Singing from the 11th Century—Sunday Night’s Singing Practice Class

Alaina Ferris - Voice Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Alaina Ferris

By Alaina Ferris – Voice Instructor at The Lesson Studio

The Sunday night Singing Practice Class that I am hosting a The Lesson Studio was inspired by a method of voice instruction from the 11th century. Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th century Benedictine monk, created the solfège method so that singers could learn to sing melodies that they had never heard before by using a system of syllabic notation: Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do, etc. Each syllable is committed to a specific note frequency (this is known as the fixed Do system). Through practice, sound patterns and muscle memory enable the singer to sing the pitch without having to hear it played first from another instrument. In this way, singers could reclaim their voice as an independent instrument. He wrote:

“In dealing with an unknown melody […] we ought not to look for the sound from some person or instrument, like blind men who can go nowhere without a guide. Rather, we ought to fix fast in our memories the characteristics of every note”

Guido de Arezzo,
Letter on Singing Unheard songs, 1030 a.d.
Trans. by Lawrence Rosenwald

I take this quote very much to heart in that I believe every person, not just “singers” or “musicians” should have the opportunity to learn the characteristics of notes and sounds that come from their bodies. Singing is not simply an act of assimilating music through other sources, it is an act that comes from within human body.

Our singing practice class uses Guido’s solfège syllables to “fix fast in our memories” the sounds and characteristics of specific notes. The class also uses this opportunity to understand how these sounds and musical pitches feel. By incorporating simple breathing and movement exercises, we further establish the connection between internal processes we are using to create a sound that is both internal and external.

Too often, I hear stories of people who have spent their lives under the assumption that they can’t sing, or worse, shouldn’t sing. The class is the perfect opportunity for anyone to reengage with an ability that is already nestled in the human body. It is also a great opportunity for experienced singers and instrumentalists to work on their ear training.

For more information about Sunday night’s Singing Practice Class, or about Boulder voice lessons, please call 303-543-3777 or contact us via e-mail.


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