Theory & Ear Training

The Solfege Train

2 Modules 2 Chapters 26 Lessons Easy

About this course

One of my favorite manipulatives, which is not part of the outline suggestion, are the Solfege Chains.  I learned about these when I took my Orff teaching workshop.  These are an alternative to sight-singing warm-ups.

You can see the Curwen Hand Signs, and solfege chains demonstrated below. (Bear with me, this video is 10 years old!  But it gets the job done.)

I sang these exercises in the key of “D”.  Here is how you use the chain print-outs.  As the teacher, sing the first line, “So-So-Mi-Mi”, and the children will echo you.  Then move on to the next line.  You can also sing them together, or play them on an instrument.

Another thing that I use is the Curwen hand signs.  I like to tell the children that we are building a solfege house.  “So” is the wall (“So-So-So- -“).  “Mi” is the floor (“Mi-Mi-Mi- -“ ).  Then we build “La”, which is the roof, (“La-La-La - -“ ).  My two-year-old has even picked up on this, so I know that you can teach these signs at a very young age.  The Curwen hand signs are a great springboard to teach new songs by rote, especially when you get into more advanced music, especially with larger classes.  Children who have learned the Curwen signs will instinctively sing the melodies that the teacher signs for them.  The Curwen signs were developed in a time when sheet music was not readily available to aid the teacher in teaching music by rote.  Their value today is not at all diminished by the copy machine and modern, inexpensive paper.  On the last line we have “Mi-So-Mi- - “.   So the last note is essentially a half note, but the children don’t need to know that specifically, only that the dash means to hold the note a little longer.

One of the great things about these solfege chains is that the children are learning the different notes and their intervallic relationship with each other.  Here we have “So” going down to “Mi”, but we also have “Mi” going up to “So”.  While the same interval, children still need to learn both ways, and sometimes one will come easily and the other will be a struggle.  Then there is the relationship that “La” has with both “So” and “Mi”.  Three notes, six intervals to learn.  As we continue to add more notes, the interval combinations become exponentially larger.  These solfege chains really help children to incorporate and internalize these intervals.