When I begin teaching solfege, note reading on the staff, and songs with students, I begin my sequence with three pitches: do-re-mi. On the website Musical U, Erin Paul describes solfege or solfa as a framework for melodies. It allows us to establish pitch relationships and helps our ears identify patterns. Plus there are so many things we can do with just these solfege syllables while keeping them engaged. Any age student can use solfege. When teaching young students, I always started my sequence with so-mi. With older students, I choose to use do-re-mi. Older students learn the pitches quickly so it’s important to find ways of incorporating the learning of pitch, notation, and listening without killing the joy of learning and keeping their interest in music making.
Keep it interesting
To teach the musical concept of do-re-mi, we need to have a range of ideas to keep students interested in doing the same things, but in different ways. This way they can practice what they know, experience the musical element through movement, singing, games, and instruments, and help build their musical vocabulary of other elements such as note names, reading on the staff, and music symbols while perform do-re-mi. Here are my top ten ideas for do-re-mi (in no particular order):
- Poison Pitch Game - Do-Re-Mi
- Body Ladders - movement instead of hand signs
Teachers use positions on the body to show pitch. For me, Do is on my waist, Re is my arms crossed, and Mi is my shoulders. Some teachers place Do on their knees, Re on their thighs, and Mi on their hips.
- Inner Hearing - think every other measure of a short piece and sing the other measures; Ex// sing the first phrase and think the second phrase
- Make it short and sweet - ask them to listen and identify when they hear the pattern ‘Mi-Re-Do’ within in a song while you are singing the lyrics or on a neutral syllable.. While you sing it a second time, ask them to check again for where it occurs. On the third time ask them to show you with hand signs when that motive occurs. Don’t talk about it and do it over and over. Keep it concise. Then move on to the next part of the lesson asking students to sing the phrase, echo phrases, or however you want to teach the example.
- Play it on recorder - find songs that use Do-Re-Mi
- I love taking Hot Cross Buns and playing it as written using B-A-G, but in the key of E minor instead of G. Just changing the tonal center gives students a new experience with a very familiar song.
- Improvise using do-re-mi
- For any short simple piece, allow students to take turns creating 4 or 8 beat improvisation phrases. You might start with only improvising rhythms on B. Then add in A and finally all three pitches.
- Play M-R-D on alto recorders
- You can do this a few ways:
- If you simply want to students to play the alto recorders and get used to the larger instrument, don’t go into detail about the information regarding the pitch names begin E-D-C instead of B-A-G. Keep it simple for their first experiences. Allow them to play the same song material that you’ve been using for soprano recorders - only on the alto. This might be great with fifth grade. Introductory experience. Talk about what they hear (it’s lower in pitch). Then expand on it more the next time you see them and they play the instruments.
- Have students read the same music on the staff using E-D-C and then do go more into detail about how the same fingerings on the alto will be these pitches on the staff. Ask students to sing the song on solfege with hand signs, sing while fingering on the alto, and then play the song in the new place on the staff.
- Sing songs with a variety of ranges - not just song material with only three notes and isolate a portion of the song for students to identify the pattern do-re-mi. Isolate the phrase of the song that includes M-R-D or D-R-M.
- Play melodies on barred instruments. Pentatonic melodies are fantastic. Music For Children Volume I is a resource of Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman materials that uses pentatonic song material. Invariably so many of the pieces end with m-r-d in some type of order:
A few examples from the English Version adapted by Margaret Murray:
#15 on page 104 in meter of 4/4 - measures 2 and 4 of the melody are: mm rr m d and mm rr d__ Isolate those measures in the melody as measures 1 and 3 include so and la. Teacher sings measures 1 and 3 on neutral syllable- students learn 2 and 4 on neutral syllable and/or m-r-d. Could be used to introduce and present so/la to students!
#20 on page 106 in meter of 6/8 - This is a beautiful song that is just crying out for text to be added to it for a beautifully sung piece. Great for playing on recorders, singing, moving...
Rondo 31 in meter of 3/4 - page 111
Canon 43 in meter of 6/4 - page 133
Canon 44 (known as Ding Dong Diggidiggi Dong) - page 136 ends with mmmm r-m d (rest)
- Use the resource 185 Unison Pentatonic Exercises by Denise Bacon. There are a variety of short melodies and phrases using solfege syllables. I enjoy using #46, 47, and 68 in particular. I simplify the melodies, use them to teach solfege, identify new note values (ti-tika and half note), and find them sweet melodies that can be played on recorders, text added, and even played on barred instruments. For #47 I have some students play G and D chords on the ukulele while the other portion of the class plays or sings the song. They are short and sweet. Perfect for playing around with Do-Re-Mi and a nice review or segway to another song during class involving musical examples beyond just the three syllables
I’d love to know how you guide your students towards identifying and performing songs with do-re-mi pitches and patterns. Find me on Instagram @highafternoonti spelled ti to share your ideas!