29. What Is The Music Alphabet?
The music alphabet expresses the logic behind the language of music. Many think that this means that the 7 notes should only be expressed in their ascending order: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, and Ti. This is not so. First of all, in music there isn’t only one direction of movement. This means that the true music alphabet should be: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do, Do Ti La Sol Fa Mi Re Do. Secondly, each note in the music alphabet can appear first. Because of this, we must know seven sequences of notes. The music alphabet includes all of these sequences combined:
Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do – Do Ti La Sol Fa Mi Re Do
Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do Re – Re Do Ti La Sol Fa Mi Re
Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do Re Mi – Mi Re Do Ti La Sol Fa Mi
Fa Sol La Ti Do Re Mi Fa – Fa Mi Re Do Ti La Sol Fa
Sol La Ti Do Re Mi Fa Sol – Sol Fa Mi Re Do Ti La Sol
La Ti Do Re Mi Fa Sol La – La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Ti La
Ti Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti – Ti La Sol Fa Mi Re Do Ti
My students are encouraged to recite this entire cycle, forwards and backwards from each note in 14 seconds, and they enjoy competing to see who can recite it most quickly. When reading, a speedy reaction is essential. Therefore, the ability to quickly recite the alphabet is at the foundation of fluent sight-reading.
Throughout the innumerable amount of note combinations and intonations, their relationship with each other always follows a concrete order. The Music Alphabet expresses the fundamental relationship between notes, accepted in all western music notation.
- Notes can be positioned skipping a step. This sequence of thirds orients the second cycle. This helps to see and read a music staff where notes are positioned either on lines, or in the spaces between them. Here, the structure includes triads and sevenths, making reading much more simple.
Do Mi Sol Ti Re Fa La Do – Do La Fa Re Ti Sol Mi Do
Mi Sol Ti Re Fa La Do Mi – Mi Do La Fa Re Ti Sol Mi
Sol Ti Re Fa La DO Mi Sol – Sol Mi Do La Fa Re Ti Sol
Ti Re Fa La Do Mi Sol Ti – Ti Sol Mi Do La Fa Re Mi
Re Fa La Do Mi Sol Ti Re – Re Ti Sol Mi Do La Fa Re
Fa La Do Mi Sol Ti Re Fa – Fa Re Ti Sol Mi Do La Fa
La Do Mi Sol Ti Re Fa La – La Fa Re Ti Sol Mi Do La
Notes can be arranged by skipping two steps. These sequences of fourths comprise the third cycle. Knowledge of these sequences helps to read melodies that “skip” along the Grand Staff and aids with chord inversion. It is much easier to memorize the fourths-fifths cycle of tonality and the positioning of flats and sharps.
Do Fa Ti Mi La Re Sol Do – Do Sol Re La Mi Ti Fa Do
Fa Ti Mi La Re Sol Do Fa – Fa Do Sol Re La Mi Ti Fa
Ti Mi La Re Sol Do Fa Ti – Ti Fa Do Sol Re La Mi Ti
Mi La Re Sol Do Fa Ti Mi – Mi Ti Fa Do Sol Re La Mi
La Re Sol Do Fa Ti Mi La – La Mi Ti Fa Do Sol Re La
Re Sol Do Fa Ti Mi La Re – Re La Mi Ti Fa Do Sol Re
Sol Do Fa Ti Mi La Re Sol – Sol Re La Mi Ti Fa Do Sol
- All other combinations of notes are derived from these three sequences, known as musical inversions.
As you can see, learning the Music Alphabet, even without singing it, is a very important aid to music development. The alphabet is a matrix for the voice and hearing, a foundation for quick reading from sheet music, and the framework for understanding music theory. This is the concentrate of the entire system of music. Learning the language of music without it is impossible.
One can learn the alphabet in different ways: it can be laid out in the form of flashcards, or recited in a rap with some neutral musical accompaniment. I have developed a computer game named Note Alphabet that trains the student to fit the notes into the proper sequences through a Tetris-style interface. All three cycles should be taught until they can be recited automatically. The student should be able to recite it starting from any point, and in a very quick tempo. The result is an ability to quickly name a note that is next to a step, over a step, or two above/below.
With the aid of the alphabet, music sounds can be perceived on a stable level similar to that of human speech. The person gets used to not only hearing sounds, but also to guessing their names. The sounds that we hear are gradually decoded into their names and symbols (notes), which we can sing, play, and write down on paper.