Tonic Sol-fa
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Working with Solfege as Music Notation

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Lesson Preparation:

Previous Knowledge:

(state the prior knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to this lesson)

It is likely that many Pacific Island students, particularly those who are Protestant Christians, will be familiar with and able to interpret Solfege - Tonic Sol-fa Notation. The similarity between this system of notating music and Hindi notation (in common use in Fiji) is probably no accident. One historical commentary has it that Guido d'Arezzo's ideas for a notation in Europe which preceded contemporary solfege was inspired by the Indian Sa Re Ga Ma. A superficial comparison of both certainly suggests a relationship. For example both notation systems have 're' as their second pitch.    

General Aim:

The intention of this lesson is to renew the understanding of students who have already worked with Solfege and to introduce other students to the system. By the end of the lesson students should be able to read, and perform some relatively easy songs written in solfege.

Specific Behavioural Objectives

At the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

1. cognitive & metacognitive

  • recognise pitch and rhythm shifts as these are indicated by the solfege symbols.

2. Affective

  • Participate positively in discussion and rehearsal
  • Perform songs in a constructive and collaborative manner

3. psychomotor

  • interpret solfege symbols in the performance of easy songs written in this notation system.

Teaching Aids and resource materials:

(state the teaching aids and resource materials to be prepared or collected)    

Songs notated using Solfege music symbols

Lesson Steps    

Focus Question

What is solfege and how do we write it?


Either - display a chart of music written in solfege on the wall in front of students
Or - Distribute photocopies of the music for students to share.
How would they describe what they see?


Solfege - Tonic Solfa - is a way of notating music.
It uses symbols to represent pitched sounds and symbols to represent the movement - rhythm and metre - of music

It assumes the music moves around a 'home' note of pitch, called the tonic. (hence the name 'tonic' sol-fa.)
The seven notes of any diatonic Western major scale, no matter what 'key' are represented as (rising from the lowest pitch)

d1 or doh1 for the tonic or home note an octave above
t or ti for the leadning or seventh note that leads to the tonic above
l or la (lah) for the sub-mediant or sixth note
s or so (soh) for the dominant of fifth note (regarded as 'second' to the tonic)
f or fa (fah) for the sub-dominant or the fourth note in the sequence upwards
m or mi for the mediant of third note in the sequence upwards
r or re (ray) for the supertonic or next note above it
d or doh for the tonic or home note


Share singing these short notated exercises with the class (For the present, perform the rhythms are steady 'walking' beats (crotchets or quarter notes)

1.    d     r    m     m    m    r    d    d
2.    m    s    l    s    m    s    l    s
3.    m    r    d    r    m    m    m    m
4.    d    m    s    m    d    m    s    m

If the notated music goes above ti, or below low doh, a supertext or subtext 1 is used to show that the pitches are not within the normal scale.

So ti below doh is shown  as t1
And high doh is shown as d1

Rhythm and Metre

The beats of music written in solfege are indicated by vertical lines, colons and full stops
If the music is in two-beat time crotchets (walking beats) are indicated by colons
2/4   | d   : d    | r   : r    | m   : r    | d   : --- ||

In the last measure or bar above the long dashes show that doh is held as a two beat note.
3/4   | d   : d    : d | r   : r   : r   | m    : m    : r   | d   : --- : ---  ||

In the last measure or bar above the long dashes show that doh is held as a three beat note.
4/4   | d   : d  \   d   : d | r   : r   \ r  : r   | m    : --- \ --- : ---  ||

In four beat metre the third beat is indicated by a half line. In the last measure or bar above the long dashes show that doh is held as a four beat note.
Now take another look at the song 'Ninja Fruit Bat'!'