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Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation

28 Feb 01 - 03:26 AM (#407813)
Subject: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,Uncle Jaque / Maine

At a recent Flea-Marketing expidition in Brunswick, I "scored" a few goodies, including a blue hardbound volume of :

"LYRIC GEMS OF SCOTLAND With Music" 4/6 So Fa Edition First and Second Series John CAMERON London; John Blockley (No date, but inscribed on frontspiece: 12th Dec. 1912)

All of the scores are written in the "SolFa" notation.

Have you ever seen anything like this, or are you familiar with it? It almost seems to be a predecessor to the "ABC" format currently popular as a medium to communicate music notation over the internet using common text fonts.

Some Folk - Musician friends have a nearly identical text and have, to some extent, figured it out.

The following is a slightly edited copy of thier advice:

Old Scots "Sol Fa" Music Notation

d = do; r = re; m = mi; f = fa; s = sol; l = la; t = ti.

d' = do (up an octave) r' = re (up one octave) etc.

If the accent is subscript (f| )then it is DOWN an octave.

"I have never encountered accidentals. What they do instead is change key, which moves "do" and therefore the halfsteps in the scale are in different places."

Vertical lines that go into the lyric are regular bar lines.

Vertical lines in the solfa line represent beats.

Horizontal lines under the solfa text represent tied notes.

Dashes represent held notes. [Equivilent to a "dotted" note?]


: = one beat . = 1/2 beat , = 1/4 beat

[How do they do 1/3 or 1/6 beat in "Waltz" time?] [Time Signatures, per se, seem to be dispensed with entirely]

"The best way to figure it out is to find a song you know, like Auld Lang Syne, and try to decode that. After two or three that you know you get into the mode of thinking and it gets a little easier. Once you get going you should do a bunch because it always seems to take a while to get back into it if you don't do it for a while. Alternatively find someone who trained as an opera singer in college."

From: "Fred" @ CASTLEBAY 02/26/2001


If anyone can expand on this system or direct me to a useful resource for understanding the SolFa system, I would appreciate it.

A search of the "Mudcat" Forum Database reveals several mentions of it and even a short example, but nothing beyond what we already have.

I have scanned in a few representative tunes to demonstrate what this notation looks like, and if there is an obscure Scottish piece you might be looking for, it might be in there; let me know and I will hunt for it. There seems to be quite a bit of BURNS included.

Thanks: "Uncle Jaque" Clarke

28 Feb 01 - 08:45 AM (#407913)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: wes.w

Can't add much too what you've already got, but we did learn solfa in school in England in the 1950/60s, but without any reference to note timing. For accidentals 'so' became 'si', and it was similar for other notes, although I can't remember they were called (was mi accidental called ma?). But surely you know about 'The Sound of Music' film?

01 Mar 01 - 01:12 AM (#408617)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,geo45

Is that similar to the American "shape-note" style of music? The notes are written on a staff but each degree of the scale is represented by a different geometric shape such as hollow circles, squares, triangles, solid shapes, etc. I am not sure how accidentals or time values are represented. I have seen examples of shape-note music in old hymn books.


01 Mar 01 - 07:49 AM (#408688)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Walter Corey

The chromatic scale in solfeg is approximately as follows:

DO di RE ri MI FA fi SOL Si LA li TI DO' TI tay LA lay SOL say FA MI may RE rah DO

This goes up and down the scale, with the sharp accidentals going up and the flatted accidentals going down. Diatonic notes are upper case, accidentals are lower case

01 Mar 01 - 08:02 AM (#408694)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: IanC

This is from "Basic Music Theory on the World Wide Web" by Neil Hawes.

"The tonic sol fa is one method of naming note pitches - see history of notation for more details. Most people know of it from the song "Doh re me", from the 1959 film "The Sound of Music" by Rogers and Hammerstein. However, the origins of the tonic sol fa are not in the 1950s, but the eleventh century!

A Benedictine monk, Guido of Arezzo, took the first notes of each line of a Latin hymn, written around 770 A.D. which happen to be the first six notes of a major scale, and used the syllables of the Latin words that were sung on those notes to represent the notes of the scale. This gave "ut", "re", "mi", "fa", "sol" and "la" to represent the first six notes of a major scale and these names are still used (I believe) in the French system of naming notes ("ut" for C, "re" for D etc.). In Italy, the "ut" was changed to "do", being the first syllable of "Dominus". "si" was added later as the seventh note of the scale, being the initial letters of the name at the end of the hymn (which in fact does not use the seventh note of the scale because it was probably not part of the normal scale at the time).

"si" was much later changed to "te" by a Miss S. A. Glover and John Curwen (1816-1880), a Congregational minister in England, so that each degree of the scale would have a unique single letter abreviation used for written notation. This was the start of the "movable doh" method of teaching which lasted in the UK for a hundred years.

The system can be used (and was in common use in the early part of this century) to teach the notes of the major scale, and the intervals between them. Sometimes, pieces were written with the tonic sol fa names written underneath.

An apparent disadvantage is that chromatic notes cannot be notated, and only one octave can be described. However, there have been attempts to overcome these problems. For different octaves, various schemes have been tried using ticks, or different cases or print styles to indicate different octaves. For chromatic notes, the following is sometimes seen when a line of music is modulating, and the possibilities are as follows:

For sharpened notes: de, re, fe, se and le (pronouced with a short vowel).

For flattened notes: ra, ma, la, ta (pronounced with a nasal "aw" sound, I'm told).

So, for example, the minor sixth from doh would be la (pronouced law), as opposed to lah for the major sixth. Full chromaticism is not needed, because a tune is normally re-notated into the new key, by re-positioning the doh, even if the new key only lasts for a few bars. I would suggest that using Tonic Sol-fa with full chromaticism would lose the advantages of simplicity and readability."


01 Mar 01 - 08:26 AM (#408708)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: wes.w

A bit of thread creep: Indian Music (Asian not Red) uses
Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa
interesting how Re matches!

01 Mar 01 - 09:14 AM (#408733)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Peg

wow that sounds like a great book! I studied solfaichez for years in voice class in high school. I gave soemone on Mudcat a melody for a song using it once cuz I did not know any other way to do was hard to learn but a great way to integrate music theory into your life. I always understood it beter than some of the other methods of reading music, too.

01 Mar 01 - 10:51 AM (#408782)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: George Seto -

Many of the Gaelic books of songs have music in the Sol-Fa notation. However I have NOT been able to locate a single resource which tells me note length. It's pretty confusing. I can look at one song in one key, compare it to another song, and the various puncutation, [ ; , . : - ] which SEEMS to be used to indicate length quite often seem different. A Quarter Note might have a : following the S but in a different song, it might be the , which indicates it! VERY strange notation.

01 Mar 01 - 11:23 AM (#408795)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: sian, west wales

Good heavens, didn't you guys have it in school? We had it in Canada ... but it was on its way out at that point (1960s). The Welsh took to it in a Big Way, and hymn books are still available here in Sol-ffa. (Staff notation being Hen Nodiant, or "old notation") Many still swear by it. There is, however, at least one example of the system being roundly condemned; there's a long ballad in the National Library (of Wales) by a Jane Hughes, around 1820 - very vitriolic about this (or any) system which tries to control the spirit of the singing, dictating notes and tempo.

Interesting that the Asian system is similar ... and one has strong suspicions that the two are connected due to British missionary work in India. i.e. the Cassian way of counting has many words similar to Welsh because of the Methodist missionaries.

Re: ABC ... I always found it annoying that the computer world invented ABC (I'm assuming) when there already was a perfecting good system - with scores of, well, ... scores - already available.


01 Mar 01 - 11:42 AM (#408808)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Rex

Classical music in India employs several scales. The western seven note scale mentioned above (sa, re, ga, ma...) is just one of many.


01 Mar 01 - 06:22 PM (#409090)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Snuffy


ABC was invented by and for folk musicians to be an economical way of exchanging basic tune info without using up megabytes of disk space.

I have an ABC file of 360+ Morris Dance tunes that takes up just 100Kb (Yes - Kb not Mb), which represents about 18 hours of music with all dances played in full. 100K might get you 1 or 2 GIFs of the dots, or a few seconds of MP3.

5000 tunes on a single floppy - that's the sort of annoyance I can put up with.

Wassail! V

01 Mar 01 - 06:24 PM (#409092)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Mark Cohen

Regarding shape note music (which is also called Sacred Harp, after one of the more popular books of songs): The tunes are notated on a standard staff with time signatures, bar lines, half/quarter/eighth notes, etc. Each note head, however, is given one of four shapes, representing the syllables fa, sol, la, and mi. The major scale, instead of do, re, mi, etc. is fa, sol, la, fa, sol, la, mi, fa. I've heard that this is an older method of solfeggio than do-re-mi, but perhaps not. Obviously, this system is not well suited for notation independent of the musical staff. I believe the reason it was popular is that it gives a visual reinforcement of the intervals between different pitches, thus making sight singing and tune learning a little easier. The tradition (well, one tradition, anyway) in American shape-note singing is to sing the tune through with shape names, followed by the words as written. This makes for some challenging eye-tongue coordination!

Sometime Mudcatter Chocolate Pi is active in the shape note community in the Chicago area, and I used to be a member of the Sacred Cow Harmogenizers in Seattle. It's great fun!

01 Mar 01 - 07:32 PM (#409130)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Bernard

Far from being on its way out, the 'Tonic Solfa' system was adapted by Zoltan Kodaly, and given hand signals to aid young children to remember it.

The Kodaly Method (which I used myself during the '70's and early '80's before I left mainstream teaching) was a 'conversational' method, which helped children to develop 'perfect pitch' if used properly.

It's too involved to go into here (there must be a website!), but it started with the teacher singing 'so - mi' with the hand signals ('so' is the hand flat and vertical, with fingers together pointing towards the children, thumb uppermost, and 'mi' is the hand horizontal), and the children would be encouraged to reply. In a similar way, rhythms would be 'discussed', but not separated from pitch.

Like I said, too complex to go into here!

I found it very successful - anyone else use(d) it?

01 Mar 01 - 08:15 PM (#409151)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Mark Cohen

I haven't, but there were these guys at Devil's Tower...

01 Mar 01 - 08:41 PM (#409162)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,pete

01 Mar 01 - 08:53 PM (#409167)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,Pete M at work

Sorry about the blank above, bloody computers trying to tell me what I want again!!

Anyway, just a comment on the Kodaly method Bernard; my understanding is that the "hand signal" method actually predated the use of the four line stave introduced by Guido, with the choir master indicating the degree of cahnge in pitch by the appropraite hand signal. The initial stage of the development of the stave was a single line above the words with the notes positioned above on or below the line.

The comments about note duration etc I think are missing the point, this was always intended as a learning aid to be used by, and in conjunction with, the choir master who knew the works by heart.

Pete M

01 Mar 01 - 09:02 PM (#409171)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: En

Bernard and Ian, you took the words right out of my mouth. I have the text, somewhere, of that Latin chant that gave us the do-re-mi scale, as well as a drawing of the finger signals the monks used to indicate tones.

And yes, we use the Kodaly method here. It is taught at St, Mary's College in Moraga, California, and is effective with young children.

Hereis a website that describes the Kodaly hand signals(my first try at a blue clicky).


02 Mar 01 - 05:03 AM (#409348)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: sian, west wales

Snuffy, I'm just saying that a program surely could have just as easily been written for sol-fa, and then we would have had a whopping great bank of tunes already worked out ... rather than having to transpose everything from scratch. ABC is easy enough ... but it does put people off and is a lot of work.


02 Mar 01 - 07:31 AM (#409397)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: black walnut

I'm with you there, sian.


02 Mar 01 - 08:58 AM (#409439)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: wes.w


Classical music in India employs several scales? I was taught it was a few more than several... 4096 basic scales comes to mind. And rhythmn was also learned by sound names. Which brings me back to the original - at the same time as learning solfa we also learned note timing using ta-fa-te-fe (taffa teffie). Anyone come across that?

02 Mar 01 - 10:08 AM (#409504)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Snuffy

Sorry Sian. I thought you were talking about the tadpoles in that post, not sol-fa.

02 Mar 01 - 10:40 AM (#409525)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: sian, west wales

Tadpoles? Like ... as in baby fwoggies? Have I missed something?


02 Mar 01 - 11:06 AM (#409549)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Snuffy

Tadpoles = dots = conventional printed sheet music (BIG heads and long thin tails)

02 Mar 01 - 02:48 PM (#409721)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: John Moulden

Note duration within the Glover/Curwen tonic solfa is given, within the context of a bar by a combination of half bar and punctuation marks.

4/4 is given (where is a half (or mid bar mark) by:


3/4 |s:l:t|

2/4 |d:r|

6/8 |m:f:sl:t:d|

Note that the essence is, that a full beat within each bar is always indicated by a colon, or, where there is an even number of beats a mid-bar line.

Full beats can be sub-divided using full stops or commas

eg - using my 4/4 example the first beat now consists of two quavers - the last is four semi-quavers |d.d:rm:f,f,f,f|

The convention for a triplet is upside down commas - I've had to use an apostrophe but the mark should be where a comma should appear here the mid beat of a 3/4 bar is a triplet - |d:r'r'r:m|

I have a copy of Lyric Gems in staff so any problems can be referred though I'm about to be silent for a week.

Oh and the dotted crotchet/quaver figure is given as d:-,r The - is always a not extension dotted quaver/semiquaver is s.,f


02 Mar 01 - 03:13 PM (#409741)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Uncle_DaveO

When I started studying classical guitar in St. Paul with a Mr. Belson--formerly Belisoni--we'd first sing a piece to be learned, using the syllables Do re mi fa sol la SI do. This was a movable do system. Never ran into it again.

Last year, at the National Folk Festival in Lansing, Michigan, I attended a session on improvisation. There were, among others, a Cape Breton fiddler, an Oud player, a Hungarian Rom (gypsy) saxophone player, and an Indian snake charmer, who spoke no English and had to be translated. The translator spoke of the many, many modes used in Indian music, and the Indian demonstrated. The Rom Saxophone player brightened up: "I know those modes!" And the sax player and the Indian started jamming, improvising on some Indian mode, and then another, and another. Amazing music!

Dave Oesterreich

02 Mar 01 - 03:50 PM (#409749)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Bernard

Dave, are you a 'moveable do'?!!

02 Mar 01 - 05:30 PM (#409815)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Burke

It's easy to mix up the practice of using solfege to learn to read music with the tonic-sol-fa notation system that Uncle Jacque is asking about. Kodaly's hand signals were one way of translating the notes to solfege, shape notes are another. The tonic sol-fa uses solfege, but does not use the staff.

I've tried to figure it out and have to agree that the best idea is to find music you know to act as your guide.

The system was very popular in both Scotland & Wales. I've seen some Welsh/American hymnals on microfilm from the late 19th century that use it. I know the college that has the originals of the hymnals has a grant to digitize them, but so far I haven't seen them up. I've also seen Handel's Messiah in complete tonic sol-fa, even the piano reduction! A friend of mine picked up another oratorio, either Elijah or Creation in tonic sol-fa as well.

A couple of years ago someone from India was asking via the internet for a tonic sol-fa Hallelujah Chorus. When I questioned if that was what he really wanted, he told me there were Scottish missionaries who taught tonic sol-fa years ago, so that's the music they could read.

The book that really explains it all is: Musical theory / By John Curwen. London : Tonic sol-fa agency, 1879. You could borrow it from us through Interlibrary loan.

02 Mar 01 - 08:33 PM (#409924)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: En


As a kid I learned a timing system that uses

ta---ti-ti-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki in which

ta=quarter note ti=eighth note tiki=2 sixteenth notes

We were told this was less visible, hence more acceptable, than tapping the foot. School teachers (especially band directors) in my area use it still.


03 Mar 01 - 07:00 AM (#410128)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: sian, west wales

En, my mother used the ta-tiki when she was a young teacher (so we're talking 1940s) in Ontario ... along with the sol-fa. I guess one teaches the notes and the other the rhythm.


06 Apr 03 - 01:29 AM (#927067)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: George Seto -

Found information on sol-fa notation in this message:

Griogal Chridhe

Look in the bottom half of the message.

27 Jul 08 - 09:01 PM (#2399075)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: George Seto -

Dug out this reference material from one of the old links:

The idea of the notation is as follows: the 11 notes each have a
name of 1 or two letters. The seven that occur in a major scale
are d r m f s l t as you might expect. The note a semitone above
l is called ta (and the rest aren't used in these tunes). [nb d
is not the keynote, as these are not in major mode; it would be
if they were]. The pitch of d is given. Bar lines are used. Each
major stress is indicated by ":", so in 3/4 time a bar will have
the pattern | : : |. In 4/4 it's | : |, in 2/4 it's | |.
"-" denotes a rest. A note or rest lasts one unit if followed by
another note or rest, 1.5 if followed by a dot, 0.5 if followed
by a comma, 1.75 if followed by ., or up to the next major
stress if followed by a colon or bar line, but . and , steal (or give)
time from the following note (so "r .,m" indicates a crotchet
with two dots followed by a semiquaver). Ties/slurs are indicated by
underlining. An appogiatura is written superscript normally, but
sometimes is indicated by brackets (which I will use). A change
of octave is indicated by a subscript 1 (for below d) or
superscript 1 (for above t) - I will just use * to indicate the
octave below d. (There's lots more to it, and some of the
forgoing will mislead you if you get into anything at all
complicated, but that description is adequate for these tunes.)
(I've written words under one line only).
first tune: (d = G natural, time 4/4)

27 Jul 08 - 10:57 PM (#2399133)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Arkie

Uncle Jaque, fa sol la singing is still alive and well in the USA and there are frequent gatherings for the singers.   While the tradition has continued unbroken in some parts of the south, there are now gatherings around the country. You might want to contact some of these singers for answers to your questions. Here is one web site:
Fa Sol La

09 Jul 09 - 05:19 AM (#2675501)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,mac

Does anyone has more information on ta-fa-te-fe (taffa teffie)?

09 Jul 09 - 01:24 PM (#2675822)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Marje

We were taught to use "ta" for a crotchet (quarter note), "ta-te" for quaver (half-note) and "taffateffi" for semiquavers (sixteenth notes). It's not part of sol-fa, which is mainly about pitch, but used for rhythm.


24 Aug 09 - 10:23 PM (#2707794)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation

i really want to know exactly how to read the dots within the notes. How can i distinguish a whole note from a 1/2 note , 1/4 note, 1/8 and so on. If this could be explained well then i would be able to read this songs well too.

25 Aug 09 - 07:46 AM (#2707997)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: masato sakurai

See Theodore F. Seward and B.C. Unseld's The tonic sol-fa music reader : a course of instruction and practice in the tonic sol-fa method of teaching singing, with a choice collection of music suitable for day schools and singing schools (1890).

25 Aug 09 - 08:06 AM (#2708011)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: WalkaboutsVerse

If folks know, or can hear the song, to get the rhythm, it's all very easy, of course...

Happy Birthday, e.g.

D D E D G F#
D D D' B G F# E
C' C' B G A G

I first saw this on the BBC's recorder site, and have used it myself, here, e.g.

25 Aug 09 - 08:16 PM (#2708592)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Joe_F

I had never known that there was a standard solfa notation, but it does not surprise me. Here & elsewhere, I have improvised & explained each time; most people seem to have no trouble with that. I find it convenient to use only one character per note.

Scale: DRMFSLTdrmfslt or drmfsltDRMFSLT, according as the song goes below or above its main octave. (It is very rare for a singable tune to do both.) Accidentals: vwxyz (defined individually as needed).

Rhythm: Let a dot stand for the continuation of a note for the time of a 16th note (or other sufficiently short duration).


29 Aug 09 - 07:11 AM (#2711424)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: masato sakurai

Another book:

John Curwen, The standard course of lessons and exercises in the tonic sol-fa method of teaching music ([1901])

04 Sep 09 - 01:51 AM (#2715945)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Artful Codger

Hardly uncommon for a singable song to go outside the bounds of a two-octave (minus the top tonic!) range, since it only has to include any note below the tonic and any note at or above the tonic an octave above. Now, if one case were split between top and bottom (e.g., sltDRMFSLTdrmf) many more common songs would be representable with this system, though you'd have to show where the split lay, or alternatively, the high/low notes (e.g. sDd) at the start of the tune.

04 Sep 09 - 06:05 AM (#2716006)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Jack Campin

Curwen solfa uses commas and vertical dashes to the bottom right or top right of the note sign to indicate octave shifts.   There's nothing to stop you writing a seven-octave leap if you want.

04 Sep 09 - 06:04 PM (#2716438)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Joe_F

Codger: I believe I once happened on *one* tune that spilled over the main octave at both ends. I can't remember what it was. Evidently your acquaintance is wider than mine. What are some examples?

I think it would be horribly confusing, in such a case, to make lowercase both higher & lower than uppercase. I would do something desperate & special.

08 Sep 09 - 11:00 AM (#2718920)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,Cathy

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.

08 Sep 09 - 03:55 PM (#2719164)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Murray MacLeod

I was one of these fortunate children referred to in GUEST Cathy's post who were taught tonic solfa, and it did indeed become second nature.

To this day I can take any melody, major or minor, and sing it using the tonic solfa notes, without having to stop and think, it is automatic.

If this method were still taught today, we would have far less requests on forums and YouTube for chords/tabs, since a side benefit of learning solfa is that you can immediately identify the harmonies as well.

21 Oct 10 - 06:32 AM (#3012065)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation

please send sol fa notification of hallelujah chourus to me via Email ( by handel messiah also the playing role on musical instrument.
Sunny Man

21 Oct 10 - 11:01 AM (#3012213)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Chris in Portland

The organist of our little Welsh church gave me her copy of Ieuan Gwyllt's 1873 or so sol-ffa hymnal, "Cerddor Y Tonic Sol-ffa." There is no front page, so there is no clear evidence of the date of publication, but there is a lot on this book in Google books. It includes what seem like some nice Christmas hymns, "Pa Fwyn Beroriath Glwywaf Draw?';"Pwy Yw'r Baban Egwan;" "Yma Wrth Y Preseb," but Mr. Google strikes out on all three.   
Any information on these hymns would be appreciated. I'm working on our Lessons and Carols program for December and am hoping to add some Welsh carols.
Hoping that more Welsh hymnals will be get on Google books - really amazing what is there now in Welsh. I found a poem that my grandfather wrote in Welsh for the Chicago Welsh Hebron Church in 1906!!
Chris in Portland

21 Oct 10 - 12:13 PM (#3012274)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: Crowhugger

Chris in Portland,
You might attract more the specific attention you want if you start a new thread that's named more precisely for your topic, which might be "Want info about 3 Welsh Christmas carols" or whatever you like.

09 Jun 11 - 04:05 PM (#3167894)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,StevenLRalte

The churches in Mizoram (India) still uses tonic solfa system as the official method of publication for church music...all song books and hymnal are printed in this system. The Welsh missionaries introduced them upon their arrival in 1894. I too have uploaded my typesetting of Handel's Hallelujah (from Messiah) in (under Handel's Messiah). You can check it out there. Tonic solfa is a great system, esp. for choral singing!!!

30 Sep 11 - 08:30 PM (#3231978)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation
From: GUEST,loyalwood

please email me back at i recently obtained the same book blue hard cover inside the book is a written message from the St.Bernard church who gave this book as a gift to someone for perfect attendance. the hand written message is dated 1908. on the page following hand written is the lyrics to "the bonnie wells 0'weary. just currious as to what this book might be worth.

01 Nov 11 - 04:56 PM (#3248744)
Subject: RE: Help: 'Sol Fa' Music Notation

music notes in songs like happy birthday do do re do fa mi do do re do sol la do do doo ti la sol fa mi re ti ti la sol fa sol fa