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I was born in a country where Fixed-do solfége is the standard. I was taught to use it from a very early age. It's deeply engraved in my brain.

However, I plan to leave the country and study music in Austria, where movable-do is the norm. I've tried many times, but I simply cannot do movable-do. Fixed was hammered into my brain from the age of 8. I don't know how to not do it. I suspect others probably face similar challenges when studying music abroad.

Any recommendations on how to switch?

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  • What about starting to learn it using the numbers 1-7 instead of do-re-mi?
    – nuggethead
    Mar 4, 2023 at 19:23
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    @nuggethead Wouldn't it be better to learn the letters A to G instead?
    – Simon B
    Mar 4, 2023 at 20:13
  • Actually @SimonB I think numbers are better. Assign 1 to the first scale degree in any key and practice learning the relationships that way. Using the letters A through G isn't much different than fixed do.
    – nuggethead
    Mar 4, 2023 at 21:27
  • Once the numbers are learned, the OP might have the flexibility to sing do for 1, re for 2, and so on.
    – nuggethead
    Mar 4, 2023 at 21:27
  • @nuggethead but musicians in Austria use the letters (A through H in fact) to denote absolute pitches. It's surely better to learn the system that everyone else is using.
    – phoog
    Mar 4, 2023 at 21:49

3 Answers 3

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First of all (though off topic to the question but important for the situation): In Austria we use movable-do solfeggio pretty much exclusively in basic music education, such as in teaching melodies, scale degrees, ear training and such. Primarily we use note names (C-D-E-F-G-A-B/H) for notes and numbers for scale degrees or functions.

You do not need to be proficient in movable-do solfeggio to be able to study music in Austria!

Now, on how to change: Usually when we employ solfeggio this does often not include actual written notes, but rather it is used in pedagogics to teach melodies or scales without notes. So unless you have perfect pitch it is just a matter of taking everything as C major.

I know this is not a good answer to the actual question, but it is a bit too long for a comment, so I’m putting this down as answer.

Point is: If you want to study music in Austria do not worry too much about solfeggio (unless you want to go into music pedagogics). You should try to have a good grasp of the German language and of the C-D-E-F-G-A-B/H note names (optimally to the point where you can understand these names directly as notes without having to translate them to solfeggio first). Because you want to understand as much as you can. If you have problems with movable-do solfeggio, teachers will understand. But if you unstand only 80% of what is said it will be much harder for you to understand what is going on.

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  • How wonderful to hear from an Austrian on this! I want to study composition, so I'm not super concerned about solfeggio with regard to pedagogics haha. I'm mainly concerned about it because entrance exams in Austria seem to always require good sight-singing skills. They even require atonal sight singing, which I'm rather scared about lol, do you think it would be a big problem if I did these exams without using movable-do solfege?
    – John05
    Mar 6, 2023 at 3:28
  • @John05 You do not need solfeggio to sight-sing a piece. If they bring something like this they most like want to assess if you are able to understand a melody from looking at the notes without having to play them. If you feel uncomfortable about this it is wiser to spend your time training this instead of forcing yourself to do it in movable-do solfeggio. I’m quite sure they’s accept you singing on la-la or something. Do you have a specific place in mind? Vienna? Salzburg? Linz? Klagenfurt? Graz? You might just want to write a mail and directly ask if movable-do solfeggio is required.
    – Lazy
    Mar 6, 2023 at 8:17
  • that's a wise suggestion! My 1rst choice would be the "Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien," which you are probably familiar with. However, their entrance exam is spectacularly difficult, so obviously I would be open to other options. If you don't mind me asking though, have you had any experience with music entrance exams in Austria? I would appreciate any tips/wisdom on that front!
    – John05
    Mar 7, 2023 at 2:49
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  1. As a first step, learn an entirely different system. It could be numbers (0 = C; 1 = C#; 2 = D; ...), scale degrees, or note names, for example, but what you're looking for is anything that disrupts your connection to fixed do. A couple of other possibilities: Indian classical music has a solfege system called sargam that can be adapted to operate like do-based systems. Or create your own system (say, T for tonic; U for supertonic; M for mediant; etc....)

  2. (Optional) Once you're comfortable (enough) with the new system — meaning, you can use it without getting unduly distracted by do-based thinking — convert the new system to a movable system. Let's say, for example, the "new" system was numbering the notes 0 to 11 — that's a "fixed" system, but it can be converted to a moveable system by shifting from 0 = C to 0 = Tonic.

  3. Once you have a moveable non-do solfege system, convert back to do, but now in moveable form.

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  • I agree, mostly. Yes to disrupting the fixed do system. But I don't see the value in giving each pitch a number, such as c=0, c#=1 etc. For movable do to work, the syllable do (or the number 1) isn't assigned to a specific note, but to the tonic.
    – nuggethead
    Mar 5, 2023 at 0:18
  • @nuggethead Agreed. That's why an interim stem might be needed to shift a new fixed system to a new movable system. If the "new" system is already moveable, then step (2) isn't needed.
    – Aaron
    Mar 5, 2023 at 0:45
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Working with French musos, having been steeped in movable do, I appreciate your problem from the opposite side!

Chances are, you will by now have developed a pretty good 'absolute pitch', where do has always been C.

It's going to be (as you've already found) a hard job to change. However, a way round might be to get used to the idea that there's a change of key for every piece - which is in fact true!

So, instead of regarding a piece in key D having the D as re, ignore your instinct, and pretend the key is actually C, so that D now becomes do. Which is exactly what movable do is all about. This will be difficult while looking at the dots, but easier when playing them on an instrument.

In other words, accept it for what it is, and don't try to translate from fixed to moveable, just gently take the time to learn the new system, and regard it as that.

Otherwise, try using diatonic numbers - as in ^1 for tonic, ^5 for dominant, etc., without referring any of that back to fixed do (unless the piece is actually in key C!). Sharps and flats (accidentals, not key sig.) will be needed - but they are in both systems anyway. Best of luck - it'll take time, and effort.

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