The first time I realised I had perfect pitch was during a routine piano lesson, during which my teacher was going through aural training with me in preparation for my ABRSM exam. When I was able to reproduce a verbatim repetition of a short melody she’d played earlier, she looked at me with wide-eyed merriment. As a young child who barely understood much about music back then, I was confused by her reaction - I’d thought that this ability was one that everyone possessed.
Have you met musicians that can play songs in different keys? Does it make you wonder how they can transpose so effortlessly? Or are you impressed with how some people can pick up any music score and sight-sing?
One of the effective ways to do this is through solfege. Musicians employ this system that uses syllables to identify the pitches of a scale, correlating to the degrees of scale topic introduced in the ABRSM Grade 2 theory syllabus. This system was conceived by Italian music theorist, Guido of Arezzo, in the eleventh century. Guido named the six pitches of the hexachord after the first syllable of the Latin hymn, Ut queant laxis, the “Hymn of St. John the Baptist”, resulting in the pitches, ut, re, mi, fa, sol and la. Building on Guido’s work, later musicians added more syllables to the system as well as modified some of the names of the existing pitches.
What is solfege? Today, all of us would be familiar with the phrase ‘Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La Ti, Do’. This was also made famous by this song from The Sound Of Music.
This series of eight syllables correspond to the eight pitches found in the major scale. In music education, Kodály was one of the key proponents of this method. and uses a system of movable-do for sight-singing. Sight-singers would have to identify the corresponding solfege on the sheet music, find the “home” (tonic), and this helps develop the singer’s tonal function. He felt that movable-do solfege should be learnt without reference to the staff or clef, and also developed some hand motions to accompany them.
This framework provides an easy to understand, straightforward structure in tackling sight-singing at any level. There are numerous learning benefits associated with the solfege system. Here are a few of them.
Essential to play by ear.
If you want to learn how to play a song without available written scores, you may need to learn it by ear. In this case, the solfege system would come in handy as it can serve as the ‘lyrics’ to an instrumental song. We tend to remember pitches better that way. Remember how to sing ‘Happy Birthday’, you would. But, know how to play ‘Happy Birthday’ on an instrument? You might not. Solfege helps to bridge this gap in between the voice and the instrument.
Improves tonal memory of the major/minor scale.
We often hear students complaining about playing songs that involves a change of keys. This is because they find it difficult to recognise the new key as they play it. Students could also make use of the concept of the movable-do, where we shift the ‘do’ syllable as we change keys. The movable-do may help students who are having trouble recognising new tonal centres. By moving the ‘do’, we would effectively produce the same scale on a different starting note, making it easier for our ear to recognise new tonal centres.
Helps in sight-reading/singing.
Sight-singing is an integral part of the exam syllabi. Students are tasked with vocalising a melody from score, seen for the very first time. By using solfege, students can fix pitches onto the otherwise ‘silent’ music score. This way, the score would be interpreted as a series of audible pitches, enabling a student to be able to sing them out. This skill could also be extrapolated into sight-reading for an instrument. Through using solfege, we would have an idea of how a passage sounds like before we actually attempt to play in on our instruments.
D-Flat Studios employs the solfege in our classes, across all instruments. If you are interested in learning more about it, give us a call and ask for a free trial lesson. Our team of dedicated teachers will be happy to show you how the solfege system can open up learning possibilities.
Play on and Tinkle Away!
Music takes its listener on a journey with every note, changing a listener’s response at every junction, through the highs and then to the lows. Ever wondered how composers and arrangers achieve this? And how music endings let you feel at peace after a joy ride through the past few minutes? One of the tools composers commonly employ is the use of dominant chords. Dominant chords are used in every piece of music, as it is an effective way to signal a cadence or a change in mood. To understand this, we must first discuss the conception of tertian harmony in the common practice period.
In the Western tradition after the 17th century, harmony is generally defined through the use of chords. The tertian harmony, formed by stacking intervals of thirds on top of one another gained popularity due to the blend of consonance and dissonance it brought. The dominant chord is an important member of this family of chords, achieved by starting the sequence mentioned from the fifth scale degree of any key. Take C Major as an example. By counting till the fifth degree, we would get G, which is dominant of C Major. A common way of voicing the dominant chord would be to use triads, stacking 2 other notes on top of G. in our case, we would be able to form G, B and D or simply, G Major Triad. We could also stack more thirds to our triad, up to four more to form more complex sounding chords. However, for now, let’e just stick with our G Major triad first.
Moving on to the common practice period, though there are no exact dates for this phenomenon, musicians generally agree that this period started from the mid-Baroque period lasting until the Impressionist period, widely considered as the decline of tonal harmony. However, during the common practice period, tonal harmony or conventional harmony dictates that a piece of music should have a blend of consonance and dissonance, or in common terms tension and release. Frank Zappa once said that “The creation and destruction of harmonic and 'statistical' tensions is essential to the maintenance of compositional drama. Any composition (or improvisation) which remains consistent and 'regular' throughout is, for me, equivalent to watching a movie with only 'good guys' in it, or eating cottage cheese”.
Dominant chords contribute to this standard by providing all the tension that composers need in their composition. Dominant chords by themselves sound volatile and has a need to be resolved to a more grounded or consonant chord, for example, the tonic. This particular relationship is what composers refer to as a perfect cadence. Listeners are terribly familiar with this cadence, as this is normally what we hear on the endings in commercial recordings.
Dominant chords also act as the pivot chord, or in simple terms the bridge in between 2 keys. This arrangement happens very often in music that has a modulation, a change of key. The common practice period embraced the modulation to provide interest and drama to musical pieces. Usually, the dominant chord of the new key is used in order to prepare the listeners for the change of key.
As music evolved through time, so did harmony. Still based on tertian harmony, dominant chords began to embrace the additional ‘tension’ notes as discussed earlier. By including these notes into the dominant chord, what they produced was a new sound palette ready to spark the composers’ creativity. This new sound palette would lead to more harmony-enriched works which began to show prominence starting from the Romantic era.
If you are interested to learn more about music theory and harmony, consult your music teacher!
Play on and Tinkle Away!!
On the back of its popular holiday programmes, D-Flat Studios will be launching a Jazz For Kids programme, introducing the world of jazz to participants 9 to 14 years old. The 3 week programme will give students the opportunity to engage in structured jazz improvisation, learning the rudiments of jazz chords and scales.
Parents will also get to enjoy the outcome - culminating in a showcase featuring all of the music and solos they would have learnt over the 9 sessions. Here we outline what they can expect to achieve, covering a range of topics from reading lead sheets to listening exercises.
Week 1. Jazz basics
Jazz is rooted in the listening tradition, breaking away from traditional note-reading and sight-reading. It communicates with its own notation, commonly known as lead sheets. Lead sheets are designed to facilitate improvisation, whilst dictating structure. We will also discuss at length the methodologies involved in playing tunes by ear. Playing by ear serves as the foundational skillset for an improvising musician. During this period, students will be challenged with learning a tune through a new approach.
Week 2. Some Standard repertoire
Armed with an understanding of the building blocks of jazz, students will be immersed with selected repertoire to kick off their jazz journey. Repeating simple 5-note phrases, applying them to different rhythms help generate improvisation ideas.
Week 3. Showcase Preparation
All that learning will be put on show on 8 Dec 2018, where parents can enjoy the fruits of their children’s work! Performance-based learning is critical and working towards a showcase will let students demonstrate their understanding. Above all, they will channel their creativity through improvisation. In this showcase, students will be challenged to work as an ensemble to produce a cohesive performance.
If your children are creative and have a basic understanding in music, this might be their chance to showcase their creativity and learn some useful techniques along the way!
20 November - 6 December 2018
Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10am - 1130am
Showcase on 8 December 2018, 2:30pm - 4pm
$450 for 10 sessions
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 6225 7175 for more information. Registration open at www.dflat.com.sg/booking.
An age ago, you may find piano teachers advocating the purchase of a grand or upright piano, commonly referred to as acoustic pianos, discouraging students from practising on a keyboard. Reasons may range from acoustic pianos being more ‘realistic’ and superior sounding. Since then, with the rapid advancements in music technology and sound production, modern keyboards sing a different song altogether. With high definition sampling, reconstruction of the fingerboard, advancement in the development of motion and trigger sensors, these critical advancements added much nuances to the modern keyboard. With these massive upgrades being available in the market, one might ask, how much better is the acoustic piano? Does the price justify its value? Is getting an acoustic piano still the instrument of choice for private practice? Well, in addition to our previous blog entry, here is some additional information to help you in your learning journey.
"This is challenging! I played this passage everyday last week, but I am still not getting it! How do I practice this?"
Practice and rehearsals are critical to anyone picking up any instrument or sport. Some skills are harder than others, and require a more thoughtful and dedicated approach. Here are a few suggestions which may help you maximise your practice sessions!
It has long been said that learning to play the piano, violin, trumpet or trombone - engaging in music lessons, has always been associated with better cognitive skills and improved brain power. Many would agree that it is a great skill to have, and in one way or another improves one's perspectives and senses. What does the science say? We list some known studies and uncover other observable benefits of music!
In our teacher profile this week, we want to get to know more about our talented and fun-loving piano teacher, Dickson Goh. Dickson brings much laughter to the classroom, and our young talents have been learning much from his energetic classes since April 2018. When asked about what they love most about his classes, students have said that he is funny and colourful, bringing music to life through his patience and passion.
Purchasing a piano is an important decision. It brings so much joy to the family, bringing music to the household, creating a lifetime of musical enjoyment. There is a vast variety to choose from - acoustic or digital, upright or grand, black or white - choosing a suitable piano may seem like a tough choice. D-Flat Studios is here to provide some quick tips before you make that decision
At D-Flat Studios Singapore we have many adults picking up piano for the first time. Our teachers are always excited to introduce the piano to fresh and mature minds, and are also encouraged by the great number of adults coming back to the piano after shutting their lids on those ivories for decades. Everyone who has come back to the piano enjoy the mental challenge of learning or re-learning the instrument. And some of them have been moved to tears when they are back making music!
D-Flat Studios' students put up a stellar showing in the first music exam season of 2018!
In March 2018, 18 students presented themselves for the 1st session of the ABRSM theory and practical exams. The practical exams were held on site at our Tanglin Studio and the theory exams were held at Concorde Hotel.
17th April 2018 - D-Flat Studios is constantly looking for talented individuals to join our small team, and we were so happy to have Lydia join us in 2018! Lydia is an accomplished teacher, nurturing talents for the past 10 years, having taught in Singapore, Malaysia and the United States to students of different ages and across nationalities. She is passionate about sharing her love for music as well as improving her craft.
13th April 2018 - Music and piano education is commonplace in Singapore, and parents' appetite for the best learning opportunities shows no signs of waning. Piano lessons continue to gain popularity, and D-Flat Studios brought a first to the music education landscape. Joshua Hanitio, 9, presented the country's first Associated Board of the Royal School of Music's (ABRSM) exam conducted on a digital piano at D-Flat Studios' Tanglin branch, scoring a distinction.