• Highlights On The Contributions Of Guido D’Arezzo To Music Learning

    in Beginners,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Reading Sheet Music,Theory

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    In today’s lesson, we’re highlighting the contributions of Guido D’Arezzo to music learning.

    Guido D’arezzo is one of the Italian music scholars of the 11th century, whose approach to music teaching has shaped music learning for several centuries now, especially in the aspect of music notation.

    Although he made several contributions, we’ll be looking at the sol-fa system of notation in today’s lesson.

    One Of Guido’s Major Contributions – The Sol-fa System

    Although there were pre-existing methods of music notation before his time, Guido D’Arezzo introduced a music notation system known as the sol-fa system which features sound syllables.

    These syllables where derived from the first verse of a hymn to St. John:

    Ut queant laxis
    resonare fibris
    Mira gestorum
    famuli tuorum,
    Solve polluti
    labii reatum,
    Sancte Iohannes

    “Check Them Out…”

    From the first syllable of each line, the following syllables were derived:

    ut re mi fa sol la si

    …which evolved to:

    do re mi fa sol la ti

    Growing up in the 90s, I learned how to sing the sound syllables using the song “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound Of Music movie.

    (Do!) doe, a deer, a female deer
    (Re!) ray, a drop of golden sun
    (Mi!) me, a name I call myself
    (Fa!) far, a long, long way to run
    (Sol!) sew, a needle pulling thread
    (La!) la, a note to follow so
    (Ti!) tea, a drink with jam and bread
    That will bring us back to do oh oh oh

    Although Guido invented the sol-fa system to help his students learn the pitches of the natural notes on the piano, it’s gained wide usage over time and has served the world for almost 1,000 years.

    Benefits Of Learning The Sol-fa System

    Guido’s sol-fa system has helped musicians in a variety of ways and we’re covering three of the top ways in this segment.

    “…In Music Learning…”

    The sol-fa system helps in various aspects of music learning, especially in terms of helping the beginner to be acquainted with the tones of the major scale and how they sound when played. For example, the sound of most traditional scales can be memorized using the sol-fa system.

    “Check Out How The Tones Of Traditional Scales Can Be Memorized…”

    The C natural major scale:

    …can be sung using the following syllables:


    …sung as do.


    …sung as re.


    …sung as mi.


    …sung as fa.


    …sung as sol.


    …sung as la.


    …sung as ti.


    …sung as do.

    The C natural minor scale:

    …can be sung using the following syllables:


    …sung as la.


    …sung as ti.


    …sung as do.


    …sung as re.


    …sung as mi.


    …sung as fa.


    …sung as sol.


    …sung as la.

    Attention: The first tone of the major key is sung do, while the first tone of the minor key is sung la.

    During choir rehearsals, especially for musicians with a classical music background, it is a common practice for every voice part (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), to learn the pitches using the sol-fa system and this is known as solminization or solfeggio.

    In the key of C major:

    …the song Mary Had a Little Lamb, the melody is solminized thus:

    Ma (mi):

    …ry (re):

    …had (do):

    …a (re):

    …li (mi):

    …ttle (mi):

    …lamb (mi):

    Singing the sound syllables to the melody proves a very helpful method that most students at the beginners’ level can learn how to play melodies with.

    “…In Music Notation…”

    The sol-fa system is useful in music notation. Melodies, scales, intervals, chords, and chord progressions can be written down using the sol-fa system.

    The natural major scale is notated thus:

    d r m f s l t d

    …while the natural minor scale is notated thus:

    l t d r m f s l

    Chords can also be notated using the sol-fa system, however, this is done in relationship to a given key. For example, in the key of C major:

    …the C major triad:

    …is notated thus:

    do mi sol

    …because in the key of C major, C, E, and G are the do, mi, and sol notes respectively.

    In the key of F major:

    …the same C major triad is notated thus:

    sol ti re

    …because in the key of F major, C, E, and G are the sol, ti, and re notes respectively.

    “…In Ear-training…”

    The sol-fa system is helpful in basic ear-training. Irrespective of whether you’re learning how to play an instrument or sing, you can get a basic ear-training of how all the pitches in the natural major or minor scale sounds by singing its sol-fa notes.

    Knowing the fifth tone of the C natural major scale:

    …as G:

    …is nice. However, there’s need for a musician to learn how it sounds when played and this can easily be achieved by learning how sol-fa notes are sung using Guido’s sound syllables.

    Final Words

    Looking back at Guido D’arezzo who lived about 1000 years ago, we can only be grateful to him for developing a tool that has shaped music learning for several centuries now.

    Before we end this lesson, I’ll want to ask you a direct question:

    “What will you be remembered for, 1000 years after now?”

    Pause and ponder!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



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