I have some experience with moveable do solfeggio and I’ve been experimenting with fixed do solfeggio recently as it seems to simplify the sight singing process since you don’t have to account for modulations. However, I feel completely lost when trying to dictate melodies using fixed do as there’s essentially 12 ways to write down a melody by hearing it alone.

My questions is: for anyone skilled in using fixed do and not moveable do. How do you go about notating a melody when you don’t have access to the note names?


My process using moveable do: I’ll hear a melody either in my head or on a video and I attempt to notate it without seeing the score. Since moveable do generally revolves around finding scale degree 1 and having everything relative to that, it’s usually pretty straightforward to put the melody into context. All I need to do is then find the first note and then it’s simple to write down.

I can’t really practice fixed do dictation because I automatically hear everything in moveable do. My question is how does a person who hasn’t practiced moveable do think about dictating a melody? Do they just hear the intervals and memorize the relationships between each consecutive pair of intervals in sequence or do they recognize similar patterns like scale degrees 3-2-1 or 5-3-1 and choose some key and put everything into that context? As an example if C-D-Eb is played would think “sounds like 1-2-flat 3, I’ll call it Fi-Si-La or Te-Do-Ra”?

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    I'm a little confused; can you edit the question to clarify: How have you been doing dictation? Have you been writing down solfege syllables, or staff notation? And wait, when you say dictation, do you mean "Someone plays a melody, and as an ear-training exercise I try to write it down," or do you mean "I get someone else to write down my melody for me as I tell them the pitches"? Solfege and letter names could be helpful stepping stones in both processes, but they have the shortcoming of making it hard to specify which octave. Feb 24, 2022 at 15:00
  • Modulations will need to be sorted, whichever system is used.
    – Tim
    Feb 24, 2022 at 15:22
  • @AndyBonner I’ve updated the question.
    – Oliver G
    Feb 24, 2022 at 15:35
  • You may find a few insights here: Melodic Dictation Practice.
    – Aaron
    Feb 24, 2022 at 16:05

2 Answers 2


Wouldn't one establish a key initially, which would then give the appropriate sharps/flats? So in key D for example, C♯ would be 'do diese', and F♯ 'fa diese'. Or key F would automatically have 'si bemol' as the 'non-white' note.

Not knowing the note names won't be easy for anyone without AP., regardless of fixed or moveable do.

EDIT: just spoken at length to a friend who uses fixed do exclusively (finds it hard to cope with moveable do!) who agrees that the key is of paramount importance, and generally will dictate what each note will be named, according to that key. Even modulations will follow that pattern in a theoretical way (as in key C, F♯ will more likely be called fa diese rather than sol bemol).


Questions about "how do people think"/"how do people's brains work" are a bit tricky. But I'd suggest that most people do dictation in a few of the same ways, regardless of the terminology and tools they use.

One approach is to listen to relationships between notes. You might listen to hear intervallic contours (up a fourth, down a major second, up a minor third, etc.), or to hear the tonal functions of notes—this is what you've been doing with moveable-do solfege; hearing the "dominant" feeling of sol, the leading tone of ti, etc.

Another approach, for those with some degree of "absolute" or "perfect pitch" is simply to recognize the pitches themselves—to hear "That's an A, that's a C, that's a B flat," whether they refer to them by letter names or by fixed-do syllables. Letter names and fixed do are just two interchangeable systems for serving the same function. Arguments for using fixed do in ear training systems often revolve around a desire to build absolute pitch recognition.

In practice, even those who have enough pitch recognition to let them take advantage of the second approach will still use some of the first one. That is, even if you can recognize an A and a C, you'll probably "double check" your identification against an awareness of tonal function, even if that double-checking is subconscious. If you're in the key of G and you come to a cadence, you're pretty well defended against mistaking the final note for an F#.

One note: writing down a melody as a series of moveable-do syllables can be a very useful step in dictation, and it's often helpful to take dictation in multiple steps (I write down the pitches first without regard for note durations, then go back through and notate the rhythms). But ultimately, you'll want to also build your skills in translating this into standard staff notation, since that's a more efficient way of showing register (if do is C, is it middle C or an octave above? two below? etc.) and rhythm, not to mention chords or multiple voices.

  • Certainly agree that dictation using moveable do is far easier - but that's what I'm used to. My French friend disagrees whole-heartedly! But which octave? Isn't that a problem for each? Probably better to use those funny little dots on lines and spaces.
    – Tim
    Feb 24, 2022 at 16:27
  • @Tim Yeah, that's the point I was trying to make. I edited a word to hopefully make that clearer. And I am studiously avoiding making any claims about the relative merits or usefulness of fixed vs moveable—though if you wanna step outside and get me off the record, I'LL BRING MY OWN SOAPBOX. Feb 24, 2022 at 16:47

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