On Using Syllables in Learning the Guitar

 (Re: Introduction and pg.7)

 Before proceeding with the following explanation of the use of syllables, the student should have a clear grasp of the information contained in the Introduction under Essential Concepts for Efficient Guitar Study (p. xiii). The most rewarding application of those powerful concepts in learning to play the guitar requires the effective use of syllables instead of letter names to name the notes. The process of fluently reading music on an instrument requires instantaneous recognition of where, what, when and how to move in order to satisfy the demands of the well-known Aim Directed Movement Principle.

Either sung or spoken, syllables provide the basis for developing good habits through clear aims and visualization/concentration. The main reason for using syllables instead of letter names becomes clear through considering music containing sharps and/or flats: The letter name system requires both a letter name and a word for the vocal identification of such notes. Although the identification of pitches by the syllables (Do, Re, Mi, etc.) sometimes termed solfege (Fr., pronounced, saul-fayzj) instead of letters (C, D, E, etc.) in learning to play an instrument is not unheard of in this country, letters are used far more common than syllables. The use of letter-names in the United States stands in sharp contrast to most other countries worldwide where syllables are used exclusively. Used as explained in the remaining paragraphs of this section, the greater effectiveness of syllables should become apparent. This poses somewhat of a dilemma: while our English-speaking society demands that we know the notes by their letter names, the most effective approach to learning to play requires that we become fluent in the use of syllables. The inclusion of solfege in parentheses in the text following  letters will hopefully ease the acquisition of new habits for those who have already been trained in the use of letter names.

 The following information requires an understanding of accidentals (see text, p. 43).

The letter name system requires both a letter name and a word for the vocal identification of such notes. For example, compare F-Sharp, C-Sharp, G-Sharp, etc. to the simplicity of Fi (Fee), Di (Dee), Si (See), etc.—the syllables for the same sharps. Similarly contrast the vocalization of B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, etc. to the syllables Te (Tay), Me (May), Le (Lay), etc.— the syllables for identifying the same flats.

The use of syllables provides the foundation for efficiently acquiring clearly visualized aims which are essential for forming habits of security in performance. Before explaining such a system it is helpful to become aware of the two systems of naming notes that have preceded it.

The Three Best Known Systems of Solfege

 Fixed Do

 One system is called “Fixed Do” (meaning that the note “C” is always Do) is based on the syllables: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, and Ti. These seven syllables represent both natural and chromatic notes. Thus each syllable represents five different notes: the natural, its sharp and double sharp, and its flat and double flat. Double sharps and double flats sometimes occur in the study of music theory but are rarely used in guitar music.

 Movable Do

 A second system is called “Movable Do.” In this system the tonic or key center is always Do. Thus, Do is relocated to conform to each key change throughout a piece.  Obviously this presents formidable problems in music that contains frequent key changes or has no key center. This system is used mainly in teaching sight-singing but serves no practical purpose in learning to play an instrument.

 The Fixed-Do Chromatic Syllable System

The Fixed-Do Chromatic Syllable System has proven to be a highly effective system of vocalization for learning to play the guitar. In this system, the note C is always Do and each note (including each sharp and flat) has a distinct and permanent name.

 The following table is intended to serve as references for names and pronunciation only. The names of the sharps and flats are best learned progressively through application as they appear in the pieces found in the text.

 Ascending with sharps
Letter Name C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C
Syllable Do Di Re Ri Mi Fa Fi So Si La Li Ti Do
Pronounced Doh Dee Ray Ree Mee Fah Fee Soh See Lah Lee Tee doh
Descending with Flats
Letter Name C B Bb A Ab G Gb F E Eb D Db C
Syllable Do Ti Te La Le So Se Fa Mi Me Re Ra Do
Pronounced Doh Tee tay Lah Lay Soh Say Fah Mee May Ray rah doh

 Cb  and  Fb  are pronounced with the usual “ay”: Day and Fay. Double flats are pronounced with an “awe”; Taw, Law, etc.


……..Aaron Shearer