What is Solfa?

Solfa is a method of teaching music that assigns syllables to each scale degree (note) of the musical scale. Instead of calling the notes by their letter names (A, B, C, etc.) they are referred to by the more easily sung syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti. Variations of this system have been around since the 11th century. (Read the interesting and fun early history of solfa.)

Solfa was the term used in Victorian England. As the creators of this site are attempting to stay true to the philosophies of the educator Charlotte Mason (1842-1923), we have decided to use the term she would have used. Other names for the solfa system include solfège, solfeggio, solfeo, and sol-fa. Solfège is the term used by most American schools of music today. You may see this name pop up here and there on the site. Don’t be confused. Solfa and solfège are the same thing. (Read more about how Charlotte Mason used solfa in her schools.)

What Can I Learn from Solfa?

The beauty of solfa lies in its ability to teach the art of inner hearing. Inner Hearing is the ability to hear, read, and sing music in your mind. This concept isn’t as foreign to you as it might sound. You are reading this website right now. You are forming all the words in your mind as you read along. Imagine being able to look at a page of music and read it like you would this website, except that instead of reading sentences, you can hear all the notes of your favorite piano piece or choral work. That is inner hearing. It’s what allowed to Beethoven to compose long after he went deaf. It’s also a skill that can be learned through consistent practice and effort.

Just as we don’t learn to read silently before we learn to speak or read aloud, we don’t learn to hear inwardly right away. The musical equivalents of learning to speak, read, and write are learning to produce tones, sing simple songs, recognize simple rhythms, dictate simple melodies, and so on. We only introduce the solfa syllables to young children after they can already sing the song. In fact, there isn’t a single solfa syllable in Unit 1. Please be assured that you are still “learning solfa.”