Have you heard of Conversational Solfege? I had never until a couple years ago when I heard John Feirabend speak at the Georgia Music Educators Conference in Savannah, Georgia. His presentation rocked my world and I came home talking about his ideas to everyone who would listen. My poor husband about strangled me because I wouldn’t shut up! Feirabend’s approach to teaching music literacy was innovative, but also so common-sense; it made so much sense to me! If you are not familiar with John Feirabend and his Conversational Solege, check out these following links…
A free excerpt PDF download from GIA Music from Conversational Solfege Level 1
All Conversational Solfege Products for Purchase through GIA Music
Conversational Solfege Course taught by John Feirabend at The Hartt School
In a nut-shell though, his approach is that you teach music literacy (reading music) much in the same way you would approach teaching a conversational French or Spanish class. That makes total sense because music notation is simply another language, a language that communicates musical ideas. When learning a new language, the Spanish class teacher would start by, for example, holding up a pencil and saying “el lapiz” and the students repeat, “el lapiz.” After doing that 10 times a day for a couple days, the students would start to know that a pencil is called “el lapiz.” In music, the teacher would show a musical pattern, such as the one to the left, and “read” the symbols out by singing the pitches, “Sol – Mi – Sol Sol – Mi.” The students repeat “Sol – Mi – Sol Sol – Mi.” After repetition, the students start “reading” the new language and can start to transfer the knowledge to unknown patterns. The ultimate goal of Conversational Solfege is for students to be proficient enough to create their own musical patterns through composition and improvisation, using their new “language.”
GIA Publications produces flashcards for Feirabend’s Colversational Solfege and I highly recommend you purchase them as well as the teacher manuals and even CD. There is a course this summer and anyone who has never heard him speak, he will rock your world as well.
However, in using the method, I discovered a need for digital flashcards. I created my own iconic and traditional notation flashcards for the beginning pitches of sol, la, and mi. These are my own patterns and obviously, there are probably some of the same ones as Conversational Solfege, because there are only so many musical patterns you can create with 3 pitches! The flashcards you can download below are in PowerPoint format, but can be printed as well.