Tonic Sol-fa

From Academic Kids

Tonic Sol-fa is a system of musical notation based on relationships between tones in a key. The usual staff notation is replaced with solmization syllables (e.g. do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do) or their abbreviations (d,r,m,f,s,l,t,d). "Do" is chosen to be the tonic of whatever key is being used (thus the terminology moveable Do). This is the name of one of the most popular among letter systems which was developed by John Curwen of England. Tonic Sol-fa is also the name of a singing group from Minnesota (USA). They perform a cappella in a variety of styles and use comedy.

Some of the roots of tonic sol-fa may be found in items such as (1) the use of syllables in the 11th century by the monk Guido de Arezzo, (2) the cipher notation proposed by Jean Jacques Rousseau in France in 1746, (3) its further development by Pierre Galin and popularization by Aimé Paris and Emile Chevé, and (4) the Norwich sol-fa of Sarah Ann Glover of England. Reverend John Curwen (1816-1880) was instrumental in the development of tonic sol-fa in England, and was chiefly responsible for its popularity.

When John Windet printed the 1594 edition of the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter, he added the initials of the six syllables of Guido (U, R, M, F, S, L) underneath the note. Windet explained, "...I have caused a new print of note to be made with letter to be joined to every note: whereby thou mayest know how to call every note by his right name, so that with a very little diligence thou mayest more easilie by the viewing of these letters, come to the knowledge of perfect solfeying..." Rousseau, Curwen and others would have been aware of this popular psalter.

B. C. Unseld and Theodore F. Seward, with Biglow and Main publishers, imported Curwen's tonic sol-fa to the United States, though the method was never widely received. Prior to this, the 9th edition of the Bay Psalm Book (Boston, USA) had appeared with the initials of four-note syllables (fa, sol, la, me) underneath the staff. Reverend John Tufts, in his An Introduction to the Singing of Psalm Tunes in a Plaine & Easy Method, moved the initials of the four-note syllables onto the staff in place of "regular notes", and indicated rhythm by punctuation marks to the right of the letters. These may be considered American forerunners of Curwen's system, though he may not have been aware of them. Tufts' Introduction was popular, going through several editions. Nevertheless, his work probably did more to pave the way for shape notes. When Unseld and Steward introduced tonic sol-fa in the late 1800s, it was considered "something new".

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) of Hungary championed the system in more modern times, building on Curwen's work.

Examples

External links

References

  • The Teacher's Manual of the Tonic Sol-fa Method: Dealing with the Art of Teaching and the Teaching of Music, by John Curwen ISBN 0863141188

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