Why I Teach Solfege—Why Build a House With a Hammer?

“Why do we build a house with a hammer?”

“Why do we build a house with a hammer?”

Today, I taught a very bright student and we used solfege to transpose to her favorite key. When we were done, and she approved of her work, she smiled and clapped her hands with sheer delight. I knew the feeling of pure joy, when it all comes together musically. I told her, “People ask me all the time why I teach solfege. So, tell me, why do we learn solfege?”  She responded: “Why do we build a house with a hammer?”

How clever. If we needed to build a house without a hammer, we would have to forage for just the right rock to fit the special nail for your bedroom walls. Then, we would have to go to an entirely different quarry and look for a differently angled rock which would work best for the bathroom wall nails. Lastly, for the kitchen cabinets, we would excavate the nails from someone else’s house, and re-use them for our kitchen cabinets, while the other person’s kitchen would fall apart.

A hammer is a universal tool that works once, and for everyone. Solfege, when taught correctly, is a marvelous party trick. It becomes a universal tool which empowers the musician along every step of their education. From basic note-reading and sight-singing, interval guesstimation and ear training, solfege pushes musicianship skills to infinite heights. Don’t deny your students this gift just because you were introduced to solfege the wrong way. Consider the Rancer Method, an evidence-based approach for gifted and special-needs learners.

“Oh God, I HATE doing solfege. I'm about as skilled at it as I am at massaging an electric eel” —Jason Madore, vocalist, Minneapolis, MN

“Oh God, I HATE doing solfege. I’m about as skilled at it as I am at massaging an electric eel” —Jason Madore, vocalist, Minneapolis, MN

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