Part 3: Frere Jacques meets solfege

(from Learn how to sight-sing from scratch)

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I’m sure that you’re familiar with the well-known nursery rhyme Frere Jacques. If not, go and look it up, and after listening to it, say to yourself: “so that’s what it’s called”.

The tune is quite straightforward, and to make things easier, every bit repeats itself in case you missed it the first time. Here is the start of the tune:

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques…

As you read that, there was a good chance that you sung it in your mind, or perhaps sung it aloud. If not, try doing that right now. The term we used was “auralize”, which describes the process of hearing it inside your mind.

Now, we are going to change the words, but keep the tune. So instead of singing “Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques”, sing instead “do re mi do, do re mi do”.

Just to clarify:

  • “do” is pronounced like “doh”, or like the word “door” without the “r”
  • “re” is like the first two letters of the word “render”
  • “mi” sounds like the word “me”

Have a practice singing the start of the original song, and then singing it with the new words. Remember, you can auralize it first and practice the physical singing part later.

When you’re ready, try replacing the rest of the words on the song. Here is the whole song with new words:

Do re mi do, do re mi do, mi fa sol, mi fa sol. sol la sol fa mi re do,       sol la sol fa mi re do, do sol do. do sol do.

Get used to these words—they are called solfege. You may think they are strange, or you may even have heard of them before, but whatever opinion you have of them, they will be your guide. You may not always like your guide, but at least they show you what you need to see so that you are not left wondering. Frere Jacques can’t stay with you forever, but solfege can. Solfege is in every tune you hear. These analogies will make sense later; I can keep going with them, but I won’t.

In the next part of this series, you will get to see what solfege can do. It is quite applicable. In the meantime, keep practicing Frere Jacques using the new words of solfege. You may even notice the pattern.

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