halapy and Fred Macnicol. editor. tone color and character at the Fonder. Miami. 1974). A Song Approach to Music Reading. England. The Grandmaster Series: Collected deepest internal levels. Artur. New the simplest of folksongs. Kodaly. England. 1912). Play.. Satis N. 77. London. Learning Sequences in Music: Skill. Marie-Laure. Trans. 2003). James. Trans. 7. Virginia Hoge. Inc. Zoltan. (GIA Publications. Play. (Mineola. The Eurhythmies o f Jaques-Dalcroze. Content and Pattern— A Music Learning Theory. Oxford University Press. Emile. 1988). (Clarendon Press. (Clarendon Press. 9. (Schott Music Corporation. Alternative Approaches in Music a fully integrated whole-body experience. 8. Mead. IL. Photo 3 Bibliography Bachman. (Constable and Company. (GIA Notes Publications. Dover Hawkes. Coleman. translated by David Parlett. 1968). Oxford University Press. 1912). and hopefully set the stage for the Thoughts o f Leaders in Twentieth Century Music rest of their musical lives. 1997). NY. 3. & Hawkes. (Schott Publications. Dalcroze today: An Education through and into Music. 1. Eurhythmies in Today’s Jaques-Dalcroze. 1974). (Van Rees Press. Chicago. Lily Halapy and Fred Macnicol. Schnabel. ADrink With Jam And Dread 6. Evoking Sound: The Choral Warm-Up. musical understanding is triggered through the various New York. Doug. Ultimately the goal of music learning is to develop audi. 2004). Edwin. Chicago. Emile. (Schott Music Corporation. NY. 1994). IL. NY. ation (internal listening) awareness within each student. Gordon Institute of Music Learning Theory Professional Development Workshop: Michigan State University. New York. 1994). England. Beginning with Education. 1997). (Mineola. 5. M y Life and Music. (London: Boosey to OrffSchuliverk. Doug.

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