Solfege – Sight Singing

Many are aware of the famous song from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” called “Do-Re-Mi”. The lyrics teach the solfege syllables by linking them with English homophones (words that are pronounced the same (or nearly the same) as another word but differ in meaning). It begins, “Do (Doe) a dear, a female dear. Re (Ray), a drop of golden sun. Mi (Me), a name I call myself.”, etc.

The 1959 show tune was a huge hit with me as a child, but sadly, the current generation doesn’t seem to know it. We shall attempt to remedy that – at least locally. Piano Guild Auditions have a musicianship phase called “Ear Training” in which first year students can earn a song credit, and thus a point, for singing the solfege from any given note. This is an excellent goal/skill for any piano student to attain.

I have here demonstrated the solfege in the Key of C, but it can be sung using any scale, and thus beginning on any given note.

On a side note, one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams, noted in his article “Unfinished Business of the Century” that, while each line of the lyric takes the name of a note from the sol-fa scale, and gives its meaning, when they hit “La” something went awry. Read on for his humorous thoughts:

“‘La, a note to follow so…’ What? Excuse me? ‘La, a note to follow so…’ What kind of lame excuse for a line is that?

“Well, it’s obvious what kind of line it is. It’s a placeholder. A placeholder is what a writer puts in when he can’t think of the right line or idea just at the moment, but he’d better put in something and come back and fix it later. So, I imagine that Oscar Hammerstein just bunged in a ‘a note to follow so’ and thought he’d have another look at it in the morning.

“Only when he came to have another look at it in the morning, he couldn’t come up with anything better. Or the next morning. Come on, he must have thought, this is simple. Isn’t it? ‘La… a something, something… what?’

“One can imagine rehearsals looming. Recording dates. Maybe he’d be able to fix it on the day. Maybe one of the cast would come up with the answer. But no. No one manages to fix it. And gradually a lame placeholder of a line became locked in place and is now formally part of the song, part of the movie, and so on.

“How difficult can it be? How about this for a suggestion? ‘La, a…, a…’ — well, I can’t think of one at the moment, but I think that if the whole world pulls together on this, we can crack it. And I think we shouldn’t let the century end with such a major popular song in such an embarrassing state of disarray.”

Audrey’s A440 (a.k.a. pianoforte) – The Cache / Travel Bug

With our recent lessons in A440, we’ve all be getting to know “Audrey’s A440” – a tuning fork about to go on an adventure! Read more to find out about it:


Ever hear of geocaching? It has absolutely nothing to do with piano, of course, but our studio has become involved in that we’re sending a new travel bug on a journey around the world, and hopefully to many musical places. In addition to that, the travel bug’s namesake will be a brand new cache right here in Osceola. If you decide that you’d like to join in the fun, please visit the geocaching site and get started! All you need is a GPS and a sense of adventure.

Perfect Pitch: What is A440 anyway?


This week at the studio we have been learning more about A440 (note shown above). A440 is the first “A” found on the piano above middle C. To be in perfect pitch, that string must vibrate at exactly 440 vibrations per second (or 440 Hz). Thus the term “A440”.

For those of you with an electronic or digital keyboard, you are all set! But if you play on an acoustic instrument (which is a wonderful thing), it is relatively important that it be tuned correctly. Some pianos may sound okay, but it may be because they are tuned to themselves and not to the industry standard.

Why is perfect pitch so important? Ear training will suffer for one thing – but in more practical terms – you will be unable to play a duet with anyone else, as it will most certainly sound “off”, likely very badly. Also, if you wish to play along with a recording of your lesson book, or even your favorite pop song from the radio, you will be sadly disappointed with the result.

If you would like to read more about A440, there is a good article at AllegroPianoWorks.com.

More on A440 coming soon!

Piano Guild Chickens

This afternoon, seven of our students performed at the Cedar Arts Center in Corning, NY. For details, please visit our current Piano Guild Auditions page. Everyone did a MOST EXCELLENT job of performing. Scores were all the “Superior” rating, ranging from 18-27. CONGRATULATIONS all!!!

This year’s art exhibit included the blown glass works of Angus M Powers. They were the most interesting conglomeration of chickens I’ve seen in awhile.

Music Bingo

Tonight during our Winter Makeup Class, we played Music Bingo. Each question was first posed to a student who would draw the answer on the whiteboard. A student was asked to draw a key signature with four sharps and to help them out with the first sharp, I asked the class, “If you only have one sharp in your key signature, what is it?” A quick witted student replies, “Lonely.”

Upbeats

I was reviewing a new concept with one of my students. “Can you explain to me what an upbeat is?” “Yes.” he says. “It’s the note that stands all alone.” “Ah . . ” I reply, “Like the cheese. The cheese stands alone, right?” His reply: “Well, not always. Sometimes there’s crackers.”