Mudcat Café message #2718920 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #31398   Message #2718920
Posted By: GUEST,Cathy
08-Sep-09 - 11:00 AM
Thread Name: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
For anyone who wants to find out about Tonic Sol-fa, May I recommend The Teacher's Handbook of the Tonic Sol-fa System by Alexander T. Cringan, Canada Publishing Co. Ltd. 1889, available to download or read online. It's clear and delightfully written.
English Congregationalist minister, John Curwen (1816-1880) developed Sarah Glover's (1785-1867) original invention of 'Norwich Sol-fa' into what became known as 'Tonic Sol-fa'. He felt the need for a simple way of teaching how to sing by note through his experiences among Sunday School teachers and believed that music should be easily accessible to all classes and ages of people. Printed Tonic Sol-fa was a simple and inspired way to produce accessible music at a fraction of the cost of engraved staff notation a very important consideration for mass education. Many hymnals were produced in Sol-fa versions. However, Curwen's Tonic Sol-fa system fell out of use in English schools in the early 1900s. Scottish schools continued to teach it until the 1960s, when, unfortunately, it gradually disappeared from the daily timetable.
Most, if not all, primary schools in Scotland placed music as a regular subject on the curriculum. It was not taught by a specialist music teacher, but by the regular classroom teachers all of whom would have received Sol-fa training in Scottish schools when they were children and class teachers in Scotland were generally Scottish. Every day the children sang, learning to pitch their voices and understand rhythm using the Tonic Sol-fa system. Tonic Sol-fa uses syllables to signify the different pitches of the notes of the scale, and a separate set of syllables to denote lengths and patterns of rhythm. Curwen's 'modulator'* hung over the blackboard, as it had hung in Scottish classrooms for decades. With a long baton, the teacher pointed to the symbols (beginning at elementary level with the major scale Doh-Ray-Me-Fa-Soh-La-Te-Doh'), whilst encouraging his/her pupils to sing the right note. In tandem with time names 'ta, fa, te, fe, ti, fi', Sol-fa gave every child a starting point for reading pitch and rhythm. Like other teaching methods of the time, such as learning 'times tables' or memorising poems, it was very effective: interval leaps, modulation (changing key) and sight-singing from the modulator or from pages of printed Sol-fa became second nature to Scottish children. Indeed, my mother (who won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and went on to become a professional music teacher) could read printed Sol-fa as fast, if not faster, than conventionally notated music. She heard and automatically analysed music in Sol-fa for the rest of her life and was forever grateful for the invaluable aural training she received courtesy of the Scottish Education System. It's a great shame that it is no longer taught.