Over the last five articles, we’ve discussed the elements of ear training that can help you more easy identify melodies. Let’s review what we’re discussed so far:
Solfege provides a framework for melodies by establishing recognizable relationships between pitches, and training your ear to hear patterns.
This article outlines learning to determine the tonic of a given key, and placing the solfege syllables with their corresponding scale degrees.
Recognizing the distinct sound of different intervals and being able to sing them back accurately in solfege will go a long way with developing transcribing skills.
In this article, we look at the pentatonic scale, and see how this particular set of intervals can help us recognize even more patterns in simple melodies.
Triads are the basic form of chords, and can be combined to create harmonies and harmonic progressions. Learning to distinguish between different types of chords is immensely beneficial for improvising and hearing backing harmonies.
Now let’s apply those skills, and write down a melody!
Transcribing a Melody
For this exercise, you will need a pen and paper to write down the solfege syllables you hear in the audio recording.
Listen to this audio clip:
Realizing that the first tone is do, listen again and try to write down the solfege syllables that correspond to each tone in the melody.
Listen up to 8 times, and be aware of all the patterns we talked about, including pentatonic scales, intervals, and triads.
Write down the solfege (don’t worry about rhythm) as best you can, and then read on.
Breaking It Down
Let’s break down this melody into the smaller pieces we’ve looked at in the preceding articles.
This melody starts and ends on do. Simply knowing the starting and ending point of a melody is incredibly helpful for putting the melody in a concrete framework! If you’re still unclear, see this article.
Obviously, every note change is an interval, but what we can glean from our intervals practice is still beneficial for the smaller intervals showing up in this melody.
The first interval is a whole step, do-re, followed by re-mi, and mi-do.
Being able to hear ascending and descending intervals is essential for transcribing this melody. If you’re still having trouble hearing intervals, review this article.
You may not have realized, but the second half of the melody is a descending pentatonic scale:
The sequence of falling intervals probably sounded familiar, and hopefully (with enough practice!) your brain may have filled in the syllables for you. There is a repeated mi in the melody, but the outline of the scale should still have been apparent. If you are having trouble hearing this element, see this article to review pentatonic scales.
In the second measure, we hear an outlined major chord starting on do:
do-mi-so-do is an arpeggiated C major triad with octave. If you’re still having trouble hearing arpeggios, see this article to review triads.
Putting It All Together
And now, drumroll please… Here is the complete melody!
You may have managed to get just bits and pieces without getting the entire tune, but that’s still a great achievement. Transcription with solfa isn’t a skill you gain overnight, it is the result of diligent ear training practice and challenging yourself to extend your skill set.
If you find yourself having difficulty with any particular element we discussed in the preceding articles, be sure to spend extra time on weak areas. Solfege is one more highly effective tool in your toolbox for hearing and understanding music.
Were you able to get the whole melody written down using solfege? How many times did you need to hear the tune?
Is there one particular element in this series you found more difficult to hear than the others? Let us know in the comments below!