Do you do much singing in your studio? Do you see sight singing as an important skill for piano students to learn? Do you make use of the solfa system in your teaching?
I started using solfa for sight singing because my piano students needed a way to get through the singing test in their piano exams. This took a big weight off my students’ shoulders when it came to exam day.
Slowly but surely, I’ve been doing more and more singing in all my piano teaching. Singing can enhance practice, train the musical ear, and provide a greater understanding of music in general.
The Value of Sight Singing
As a student, I thought that sight singing exercises were the most embarrassing and evil entity to ever cross the face of this earth. Well, pretty much anyway.
As a teacher I’ve come to see the value in sight singing, and singing in general. I forced myself to sing in front of my students until I got really comfortable with it. Fake it ’til you make it style. And I’m glad I did because there are more benefits than I had even realised.
Practiced singers are better at…
- Understanding note relationships
- Identifying scales and key signatures
- Note reading
- Recognising patterns
- Sight reading preparation
- Playing musically and artistically
- Understanding music theory
Is that enough reasons for you? If you’re convinced but you need a practical system to teach singing, good news! That’s where solfa comes in.
Why Sight Sing with Solfa
When I did singing exercises growing up, I did them with the “la, la, la” system – i.e. no system at all. I felt completely lost the whole time I was singing. The only compass I had was up, or down. Not a very accurate orienteering project.
My interest in solfa started as a way to prevent my own students from feeling this way. Giving each scale degree a singable name makes so much sense. That way, students don’t have to grope around in the dark – they have solfa to guide them. They have something to hook onto.
The Kodály approach starts solfa with the pentascale. This is a great way to begin as this is the most natural scale. In most cultures, folk and children’s songs are built around the pentascale.
If you need further evidence, watch this presentation from Bobby McFerrin. In fact, watch it anyway. It’s beautiful.
Thinking Theory Video: Beginning Solfa
I’m not a full-on Kodály teacher – I don’t start my students with just so and mi. For me, it’s better to start piano students with do, re, mi and so; adding la later on and eventually the full major scale. This is comfortable reading territory for piano students and gives them a swift start with solfa.
These notes are introduced on page 3 of Thinking Theory Book One. Click here to see the full Thinking Theory series and preview the insides.
If the Thinking Theory workbooks don’t fit your teaching style, I hope you’ll consider using this video anyway to get your students singing more. You won’t regret it, promise.
Do your students know solfa?
Do you make use of solfa in your piano teaching? How much singing do you do in your teaching in general?