Solmization is a system of attributing a distinct syllable to each note in a musical scale. Various forms of solmization are in use and have been used throughout the world, but solfège is the most common convention in Europe and North America. The seven syllables normally used for this practice in English-speaking countries are: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti (with a chromatic scale of ascending di, ri, fi, si, li and descending te, le, se, me, ra).

Guido of Arezzo is widely considered to be the origin of the European tradition of solmization. In Guido's Micrologus (1026), the ut–re–mi–fa–so–la syllables are derived from the initial syllables of each of the first six half-lines of the first stanza of the hymn Ut queant laxis, whose text is attributed to the Italian monk and scholar Paulus Diaconus.[1] Giovanni Battista Doni is known for having changed the name of note "Ut" (C), renaming it "Do" (in the "Do Re Mi ..." sequence known as solfège).[2] An alternative explanation, first proposed by Franciszek Meninski in Thesaurus Linguarum Orientalum (1680) and later by J.-B. Laborde in Essai sur la Musique Ancienne et Moderne (1780), is that the syllables were derived from the Arabic solmization system درر مفصّلات Durar Mufaṣṣalāt ("Separated Pearls") (dāl, rā', mīm, fā', ṣād, lām, tā') during the Middle Ages,[3] but there is no documentary evidence for it.[4]

In India, the origin of solmization was to be found in Vedic texts like the Upanishads, which discuss a musical system of seven notes, realized ultimately in what is known as sargam. In Indian classical music, the notes in order are: sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, and ni, which correspond to the Western solfege system.[5]

Byzantine music uses syllables derived from the Greek alphabet to name notes: starting with C, the notes are ni (eta), pa (alpha), vu' (beta), ga (gamma), di (delta), ke (epsilon), zo (zeta).

In Han people's music in China, the words used to name notes are (from fa to mi): 上 (siong or shang4), 尺 (cei or chi3), 工 (gong), 凡 (huan or fan2), 六 (liuo or liu4), 五 (ngou or wu3), 乙 (yik or yi3). The system is used for teaching sight-singing.

In Japanese music, the first line of Iroha, an ancient poem used as an "ABC" of traditional kana, is used for solmization. The syllables representing the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, G are i, ro, ha, ni, ho, he, to respectively. Shakuhachi musical notation uses another solmization system beginning "Fu Ho U".

In Indonesia, Javanese musicians derive syllables from numbers; ji-ro-lu-[pi]-ma-nem (siji, loro, telu, [papat, normally skipped in pentatonic scales], lima, enem).

In Scotland, Canntaireachd was used as a means of communicating bagpipe music verbally.

See also

Other systems invented for teaching sight-singing are:

See also Do Re Mi for songs named after those solmization syllables.


  1. Palisca, Claude V. "Theory, theorists §5 Early Middle Ages". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  2. McNaught, W. G. (1893). "The History and Uses of the Sol-fa Syllables". Proceedings of the Musical Association. London: Novello, Ewer and Co. 19: 35–51. ISSN 0958-8442. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  3. Farmer (1988), p.72–82.
  4. Miller, Samuel D. (Autumn 1973), "Guido d'Arezzo: Medieval Musician and Educator", Journal of Research in Music Education, MENC_ The National Association for Music Education, 21 (3): 239–45, doi:10.2307/3345093, JSTOR 3345093
  5. Morris, Robert (2009). "Architectonic Composition in South Indian Classical Music: The "Navaragamalika Varnam"". In Tenzer, Michael. Analytical Studies in World Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 309. The svara sections are sung in sargam (Indian solfege), using the Indian note names, sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni (which correspond to the Western do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti).
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