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Musicianship Resources

This page is supplementary to our musicianship booklet for use during rehearsals. The online content is designed to reduce the amount of pages in the booklet, allowing us to maintain a focus on notation and other visuals we use for enhancing our music reading and audiation.


Scroll for more or click on content titles to go directly to that section:

Tools for Musicianship

Tutorial: Note Names

Tutorial: Finding 'do'

Tutorial: Reading Rhythms [under construction]

Bibliography [under construction]

Tools for Muscianship

Tools for Musicianship

The more ease we have in singing using solfa or solfège, the better we will be at reading notation from sight and singing with good intonation. Singing from “stick notation,” pitch ladders, hand signs, and pitch patterns with syllables sans rhythm are some of the ways we can enhance our facility in using a solmization system. Working rhythm without pitch, and engaging in activities that require an entire group to audiate beat also improves individual musicianship.


Hand signs are specialized signals that denote each of the syllables. Like pitch ladders they provide a vertical visual. Hand signs are helpful for directors because they allow for full attention on the singers. Singers use hand signs to aid in audiating pitches. The hand signs also provide an additional learning modality to pitch understanding—kinesthetic or physical mode.


Stick notation is simplified notation using rhythms and syllables only. Sometimes the note heads are omitted unless needed to show duration. For example, quarter and eighth-notes may not have note heads because the stems indicate the rhythm. Whole and half notes, on the other hand must be notated with note heads. Reading in this manner focuses the musician on audiating the intervals by syllable rather than the spatial relationship visible on the staff.


Pitch patterns written without rhythm allow singers to focus on intervals without an underlying beat. These can be read using pitch ladders or patterns written horizontally with the syllables only.


Pitch ladders are visual tools with pitch syllables arranged vertically. These are helpful for working patterns while using a corresponding spatial relationship found on the staff.


Rhythm syllables are helpful to cement understanding of the divisions of the beat. Like pitch, there are several options for reading rhythms. We’ll be using traditional syllables from Choksy’s Kodály Concept, and counting. 

Count singing is a technique created by renowned choral director, Robert Shaw. Using count singing improves rhythmic accuracy. Count singing involves singing the number and subdivisions of the beat. For example singing "One and two and t'ee and" or "One 'ee' and a two 'ee' and a." Shaw insisted that singers change the word "three" to 'tee' to reduce the number of phonemes (single unit of the spoken word) from three to two. 

Note Names

Tutorial: Discovering Note Names

The five-line and four-space staff provides the “grid” on which to place symbols to notate what pitches and rhythms we sing. In order to talk about the pitches we are singing, we name those notes with letters. To do this we use the first seven letters of the alphabet:

A B C D E F G.

We read this musical alphabet vertically (i.e., up and down) on the staff. When we run out of letters we begin again. In other words after G comes A and before A comes G! The clefs designate a particular pitch belonging to a specific line or space, after which we can discern the names of all notated pitches on that staff. The clefs we use are treble clef or G-clef and bass clef or F-clef. 

Finding do

Tutorial: Finding "do"

Simply, solmization is a system for labeling pitches that singers use to audiate, sight-read music, and discuss theoretically.  Audiation is the ability to hear and understand music without its physical presence. Most music students have encountered solmization at some point in their music education in school, or group and/or private lessons. Solmization has a rich history, and many pedagogues have altered and transformed the system to suit specific musical and historical needs. [Click here to read more.]


Moveable tonic uses moveable-do and la-based minor. In other words, we can “move” the tonic or “home tone” of the scale to any line or space on the staff. Reading with this system puts the ear before the eye. The key signature provides where do is, then after singing, our ears and use of syllables provide the aural experience to name the theoretical tonality. The sounds and notation tell us what key the music is in. For example, if we see one sharp, we may think that the key is G Major or E Minor, but we won't know until we read and sing the music. If we find that do is the tonal center, then we can conclude the key is G Major; if we find that la is the tonal center then we can conclude that the key is E minor. 

Let's find out how to find do in any key signature. Remember that finding do, is not the same as naming the key when using a moveable tonic system.

Moveable tonic facilitates reading other clefs because one reads the spatial relationships of the pitches making knowing the letter names of the pitches and then translating to a syllable unnecessary.  [If you are more comfortable with fixed-do or have perfect pitch, use numbers or a neutral syllable when singing to aid in transitioning to moveable-do.]








To get started use the following three guidelines:

If you don’t “see” any accidentals in the key signature then do is C.

For sharp keys – the last sharp is always ti.

For flat keys -- the last flat is always fa

And that’s all we need to get started using the moveable-do solmization system!

For Sharp Keys

For each measure below find the letter name for the last sharp or ti, then move up stepwise--to the next line or space and you will arrive at do. Use the letter name for that pitch to give do a name. For example in measure two F-sharp is ti, and G is do. 

For Flat Keys

For each measure below find the letter name for the last flat or fa then move down stepwise until you arrive at do. 

For example in measure two, B-flat is fa and F is do.

Let's practice!

Still under construction



Under construction

Under construction

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