When people study in conservatories, they learn "theory" and "solfege".
For those that don't know, "theory" is essentially the art of creating chords and chord progressions. Composers utilize their own pet chordal phrases and melodic motifs to generate their works, and our goal is to try to understand why the composers made the choices they did.
"Solfege" is the vocal singing of pitches using the French nomenclature of "do re mi fa sol la si (ti) do". In conservatory, one learns to do "melodic dictation" ("do do sol sol la la sol" is "Twinkle") using solfege. One also utilizes solfege in harmonic dictation, though usually Roman numerals are used. So a 12 bar blues is "I IV I I, IV IV I I, V V I I". In jazz, the outright chord letters are used because of the key transpositions.
I started out my career as strictly a violinist, a guy who played only the solo line to the best of his ability. I chafed at my theory and solfege classes at all levels of my education, though I never cut class and occasionally even had fun. Then when I got out into the world, people started throwing around the same nomenclature and analyzing the same chord progressions I was doing in conservatory. Admittedly, much of that grounding took place because I had to learn jazz guitar and one MUST understand theory to improvise. And of course, I had to work to cover up holes and STILL have lots of things to correct.
Where theory and solfege REALLY helped me was when I started to really analyze the classical violin repertoire I was playing. I was consistently amazed at how interesting the chord concepts were, as they were far beyond those used in any type of music I studied. Knowing the chordal structures and modal motifs really changed my phrasing, which was something Margaret Pardee had told me I'd do when I was complaining about theory class to her.
So how has theory and solfege helped your violin playing?
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.