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Learning music without notation in the 21st century ‘An eyesore or an apology’? – Part 1



Music is as old as creation itself, so it is as old as the world. Even the Bible recorded it in Genesis that God created the birds of the air that spend most time of their lives singing.

He also created the trees, whose leaves created good music, before the creation of man himself.

To cut the long story short, the greatest choirmaster that is ever pronounced, Lucifer himself started this business right from heaven, down to the days of old in the Bible, when David played harps and cymbals, lutes and pipes and further wrote the first ever sung hymns, which were Psalms and gave them tunes for the Levites to use in the house of God.

That is why music is defined as the succession of organised sound (pleasant to the ear) with rhythms, pitch, duration, harmony, tone or mode and timbre colour, including expressions and dynamics.

The technical words used in the definition of music e.g. rhythm; pitch, duration, harmony, tone and tone color are referred to as properties of sound.

These affect both instrumental and vocal performances. It is the vocal performances last mentioned we will be treating in this paper presentation to enhance or learn the techniques in singing with tonic sol-fa instead of rout learning, which is singing after hearing from a tape without knowing the technical applications used in the music.

The art of writing down music on paper by means of special symbols is called notation in music. There are two types of notations namely: Staff notation and tonic sol-fa notation.

Tonic sol-fa helps non-academic musicians to learn and sing a song they didn’t know before.

The word Tonic refers to the first note of the scale, but in sol-fa it is doh or lah, which is the first letter of the sol-fa scale as mentioned earlier, while sol-fa is a system or type of notation for sight-singing, with some selected alphabets to match their imitated consonant sounds also.


Sight-singing simply means singing a piece of written music at first sight without the aid of any other musical instrument. It’s a special skill that both singers and instrumentalist can develop, by training with one of several Sight-singing techniques. Two of the most widely used Sight-singing techniques are called “solfege” and “tonic sol-fa.” Here is a little background on each.


For the medieval singer, life was rough. The only musical instrument available was the “monochord’ -a kind of single-string guitar, which was very difficult and time consuming.

Music notation was unreliable at best, showing only whether a note was relatively high or low-and nothing else! The poor singer would attempt to learn his/her music by struggling through it on the monochord, and then because of the almost useless notation system, forget it by the next day or week. Then along came Guido.

Guido D’arezzo

In the early 1000’s, a monk named Guido, who lived in the Italian town of Arezzo, invented two musical tools that made life much easier for the rest of us: the musical staff, which made music notation much more accurate and reliable, and a sight-singing method called sofeggio, or (en francais) solfege.

Like the method behind the song “Doh, a Deer,” Guido’s solfege used a well-known tune to help singers find their notes.
Here’s how solfege worked.

Guido began his tune on the note C…

And then made each new phrase begin one note higher than the one before:
C = beginning of first phrase
D= beginning of second phrase
E= beginning of third phrase
F= beginning of fourth phrase
G= beginning of fifth phrase
A= beginning of sixth phrase

In this article:
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