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Teaching Solfa as a Circle

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

When I first began teaching singing, solfa/solfege was something I went through phases of including in my lessons - but often I didn't use it at all.

Now, it's something I teach from students' very first lesson. I like that it gives them something tangible - a "language" - to work with. It also helps them keep track of what is happening on paper and translate it to sound in their mind.

I find it works best for me to teach solfa in a circle, for which I made a resource using solfa hand images available online. I've attached a JPEG of my resource here, so please feel free to save it if it has potential to be useful for you! If you'd like a PDF, I can also email it through - just contact me.

Here are FOUR steps I usually take when working with this resource:

1. tones and semitones:

In the space between the solfa, I will have students place the tones and semitones. The space between MI and FA will be a semitone, as will the space between TI and DO.

2. numbers:

Next, students can sometimes find it helpful to write numbers 1 - 7 around the circle. Because I work with moveable do, DO becomes ONE, RE becomes TWO, etc.

This can be especially helpful for students to make connections between what they are taught in other musical contexts, if they have teachers preferring to work with numbers in choirs or other groups.

3. major scale/triad & minor scale/triad:

The third thing I usually do is get students to sing a major scale (using the hand signs, too!). If they're not ready for that, we can just work with DO - SO to begin.

I like introducing the major triad next, just so students are aware we don't always have to use solfa "in a row".

Then, I introduce the minor scale/triad. Younger students so often say it sounds spooky or scary or funny or "like halloween" without any prompting whatsoever, but if they don't I like to ask questions about how they think it sounds.

4. "starting somewhere else" (modes!):

At this point, I generally say to students, "where do you want to start next?"

As they choose different starting points, we sing around different modes - for example, if they choose SO (or "the green one") - they're singing through their Mixolydian mode.


Once students have been taught everything above, I will still use their 'solfa circle' worksheet as a supplement resource in warm-ups every couple of weeks. Once we've used this, putting scales or sight singing in front of them doesn't seem so daunting. I think this is because they've got the familiar language to work with.


→→ Every single one of my students under about twelve are OBSESSED with connector pens/textas. They are more than happy to fill in their own solfa circle, taking their time to carefully spell out the modes, if they're allowed to use "unicorn colours" or "fire colours" or "ocean colours" to do it. I would say their attention span for this at least doubles if using these ←

→→ RESOURCE RECOMMENDATION: Joan Boytim's Syllable Sheets. I use these for sight singing and to solidify solfa a little more and find they're really effective. I'm not sure if you can buy them separately, but I have mine after purchasing Boytim's Private Voice Studio Handbook

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