Moveable Do Fixed Do Solfeggio

Moveable Do Fixed Do Solfeggio

Moveable Do Fixed Do Solfeggio

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Moveable Do Fixed Do Solfeggio: Optimize Ear Training Practice Time

Q: While working through the exercises for the “Fanatics Guide to Ear Training and Sight Singing” and “Hearing Chord Progressions” I have been utilizing the “movable do” form of solfege. I have been using the “do” based minor which you appear to advocate. This system makes pragmatic sense for the key centered approach of hearing. However, upon further research, there have been other pedagogues that make a case for the other variants of solfege.

Most notably are Zoltán Kodály, and later Edwin Gordon whom,  in “Learning Sequences in Music,” states an argument for moveable do. i.e a ‘la’ based minor, where this variant is said to facilitate the skill of audiation. More so than a “do” based minor, regardless of key center. With “do” audiated as resting tone, tonality is major; with “la” harmonic minor or Aeolian; or Dorian.

Art Levine also wrote an article detailing an extensive comparison of movable do vs. fixed do. Art sides in favor of movable do (but also advocates for the “la” based minor variant.

Marianne Ploger, whom I am just looking into seems to advocate a hybrid system of sorts:

I was just curious if you had any thoughts/opinions on this variant of Moveable Do Fixed Do Solfeggio. Have you considered its potential benefits in regard to audiating/thinking music. There seem to be compelling arguments for the “la” based minor variant of movable do.

Thank you again,

A: There has been debate over fixed “Do” and movable “Do” for as long as I can remember.  I tend to use movable “Do” because it is more inline with how you hear music. For some people they want to use a “music theory” approach to sight singing. For example, you have a song written in the relative minor so therefore let’s call the root of the relative minor key “La.” I guess it’s because theoretically it is related to a key a minor third above the root.  That seems crazy to me.  When you are in a minor key you shouldn’t be thinking about how it relates to another key.  You should be naming the based on the the key you hear it in!  As humans we certainly don’t have the mental bandwidth to simultaneously think in two keys at once.  That said, what you are naming a note when you sing isn’t really the most important thing.  It is really “how do you hear this note” which can vary depending on the context and tempo in which it is heard.  I also do movable “Do” with my students because it allows me to know how they are hearing a piece of music when they sing it for me. This is especially useful when the music modulates.  This information helps me understand how they are hearing which in turns help me help them.

Hope that helps

Warm Regards,


Q: Hi Bruce,  Thank you for the response, it is greatly appreciated!  I agree that the most importing thing is how we hear the note. I just thought the use of solfege would help further solidify my ability by reinforcing the “sound-feeling” of each syllable in relation to its key center.

>You also raise some interesting points regarding “La” based minor. It would not make sense from an analytical standpoint, similar to roman numeral analysis, to think of a minor tonic in terms of its relative major. Regarding your comment on thinking in simultaneous keys, I think Gordon was implying “La” based minor as superior for “audiation” as to retain the interval structure and resting tone tonalities (see below).

This excerpt from the “Tonal Context Learning” is what initially sparked my inquiry into the merits of various solfege systems:

The term tonality traditionally refers to major and minor tonal systems. The term modality refers to the other tonal systems that have evolved from the church modes (dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeolian, and locrian). In Music Theory, all these systems are referred to as tonalities. This provides a common term for all tonal systems sharing the characteristic of being audiated in relation to a resting tone. A resting tone is a tonal solfege syllable associated with a particular tonality. “DO” is the resting tone in major tonality, “RE” in dorian tonality, “MI” in phrygian tonality, and so on. The term keyality refers to the pitch name (A or Bb, for example) that functions as the pitch center, or tonic, in a piece of music. Music in what is traditionally called the “key of Bb major,” for example, is in the tonality of major and the keyality of Bb.

“Of the many tonal solfege systems available, the one best suited for developing audiation is the “moveable do” with a “la” based minor” system. Among its merits:

  • Audiation of various tonalities is facilitated by associating a unique tonal syllable with each tonality (see above).
  • The internal logic of interval relationships is always maintained. The interval “do – mi”, for example, is always a major third regardless of context.
  • Eight solfege syllables suffice for all basic tonalities: Major, Harmonic Minor, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. The only chromatic syllable required for diatonic contexts in those eight tonalities is “si,” the leading tone in harmonic minor.”

I still feel that “do” based minor is probably the most useful, as it vivifies the scale degree function, but I think the above points were worth enough consideration to raise the initial question.

A:  Glad we agree on the solfeggio.  The only problem I have with the excerpts from “Tonal Context Learning” is that there are way more scales and tonalities that you need to know to play modern music.  Take a look at the “Scale Analysis” course this gives you a great picture of what type of scales exist when you think of an entire progression in one key.  Also if you listen to some of the examples in the “Recordings” section of you will see that my music and particularly the contemporary classic stuff done by “Spooky Actions” pushes the boundaries of the basic tonalities.

It is also recommended that you read Bruce Arnold’s Blog at his artist site. It contains more discussion of the musical topics found in these FAQs as well as other subjects of interest. You will also find the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located here which shows you the historic significance of the music education products found on the Muse Eek Publishing Company Website.


Moveable Do Fixed Do Solfeggio

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