NewsBlog Editorâ€™s Note: This post is theÂ seventh of a series written by CMIE Research Fellow Anthony Green, as part of the documentation for Greenâ€™s CMIE Research Internship. See other posts in this series here.Â Â
Throughout this process of observing the Solfege for Singers class at New England Conservatory, it has become clear that solfege is simply not just a way for people to sight-sing melodies without words. Solfege transcends many musical processes in that it can be applied to other musical and non-musical aspects of oneâ€™s life. Musically, it can be used to solidify pitch relationships, develop a sense of perfect pitch, analyze music in a deep, clear fashion, sharpen intonation either in the voice or on instruments where applicable, fortify oneâ€™s music theory skills, provide a foundation in score reading, and much more that I am probably forgetting or have mentioned in previous blogs. Outside of music, it can enhance oneâ€™s articulation and pronunciation, enhance oneâ€™s development of pattern recognition, quicken translation processes if applicable, sharpen internalization skills, and much more that I am most likely forgetting or have mentioned in previous blogs.
Another non-musical element of solfege that perhaps is overlooked by most students is how solfege can be used to build oneâ€™s musical confidence, which will ultimately result in the confidence building of other elements in oneâ€™s life. Musical confidence is definitely necessary in every aspect of a musicianâ€™s life. When performing, if not confident above everything else, then uncertainty will lead to mistakes. As a composer, if one is not confident about the composed material, then that discomfort will show in the design of the piece, and will most likely result in a poor design and a minimal expression of what the composer originally intended. Lack of confidence as a conductor can ruin the sense of ensemble amongst a group, and create a sense of anxiety that will ultimately lead to a poor performance. In essence, confidence is a crucial element to being a musician.
With solfege, if studied enough, a student gains a sense of pitch confidence. When sight-singing with a group of people â€“ perhaps a motet or a Bach chorale â€“ the sense of pitch confidence leads to a sense of being a crucial, important element of a larger community. This feeling of being needed can easily translate into a desire to be confident in other aspects of life. But it also allows the singer to listen to others, discover relationships within the piece being sight-read, tune to other pitches, work together as a group, and listen to the music as MUSIC! With this idea in mind, extreme concentration while sight-singing in fact is a sign of pitch unconfidence. Extreme concentration leads to a singer not listening to anyone else but him or herself, not tuning to others, and only hearing one part of the music. Yes, concentration is a good thing, but the confidence must be had initially in order for the correct kind of concentration to be had.
The confidence gained from solfege also translates into the confidence needed as a teacher. In the final projects of the class, the students had to choose works from their repertoire or other sources to teach to the class. In doing so, the student had to seriously think about how to teach the musical material to the class using solfege. What methods should be used? What should be worked on first? How does one know when to put the whole piece together? What is the analysis of the piece, and how can that be communicated to the students? Where can contextual conducting be applied in the music? These and more questions should have been examined by the students before presenting their final projects.
While most of these questions transcend the basic idea of solfege, the underlying reason for these questions comes from solfege. If adequately thought out, answering these questions builds an extreme amount of confidence, enough to stand up in front of your classmates and teach them what you have discovered. These projects are directly congruent to matters of confidence in performance, composing, and definitely conducting, and ultimately in job interviews, public speaking, and teaching. Out of this list, one element is bound to relate to oneâ€™s own personal goals. But one must ask the question for him or herself: how can I use solfege to gain confidence? In answering the question, one must study solfege in the way that Scripp suggests, and perhaps even develop methods of teaching for oneself based on personal knowledge of what works and what does not.
Professor Scripp has briefly gone over this use of solfege with his students, and articulated it to me in an interview. Throughout the semester, there were students who did have a drastic increase of confidence in solfege ability, and it was pleasant to observe life changing for the better in this fashion.