Kodaly, Solfege and the Do Re Mi

We love using the Kodaly repertoire and solfege hand signs in our music classes, you might know this better as the ‘Do Re Mi’s. Having been a music teacher for 15 years, I have a clear idea of what students need to develop in order to be school ready, and ready to learn an instrument, and Solfege is a wonderful way to develop these skills. You can see one of our students demonstrating the ‘Do’ hand sign in the banner photo.

In music, just like other parts of life, there are many methods to learning. Like the Suzuki approach, Kodaly is a music education method and philosophy focussing on early childhood education. The Kodaly approach was founded by Zoltan Kodaly in Hungary in the early 20th century. Both methods focus on learning through intuition, quick learning techniques and of course, meeting the child where they are in their developmental stage.

The Kodaly approach is best known for using hand signing through the Curwen system, named after Reverend Curwen. This name is not totally correct as it was originally Sarah Glover who developed the solfege approach, so many are now calling it Curwen/Glover hand signs.

Curwen/Glover hand signs and solfege syllables are used through all levels of music education. It was a core subject in my Music degree at the University of Melbourne, so it’s not just for little ones.

We use Curwen/Glover hand signs in Leading Note classes to help with:

  • improving intonation and pitch (i.e. singing in tune, and identifying different notes)
  • by using solfege syllables the underlying structure of the scale becomes clearer, and therefore the ability to sing in tune is enhanced
  • using hand signs further enhances the ability to sing in tune, as the brain has something external and tactile to link the abstract concept of pitch to
  • building harmonic awareness
  • developing motor skills.

We perform our hands signs in front of our body and in line with the centre. Normally we use one hand but younger developing students can use two to mirror the signals as this helps retain memory of them. As the student develops they will become comfortable just using one.

Do Re Mi – what?

You may be familiar with the solfege syllables through The Sound of Music. Think of the song: ‘Do a Deer, a female deer’. Well, you were getting some music education along with your Sunday movie!

Each solfege syllable represents a different note. ‘Do’ is the first note in the scale, ‘re’ is the second note, etc. These are the solfege syllables for any major scale:

  • Do
  • Ti
  • La
  • So
  • Fa
  • Mi
  • Re
  • Do

You might notice that there are two notes called ‘Do’. This is because in Western Art Music our scales start and finish on the same note. For example, a C Major scale starts and finishes on the note C.

Keen to see this in action? Click here to book a class to start your musical adventure with Leading Note!