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Scales: Analysis of Familiar Melodies using Solfege

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Now that we know a little bit about Solfege, let’s use it to analyze and sing some familiar melodies…

Children’s songs, nursery rhymes, pop songs, theme songs, Christmas Carols, and jingles are great material for developing your ears and overall musical literacy.

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Note: You could sing scale degrees, but Frank prefers and recommends using the Solfege system for two reasons:

  1. Solfege avoids all the mistaken notions suggested by numbers.
  2. It is easier to sing one Solfege syllable (“Te”, for example) than three syllables “flat seven”.

Each example below is meant to be both studied and sung out loud. In doing so you develop both sight singing (relating the sounds you are hearing/feeling to the notes on the written page) and playing by ear (relating the sounds you are hearing/feeling to the physical keys on the piano). But don’t worry if you are not yet able to name all of the Solfege syllable or to hear all of the relationships. You are not expected to at this point. For now it is enough to understand the general concept of Solfege, to start listening to melodies like a musician, and to appreciate why this so important to your musical development.


Are You Sleeping (key = C major)

In order to learn quickly and deeply, you must do these studies the right way. It is not enough to merely listen. You must sing out loud!

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Listen to Frank model an appropriate way to sing these studies…


La Cucaracha (key = C major)

Sing each study out loud with the piano. This is not a test; it’s a learning opportunity.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-la-cucaracha

Greensleeves (key = C minor)

Does the melody sound/feel major-ish or minor-ish? Mi will give the tune a major-ish sound-feeling and Me will give it a minor-ish sound-feeling.

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Old McDonald (key = Bb major)

As you sing out loud, be receptive to the unique sound-feeling of each note with respect to the key center Do. Such skill will pay enormous dividends in your ability to sight sing, sight read, learn new pieces, transpose, and play by ear.

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Jingle Bells (key = F major)

Successful ear training is not the fruit of trying to hear something. It is about being receptive to the sound/feeling you are experiencing and associating that sound/feeling with something you already know — such as notes on a page or keys on the piano.

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The Flintstones (key = Bb major)

You must sing each study at your own pace, sustaining each note long enough so that it makes a meaningful impression on your mind’s ear, an impression that relates what you are hearing to the key center Do. You will know how this feels when it happens, because you will feel something click!

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Irish Jig (key = D mixolydian)

The power of singing out loud cannot be overstated!  Sing slowly enough to perceive the unique sound-feeling of each Solfege syllable.

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Close Encounters Theme (key = Eb major)

Notice that Do need not necessarily be the first note or the last.

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Bach Minuet (key = G major)

Do your ears and intellect agree?  In other words, do your analysis and listening confirm each other?

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Ode to Joy (Key of D Major)

Make sure you sing all of these out loud… and be receptive to the unique sound-feeling of each syllable with respect to the key center Do

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Happy Birthday (key = C major)

Do not try to hear the intervals between adjacent notes. It’s OK if that happens, but your goal is to hear each note independently of which notes come before or after. Instead, be receptive to the unique sound/feeling of each note in the key of Do.

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Mary Had a Little Lamb (key = A major)

You can makes some highly-informed guesses if you combine your listening with your knowledge of scales, chords, and key signatures. Here, three sharps and a majorish sound is a strong indicator of A major.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-mary-had-a-little-lamb

Hava Nagila (key = E middle eastern scale)

Music is not just “major” or “minor”. This piece comes from an exotic pallete of sounds. Of course your ear will recognize this immediately! You will learn more about this in your study of scales.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-hava-nagila

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (key = C major)

Which note sounds/feels secure, resolved, stable, like home base? That’s Do!

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-somewhere-over-the-rainbow

Star Spangled Banner (key = F major)

A lesson in educated listening: Many melodies are composed mostly of chord tones. This one outlines an F major triad.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-star-spangled-banner

Tarantella (key = A minor)

You are singing out loud, right?

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The Entertainer (key = C major)

Just because this is in C major does not mean that notes other than C, D, E, F, G, A, and B natural are off limits.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-the-entertainer

Bach Fugue (key = D minor)

Solfege can be applied to any kind of tonal music.

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I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (key = A major)

Do not simply trust Frank’s analyses. Convince yourself that these are accurate by singing each melody out loud and seeing if your ears agree.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-teach-the-world-to-sing

For Elise (key = A minor)

Which notes feel like they need to go somewhere and which sound finished? The note that sounds and feels resolved is Do, always.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-for-elise

Theme from Love Story (key = A minor)

All the notes in the melody have a unique “sound-feeling” with respect to Do, a “sound-feeling” that you will learn to hear and feel with the right kind of study.

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-love-story

Pink Panther Theme (key = E minor)

A lovely mix of E minor chord tones, chromatic approach notes, and the blues!

piano-ology-scales-analysis-of-familiar-melodies-using-solfege-pink-panther-theme

Danny Boy (key = D major)

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Special Note: Naming notes (including Solfege names) is not a necessary performance skill. In fact, the ultimate goal is to abandon the use of names altogether. Names are just a temporary and convenient way for us to communicate with each other while learning the concepts and training our ears. The ultimate goal is to go straight from music notation to sound (sight singing), from sound to notation (dictation), or from sound to physical execution at the keyboard (playing by ear).

learn more… Ways to Know a Scale: Introduction

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4 comments

  1. This was awesome! Connecting my solfege warbling (something new) with my knowledge of scales, key signitures and familiarity of the tune (previous knowledge) has truly been helpful. I love that Do is always Do, regardless of key. That this never occurred to me before: also Do(h)! 🙂

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