Theory and Solfege

June 26, 2006 at 05:03 AM · 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?

Replies (43)

June 26, 2006 at 07:55 AM · Greetings,

In latvian music schools solfege and theory is in quite high level, those, who graduate theory class in my school, they almoust have nothing to do in conservatory...

I'm studying composition with Peteris Vasks and for those pieces I have wrote, theory has helped me alot. If I choose to write in genre (like Dodekaphonia, i wrote three pieceas for flute solo) it's quite interesting to analyze, that I have wrote. (by, the way, if kids write something for they instrument, they ussualy write very simply, I do not. I mostly write too hard for me)

Theory has helped me in violin too, but the same as you told- to analyze what I have played and different...

Good luck!

June 26, 2006 at 08:54 AM · Traditionally it's I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-V

June 26, 2006 at 01:14 PM · I came to theory late in life. It helps understand the larger structure of a piece, which can assist in phrasing, just to give an example. Theory is crucial for jazz musicians.

June 26, 2006 at 01:24 PM · I really don't get why solfege (sp?) helps you. Anyone explain any reasons for it? It only brings to mind running around the alps or whatever to the Sound of Music. ?? (This is seriously a question as to why anyone would use it.)

June 26, 2006 at 02:39 PM · I have all sorts of different on-the-fly substitutions for the blues, Jim. I just thought of the one that popped into my head the fastest, but it still "fits" especially if you're using a blues pentatonic scale to solo over it.

I was HOPING somebody would raise that issue, Carley Anderson. In high school, I was wondering the same thing. Then I got out into the pro world and I was glad I was made to do it.

In my opinion, there are two types of musicians. One is the extremely facile technician whose music making is motor skills driven. Most of today's concert violinists fit this category, as the difficulty of playing the violin demands a high level of physical coordination. The other is the musician who plays what he hears inside his head with the instrument being the secondary tool. These musicians aren't the best technicians, but they tend to sing first and play later. I fall into the latter category, and that's why solfege is so helpful to me.

I don't use "solfege" via French lettering per se, but it has been extraordinarily useful in helping me develop the singing aspect of playing the violin. I grew up singing all sorts of violin songs in solfege, and that forced me to develop my voice even though my natural voice is extraordinarily bad for singing. This has been really useful when I've gotten on stage and start playing with all sorts of musicians in different styles.

I had to do a ton of melodic dictation in solfege, where one listens to a phrase and then sings it back to the teacher. This skill has given me the ability to learn tunes very quickly and thoroughly. When I'm in the freelance world, occasionally somebody will hum a lick or demand a style. My melodic dictation allows me to generate violin arrangements on the spot either by improvisation or imitating somebody else's melody. And because I play more than one instrument, solfege allows me to perform songs on the guitar and mandolin that I play on the violin without having to read notes. Oh yeah, solfege also really helps in sightreading especially in orchestral auditions and in the freelance world where you're often sightreading a work for the first time in concert. The only time solfege hurts me is when I'm trying to play a work that doesn't have a singable melody. That's why I tend to shy away from certain pieces, particularly atonal ones and things like the Mozart Requiem that make me emotionally depressed when I sing them in my head in solfege.

As far as I'm concerned, solfege is the alphabet and theory is the language by which musicians communicate with one another. Without that grounding in the professional world (particularly the nonclassical world), you'll not work as much as you would if you had it simply because your versatility is limited.

June 26, 2006 at 04:58 PM · Wow, thank you so much for that explanation. To clarify: solfege forces you to sing the music and get more of a grasp on what the phrasing and stuff should be, right? Please explain further if that wasn't your main point...I'm not quite sure I completely understand. Solfege is hard (for me right now), but isn't something I'm not opposed to doing, as long as it will help me in the long run. (Hehe, and after looking at your bio and seeing where you studied, I trust your opinion. :D)

June 26, 2006 at 05:02 PM · If I actually was proficient at Solfege or Theory, I'm sure it would help me a lot. Now that I've actually passed the courses responsible for teaching me the basics (don't know how I passed, to be honest) I might actually devote time to becoming good at Theory and solfege. I used to just regard them as the nightmare subjects that took up most of my time and sanity.

My best friend is incredible at solfege, and it seems to help her a lot. She's Bulgarian, and apparently her school put more of an emphasis on solfege and dictation that ours. Having her solfege one of my parts when I'm first learning a piece is a great help. I might have her tutor me.

By the way, I have a question for all of you - when you first learned to solfege, was it with syllables and a fixed do system, or was it with numbers (for scale degrees) and a movable do system? My freshman professor preferred the former, and my sophomore teacher preferred the latter. If those teachers could just pick one and stick with it, I'd be a lot better at solfegging than I am now. It was very confusing when we were told that we were no longer allowed to use the system we had learned with. Which is more common? Syllables or numbers?

June 26, 2006 at 06:08 PM · Kevin--

IT's interesting to hear your explanation of why theoretical training was useful and how you use it. I have only studied theory privately and basaically all it ever did for me was give names to functions that I already knew and understood instinctively. Beyond that I have frequentl;y observed that well trained musicians(vis-a-vis theoretical training) are amongst the most unimaginative musicians I have ever encountered. Many seem to think that because they understand how certain notes function in a phrase that they do not have to try and imbue them with any meaning and that I find reprehensible. If someone is not going to enlighten me musically in ways I've not thought about, why should I care what they have to say? It's one of the reasons I have so little use for Levine he is the epitome of hausfrau notentreu.

June 26, 2006 at 07:56 PM · Yes, carly, your supposition was right on target.

Without being unfairly critical of your praise (you're welcome, BTW), I'll gently admonish you NOT to trust my opinion just because of who and where I studied with. In fact, most of my classmates DON'T feel the same way about theory and solfege as I do even though I could easily point out 104303.34 examples where they utilize it in their careers. All I can ask is that you go ahead and try my advice, see if it helps you get ahead.

I learned solfege with a fixed "do", which was never natural for me. The instant I got out of Juilliard, I went back to using a movable "do". This is extraordinarily important in the field of jazz, where you MUST know where "do" is at all times or else you're playing in the wrong key. It's only slightly less important in classical music, particularly when wading through harmonically challenging works like Paganini Caprices that feature guitar-style chordal modulations that make no sense unless you harmonize your intonation to the proper "do". The Caprices are a perfect example of how you can seemingly play a passage relatively in tune and yet it sounds atonal if you don't know your theory and solfege.

One other immense benefit I gained from solfege was mastering the mind-body connection. When the teacher would hum bars or play on the piano during melodic dictation, I'd use my left hand to "finger" the intervals and get the rhythms down. The only difference between what I was doing then and now is that I get PAID for doing good melodic dictation! A violinist that can improvise and play by ear is a novelty especially in the world of pop music.

In retrospect, my Juilliard solfege and theory was probably more important to me than the actual violin classes I took. Though I never "graduated" and wanted to cut more classes (that's an edit - I honestly DIDN'T cut any classes at Juilliard because they were $$$$) than I should have, I feel that I got enough of a solid theoretical foundation that I could learn on my own as a functional professional. Without it, I wouldn't be able to cross over styles musically today.

June 26, 2006 at 07:25 PM · "I have all sorts of different on-the-fly substitutions for the blues, Jim. I just thought of the one that popped into my head the fastest, but it still "fits" especially if you're using a blues pentatonic scale to solo over it."

Kevin, you have "on-the-fly" substitutions for all kinds of things. I take issue with one or two other things in the top post, which I don't really care about, but I didn't want some kid reading this to be misinformed about that particular thing.

June 26, 2006 at 07:28 PM · Why is that being misinformed, jim?

If anything, some kid reading my advice will hopefully benefit from recognizing the difference. I've seen so many blues players try to cross over into jazz and vice versa. They usually fall flat on their faces in sessions because a jazz blues isn't usually the same chord progression as a blues blues. That's because a jazz blues relies on 3 different dominant scales while the blues blues usually relies on a single minor pentatonic scale with an occasionally flatted 3rd. Both are "correct blues", but it doesn't work if you play a jazz dominant scale over a blues minor pentatonic one.

The blues, as well as other chordal progressions, are not set in stone as far as substitutions go. In fact, different players within the same genre have different blues substitution and progressions. That's what gives players their individual flavor and identity.

Heck, I take issues with more than one or two things I've posted all the time here. Such are the fluctations that come from LEARNING.

June 26, 2006 at 07:32 PM · Any answers? Anybody?

June 26, 2006 at 07:41 PM · Amanda, I answered you already in my 12:17 post.

June 26, 2006 at 07:46 PM · Ok, I see it now.

However, I'd also like to which system is more common and accepted among the general population of musicians.

June 26, 2006 at 08:43 PM · Kevin, I just didn't want some kid googling in 2025 to mistake that 12 bars as the definition. Agreed, there are many permutations allowed. The progression I gave is the definition though, that the others are variations of.

(In a "jazz blues" you likely wouldn't find the I IV and V at all. The smallest unit of exchange would typically be a 7th chord, which is the thing that allows non-chord tones to be used).

June 26, 2006 at 10:44 PM · Greetings,

Amanda. movable do is much more useful for violinists in general for all the reasons Kevin notes above. A good book to teach yourself with is

Essential Ear Training for the contemporary musician

Steve Prosser

Berklee press.



June 26, 2006 at 11:02 PM · Good discussion going here, Kevin. Obviously, not everyone who comes out of Julliard is going to be 100% on target about 100% of the things they say. (Hmm, thinking about it, I don't think anyone would be. :D) But it does give some credibility to what you're saying. Besides, it sounds right in and of itself, so...thanks. I look forward to studying it (with theory) more in detail in the next couple of years.

June 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM · To me it seems like solfege is simply a substitute for an instrument, something for singers or taught to instrumentalists by singers.

My last teacher, a student of most of y'alls favorite god, told me to learn ear training "in terms of the instrument", which I did. I can sing notation because I know how it would sound on the violin when I run through a fingering in my head and hear it via the fingering.

Conversely if I have to transcribe something, (which I actually have to do very often) I run the process backward. That half of it is the same thing as playing by ear (with the extra step of then putting it on paper of course).

I wasn't "taught" to do this. It was suggested that I do it, and when I thought about it, I realized I already could. That opened the door to using it and honing it.

I wanted to mention Stan Getz is a jazzer who didn't know theory, or at least he claimed so in an interview I read. I think the singularly important thing in improvisation is being able to play by ear, one way or another. If you can't sit down at your violin and play Mary Had a Little Lamb by ear, how are you going to play melodies you invent yourself? Actually I've heard of playing random nursery rhymes and songs by ear being called good training for improvisation.

Somebody weigh this against solfege and tell me the practical differences. This is why I would be solfege-resistant. I'm not just contrary:) Isn't solfege a bit like learning say, clarinet, by ear so you can then translate the notes to violin?

June 27, 2006 at 12:18 AM · It is EXACTLY that, Jim.

Solfege is merely the European conservatory way of doing what you've done on your instrument. Since French was a universal language of sorts back then, its usage has persisted to the present day. Solfege is to theory just as Latin is to Romance languages. It is nothing but a different nomenclature for the things you're already doing, Jim.

By the way, I do the practice of playing little nursery rhymes and other simple songs by ear. I do it mainly on the guitar, which dramatically increases the level of difficulty once chords are introduced. I always add my own twists, and there's a constant danger of playing too many notes. That's where solfege saves me - I don't generally play anything that I can't sing in my head.

I'm thrilled that you're going to enjoy your theory, Carley. Wait until you get out into the pro world - you're going to experience and do all sorts of mindboggling colors that will blow your (and your audience's) mind.

June 27, 2006 at 12:41 AM · Nah. Gotta be differences.

June 27, 2006 at 01:01 AM · I always thought that movable DO was good for kids and for tunes that stay in one key. If you're trying to sing a Richard Strauss melody(or anything with a lot of chromaticism) I think fixed Do is easier.

June 27, 2006 at 05:26 AM · I came to solfege relatively late, after playing the violin for 8 or 9 years and after reading music for 4 or 5. I can't say that it has helped me, but I wonder if it might have had I learned with a movable Do. Such a system encourages the familiarity of intervals, thus the ability to play or sing tunes in any key. As someone with perfect pitch (mostly a help, but often a crutch) this could have supplemented my studies early on.

As it was, however, I had to endure endless classes substituting meaningless syllables for notes in melodies. I can think of few things less pleasant than listening to someone solfege a tune. Especially children! But for sightreading atonal pieces, or playing patterns in different keys? Learning with a movable Do might have really accelerated things!

June 27, 2006 at 06:43 AM · There are many violin methods that use the movable do as a basis for building good intonation.Each open string becomes the tonic (first note of the scale)and thus intervals can be learnt easily.First sung and then played.This all leads to musical literacy and for children who learn to read at the same time as playing their instrument it is an excellent approach.Also children arrive at an in depth concept of a scale very quickly ie where the tones and semitones are situated and have no problem in transposing this into other keys.Thus this appraoch is in my mind essential to building musical literacy and good intonation.I am surprised that the Juillard uses a fixed do system as this would serve little purpose for a country that uses the letters abc as notation.Many southern European countries use do ,re mi etc as note names thus solfege is really a way of learning to read the notes often in a theoretical sense and does not gove anyone the abiltiy to transpose quickly

June 27, 2006 at 06:51 AM · Here is my perspective as a violin teacher. My students (beginners) from countries other than the US generally know solfege, while students from the US don't. The students with solfege training learn about scales and keys very easily, while US educated students have a terrible time with these things.

June 27, 2006 at 02:07 PM · So, we have a debate of sorts...who is "right," Janet, or Pauline?

(I think what Janet describes is factual and matches my experience, albeit without the "formal" instruction of moveable do, but with that implicitly)

June 27, 2006 at 01:53 PM · Both are "right".

English was NOT my first language; Taiwanese was. Because my mother and particularly grandmother had strong influence in their education from the Japanese system, solfege was a way for them to sing songs that they couldn't do the words to. Hence learning solfege came easily to me as a child because it was easier to vocally do the syllables. I'm not surprised that people from non-English speaking countries have less trouble with solfege than Americans do.

Since I was constantly singing songs as a kid in solfege since my grandmother couldn't pronounce the non-Taiwanese words, we instinctively did the moveable do thing.

June 27, 2006 at 01:41 PM · For those who have perfect pitch, movable 'do' is useless system. Onse they know how real 'do' should be sounded, they memorize this pitch forever and can't adapt the sylable 'do' (re, mi...) to some other sound. My daughter felt really in trouble when she was forced to sing Bach's fugues using movable 'do' system. She sang easily using sylables which match to their real tone. As a result, her grade was lower than it supposed to be only because of her perfect pitch and earlier knowledge of fixed 'do'. When she tried to prepare to exam, she did crazy, useless work, memorizing unwanted sylables like words for a song, which don't fit to song itself. I don't have a habit to bother my daughters' teachers, but this time I met vocal teacher... he didn't get anything! I just asked him to allow my daughter, who trained in european system, use fixed 'do' while singing.

So now I'd suggest for teachers who uses movable 'do' system, not apply it for students who might have perfect pitch (even if it is not visible yet). BTW I noticed that many chinese students 'born' with perfect pitch... maybe it relates somehow to their language(?)

Kevin, you made the very interesting observation!

June 27, 2006 at 04:03 PM · I should leave this thread alone, seeing I'm tempted to hijack it...but, I can't. Just a passing thought (hopefully it won't be too contrary to the subject at hand) about how violinists, especially need to have "head-knowledge" to accompany any technical/musical abilities they may posess. This is something my teacher stresses a lot, about knowing a lot (even about other instruments) helps you a lot, in general. She's the kind of teacher who will shock you with questions like, "What does 'Jupiter' remind you of?" (Jupiter Symphony) or..."What intervals are unplayable on the violin?" ( augmented fourth on the G string: open G and C#, e.g.) and stuff like that. So, this whole solfege/theory talk has reminded me of the importance of knowing stuff about music, be it theory, solfege, composer info, or whatever else...knowing something in one area of music can really help in another.

June 27, 2006 at 06:27 PM · Bill, there is no conflict between Janet's opinion and mine. As I understand it, she and I are in complete agreement. Carley, I agree with your teacher's point of view. Learning theory or anything else about music (and other things, too) will enrich your understanding of music and your ability to play well. I have a question regarding teaching and solfege. How can I get across the concept of scales and keys to those who don't know the moveable do? Singing won't work because I can't carry a tune. I don't play piano, and neither do most of my students, so the black-keys-white-keys explanation won't work. My explanations about the placement of whole and half steps don't help. I'd appreciate your suggestions.

June 27, 2006 at 08:41 PM · Whistle.

June 28, 2006 at 06:57 AM · Most European countries that adopt the abc notation will be teaching solfege with a moveable do (Curwen or Kodaly) this will include northern European countries such as England,The Netherlands,Germany and further north.Other theoretical issues and harmony are approached also in a more traditional system using the notational names of the country.Southern European countries and maybe Easetrn ,I'm not sure about them ,only use the do ,re mi note names and do not have the alternative names.This means that a do is always a c and can never be anything else.Having had the opportunity to work with both systems I can say that the moveable do system is a great aid to learning the structure and sound of a scale and now teaching in Italy I imlpement a revised version without using the names do re mi.I'm sure many violin teachers even subconsiously use this method.Samual Applebaum with his String Builder comes to mind.More advanced theory,harmonisation etc is not usually covered in solfege which incidently,in Italy, is all about barking out the names of the notes in time in varous clefs and is the most unmusical and time wasting appraoch to note learning. Musical literacy is recognising the sound of the note and its lengh by interpreting the printed symbol on the page.How well this is done depends on the individual teacher and not neccessarily the method used.As a beginner progresses and begins to play concertos and sonatas they should be able to read and analize the piano part and orchestral score in order to have a full underatnding of the music.This is theory and not solfege.

June 28, 2006 at 01:26 PM · Oh, I had another question. If the main idea is to get students to sing their music (right?), then why do people do it with "do, re, mi, fa, so, la, si, do"?

June 28, 2006 at 02:33 PM · It is very odd this solfege business. In England, we use do re mi etc. to signify relative pitch, relative to the key. For absolute pitch, we use A, A# etc.

Here in Japan, the "do re mi" is absolute pitch (relative to C, ignoring sharps and flats).

If I am playing in, say, A major, and the teacher says, play "do", it means, give me a C#! (To my brain "do" here is A).

Then when it comes to keys, in Japan they are called "i" (A), "ro" (B), "ha" (C), "ni" (D), "ho"(E), "he" (F), "to" (G), from the ancient poem: iro ha nioedo: "physical form is charming, but...", So if you are told play a scale in "to" major, it is G major.

Then every now and then they introduce a German "ha" for B natural, or refer to your "gay" string - that is G string.

Bit of a nightmare.

June 28, 2006 at 03:40 PM · Maybe a little potted history is needed here.The use of the alphabet as note names was passed down to us by the Greeks who used their own alphabet in the representation of their modes.However notation as we know it was developed in Italy by Guido D'Arrezzo(900-1050).Before this time music was written in neumes,which were little scribbles above the text indicating to the singer or cantor whether to go up or down.Guido was obviously a teacher of genius for he noticed a progression of syllables in the hym to St.John which followed the progression of a scale and he used these as a memonic for his students.

UT queant laxis

REsonare fibris

MIra tuorum

FAmuli gestrorum

SOLve polluti

LAbii reatum

Sancte Johannes

I bet we can all sing the first note of each line.

But as we have heard the Japanese have their own invention.Great.Japanese music followed an entirely different history but its interesting to see hao the cultures merge and change.

June 28, 2006 at 04:09 PM · Whistling is great in lieu of solfege, but I as a little kid did not have the lip strength to pull it off. That's why solfege worked so much better.

The more I think about it, the more impressed I am with the decision of conservatories to preserve the old teachings. I am not sure if all of them realize the importance of emphasizing good theory and solfege, but it's clear that such classes have profound effects on those that take them.

June 29, 2006 at 06:36 AM · Thanks, Bill, but my whistling is even worse than my singing. Thanks, janet, for your explanation. That was very interesting.

June 29, 2006 at 08:18 AM · Kevin,

Interesting post and question.

For me, understanding the relationships between harmony,melody, rhythm and texture in music are key to developing interpretations that are intellectually grounded in the score in addition to whatever natural instincts a performer brings to the table. I would therefore strongly disagree with the post from another member regarding "educated " musicians. To me , the greatest artists have a combination of three fundamental attributes- formidable command of their instrument,naturally expressive musical instincts AND musically probing intellects, that illuminate and render "transparent" (to quote Barenboim) the scores they interpret. I sense you probably agree.

Another common thread among musicians who successfully make the transition from student to artist is to see this connection. As you said, when we examine the structure of the great masters' works, we more clearly apreciate their genius and it definately affects our reading of and our affinity for the work. After all we all know it is possible to make a phrase which, out of context is very beautiful, but which upon study, totally doesn't fit the character or mood a composer has implied through context.

Well, I'm rambling, but there are my thoughts.


Odin Rathnam

PS I'm a fellow Juilliard Grad, so there are others of us out there that find this knowledge useful- in deed indispensable

June 29, 2006 at 11:51 AM · Hello,

Here in fact, the first year students (start the year they turn 7) do ONLY "musical language", which includes solfeo, 2 hours a week, while they take the time to listen to and become familiar with all the orchestral instruments. They then choose their instrument.

The result I saw is that apart from most 7 year olds knowing by the end of the year on what instruments they like and don't like, when they actually pick up the instrument of their choice, they are totally concentrated on learning the instrument, because they have all the basic music reading, rhythm, solfeo etc. already in place.

The instrument teacher does not waste class time in having to teach those other skills.

As for the notes names sounding "silly", that is a matter of familiarity. A B C sounds silly to me, in context of music (I can't really sing B B C E..).

In fact Indian Classical music has the

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa

words to identify the notes, and the Vocal Music is actually sung in those syllables. And it is as old and complex music system as any other in the world.

June 29, 2006 at 12:25 PM · I agree with everything you've posted, Odin. And it's good to see a fellow Juilliard violinist who utilizes theory and solfege as much as I do in his career.

The only thing I do wish to point out is that what jay azneer said about musicians who get TOO hung up in theory and solfege does happen from time to time. That's like a writer getting so hung up in developing his writing style that he ends up giving short shrift to the subject of his writing!

Whenever I perform with jazz musicians (which is ALL THE TIME), quite a few of them say "I don't know theory". But if you ask these guys about chords and progressions and harmony, they'll ALWAYS give you clear explanations that often make more functional sense than what one hears in a theory class. Stan Getz played the NY studio world - he HAD to know what chords and progressions were because he was reading charts all the time. Similarly, Joe Pass would crow about how he didn't know theory but was the inventor of the CAGE chord concept which is actually a guitarists' way of practicing chords on the moveable do around the fretboard in different keys.

Parmeeta, I didn't know that about Indian music even though my interest in that form of music has been growing for the last 10 years. But your post was very interesting because it provides another non-Western (correct: non-AMERICAN) viewpoint.

Hey Pauline, let me suggest one way that has worked for me in the past when it comes to teaching the moveable do: Take "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and ask your students to start it on different notes. So instead of starting it on D or A or G like most people do, start it on F# or Bb or some other key. You'll find that some students take to this naturally, some just can't get it no matter how hard they try, and a select few will actually be able to make that intellectual transition from instrument to "moveable do" when it comes to solfege. And of that select few, a very small number of those will be astute enough to be able to improvise on "Twinkle" in whichever key they play in!

Such is the nature of "talent".

June 29, 2006 at 01:01 PM · To further develop Parmeeta's point, Indian music is a rich heritage where it does not stand alone but is rather a part of poetry and mathematics. Why maths? Because these ancient poets developed clever rhymes for remembering the rythms, using the long and short vowel sounds of sanscrit, and these poems carried the explanation in both words and patterns! What is more, the "fibonacci sequence" fell out of this poetic/musical exploration...the exploration of what sort of patterns could be produced...and this was studied in some detail and was written down, formalized about 1000 years ago! Yes, that's right, a millenia ago. Hema-something was one of the poets--I can't remember exactly (something about the Hema sticks in my mind).

There is a young professor at Princeton (He is Indian born) who gave a wonderful colloquium on this topic at Wesleyan about a year ago. He played the tabla really well, too! I think he might have even written a book on this--it is certainly in a paper somewhere.

What is lost in Western art is the beauty of nature as a whole--we arbitrarily separate literature, science, math, music....whereas Indian traditions are seamless.

June 29, 2006 at 05:15 PM · Parmeeta do those syllables that you quoted correspond to a western scale?

June 30, 2006 at 02:32 AM · Greetings,

Odin said,

>For me, understanding the relationships between harmony,melody, rhythm and texture in music are key to developing interpretations that are intellectually grounded in the score in addition to whatever natural instincts a performer brings to the table.

That`s for sure. Bit of a sore point right now. Just accompanied a really talented pianist in Chopin Piano cocnerto no2. Studied with all the best teachers, won a fair share of competitions, very musical, fantastic snese of Chopin style etc. She asked me what I thougt and I ha dfto tell her bluntly that she only playe dhalf the piece. On asking why I responded that she knew so litlt eof the score she mad eit impossible for the orchestra to play many of notes at the end of piano passages . The rubato was so extreme there was literlaly no space for that part of the music.

Fortunately we are still friends...



June 30, 2006 at 03:05 AM · So true, buri, so true.

To play a composition without rhythmic or stylistic distortion is exceedingly difficult on any instrument no matter how simple the work is. It takes theory to see the stacked chordal notes and it takes solfege (or whistling or singing or some other good melodic training) to play a melody in a way that fits the score.

I myself like violinists who play with a clear understanding of the score. That's why I like guys like Heifetz and Kubelik and Zimbalist and Elman and Kreisler and even Ysaye in a lot of things - because they stack their violinistic lines right on top of the proper chords. They'll change their rhythm and introduce their own distortions from the score, but they ALWAYS are trying to line themselves up with the accompaniment. Notice how those violinists are also noted arrangers, which is a skill that takes theory and solfege (or some form of melodicizing).

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