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Solfège Note Names

reading music

Question: Hello, I am a beginner at playing the keyboard and I have just been learning to read notes.

My teacher has given me notes to practice – like quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.

I am not sure where my fingers go, and he hasn’t told me C, D, A, F, etc. He has taught me these ones: Sol, La, Do, Mi, Fa, etc.

How do I read those notes?

– Courtney

Albert’s reply: Great question, Courtney. Fortunately the answer is simple: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti (or si) are simply the note names C, D, E, F, G, A and B in French and Italian!

Worldwide, the solfège system is used for singing notes. Using do, re, mi… in place of C, D, E… is standard, and probably easier to sing.

“Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music is a wonderful song for learning the solfège syllables. You may know the lyrics:

Do – a deer, a female deer

Re – a drop of golden sun

Mi – a name I call myself

Fa – a long, long way to run

Sol – a needly pulling thread

La – a note to follow sol

Ti – a drink with jam and bread

The song goes up the C major scale, introducing each solfège syllable with its corresponding note! I’ve slightly updated the lyrics, replacing English words with the actual solfège note names (such as ti in place of “tea” and sol in place of “sew”), to make the note names clearer for music education purposes. That’s the purpose of this song in the musical, after all.

I use the traditional convention of si (rather than ti) for scale degree 7 because it is the original standard that continues to be used in all Romance languages. There was a music teacher in England during the 19th century who replaced si with ti so that each note would begin with a different letter name, and this caught on in Anglo-Saxon countries. Si is still the international standard for fixed do solfège.

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