Sunday, July 26, 2015

Solfege: Part 3: Learn the Solfege Hand Shapes

By now you've read the History and invention of solfege as a language of music.  And you've discovered our top seven reasons Solfege works for teaching.  In this Part 3 of our Solfege series, we give you a few tips for learning these hand signs and finding meaning in them!

Help Your Child Learn Solfege
At first encounter, these 7 syllables are nothing more than abstract sounds and hand shapes to be memorized.  Let's Play Music teachers have come up with some handy mnemonics to help your child remember it all, but the good news is that as your child uses this language and internalizes the function, the syllables and handshapes will become meaningful on their own!

Be sure to always use the hand shape with the syllable and the pitch, and with a bit of regular use these will all get neurally linked together and become a fantastic musical tool in your child's toolkit.

Help Me Remember
Below are playful talking points you can use with your child to give the hand shapes additional meaning at first introduction, by relating them to concrete (and silly) ideas kids can make sense of.  After only a few weeks or months, your child will begin to conceptualize each syllable as it's own, real concept, and have no trouble remembering the hand shape.

Each hand shape also has a playful high-five you can give to your child in solfege-style; this gives you yet another great way to say "well done!", practice usage, and keep the mood playful.

DO (the STRONG or FIRM tone, "HOME"): "It looks like your hands are holding onto a rolling pin!  Are you rolling out some DOugh?  Is it pizza dough or maybe cookie dough? Let's pretend to take a bite and taste it!  Yum!"
DO five"Gimme a DO-bump! (or DO-bomb)" Tap knuckles with your child, then open up your hands like they exploded. Make explosion sounds and facial expressions for effect.

RE (the ROUSING or HOPEFUL tone, it easily slides down into DO)"This pointy RE is the tip of my ray-gun!  Watch out or it will zap you."  Use your RE hands to vibrate and zap your child right in the armpit while making a bzzzzt! ray-gun sound. 
Or "It's REining on your head!" Make a RE handshape and set it on your child's head, then slide your hands down her shoulders and wiggle your fingers for a rainy effect.
RE five: "Let's make an X-ray!"  Tip your RE hands forward to touch her RE hands, so it looks like an X and say "X", then tip them upright and say "RE!"

MI (the STEADY or CALM tone)"Who puts their arms flat on the table like this?  ME, of course!"
MI five: Sing on mi pitch as you sing "Give ME a hug!" Hold your hands in MI position, then pull the fingertips apart so you can reach around the child for a hug.

FA (the DESOLATE tone):  Draw a smiley face on your thumbprints and hold them up. Pretend they are walking toward each other.  "Mr. Thumb and his brother went walking along and I told them, 'Be careful or you'll FAAAAAAll down and land on your heads."  Have Mr. Thumbs turn upside down to become FA. This helps students remember to point thumbs down.
FA five: "I have a FA-lower for you!" Either you or your child should make a flower pot by holding a hand in O-shape. Then insert your FA thumb down into the flowerpot, then open the rest of your fingers to make the FA-lower bloom.

SOL (the GRAND or BRIGHT tone): "I ate SOL much DO that now I am SOL full!" Place your SOL hands on your belly to show you're full, or stretch them out with the sol handshape to show how now your belly is "SOL big!".
SOL five:  Most students are already familiar with high fives and low fives, so practice those first.  "Gimme a high-five and a SOL- five, because we don't need a low-five!" Tap the back of your SOL to your child's and vocalize a smacking sound for effect.

LA (the SAD or WEEPING tone): "Now my hands feel so bLAh! My fingers are too bLAh to do anything more than LA."  Emphasize how relaxed and droopy the fingers are as they just hang there. Make a blah face for dramatic effect.
LA five: "Show me your cLAw!" Reach your right LA hand to your child's right LA hand while saying "rowr!" or "meaow!" like a cat or monster with claws, then repeat with the left.  Your child will also laugh if you say "Gimme a LA shake!" and when they hold out their LA hand, you shake it (much like a dead-fish handshake) with a feigned look of repulsion on your face.

TI (the PIERCING or SENSITIVE tone, easily pulls up into DO): "This handsign almost looks like a letter of the alphabet..." Tip your TI fingers to make a letter T and look surprised.  Let your child discover that it looks like 'T'.
TI five: "Make a TI-riangle and I'll give you a tap!" Pretend the child's TI hand shape is a triangle (musical instrument).  Use the triangle mallet or your finger to tap it and vocalize a chiming noise as if you have hit a triangle.  Show the children a triangle to be sure they know what one is!

I hope you have fun playfully helping your child learn these hand shapes.  Just as neurons for the sound, the hand shape, and the syllable are strengthened together during learning,  it will make a big difference if the neurons for happy feelings and having fun are active during your child's learning!

Don't miss the other posts in the series:
SOLFEGE: Part 2: 7 Reasons We Love Solfeg for Teaching Music

SOFEGE: Part 1: When You Know the Notes to Sing...

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

1 comment:

  1. Hi there Gina.

    Like you, I was taught about the character names of the intervals of major solfege. The names, "strong, hopeful, calm, desolate, bright, sad, piercing" have permanently imprinted themselves on my mind, as I can readily associate each feeling with each pitch. I find it gives the music I listen to and write much more depth. I constantly find the names of each interval more and more appropriate every time I hear them used.

    Recently I taught some children the names of these intervals, and received immediate inquiry from parents. "Where did you learn this? I've never heard about it before!" I was surprised to find myself at a loss, I learned it from my professors, but I have no idea where it came from. After doing some searching on Google and not finding any mention of it, I was beginning to think that I'd hallucinated the experience and made the names up myself. Finally I ended up here and breathed a sigh of relief.

    I was wondering if you know anything about the history of this concept. Any idea at all where these names stemmed from? Are they truly official?

    Would be very interested in any answers, thank you.