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Conversational Sulfege

This may be a long message because the subject is a bit complicated. I'll try to keep it as concise as possible. I mentioned Conversational Solfege and have received lots of questions about it. I heard about it from two teachers in my district who have had tremendous success with it and I'm finding I like it very much too. The manual I have is called CONVERSATIONAL SOLFEGE Level 1 by John Feierabend. It says it is the General Music edition. I don't remember exactly where I ordered it, but I've seen it in several catalogues.

The level 1 manual has 4 units: the first unit involves rhythm patterns using two eighths and a quarter. Feierabend uses Gordon's rhythm syllables, hence, du-de and du (which I prefer to ti-ti ta because the du syllable is always on the beat). Unit one includes songs and poems that use those syllables; the patterns and poems are taught to the students aurally before they are read or written. Feierabend likens this process to the language process; first we speak, then we read and write. So, unit one provides songs like Yankee Doodle, Closet Key (a game my 1st and 2nd graders really like), Juba... There are many, many songs that use rhythms in 2/4 time and 2 eighth, quarter patterns.

I've begun by having the students (1st thru 4th grades) echo the 8 patterns called pattern set 1.1. These become familiar patterns to the students. In addition, they are learning songs and poems that use the duple patterns. This is the conversational solfege rote part. Feierabend includes lots of activities to go along with these so they don't become too boring, ie. (one my students like): "KNOWING WHEN NOT TO SPEAK" The teacher asks the class to stand. Teacher speaks a special pattern with a neutral syllable or plays it on an instrument. Students repeat the "special patterns" with neutral syllables. Teacher speaks/plays many different patterns with neutral syllables and tells the students to repeat every pattern he/she speaks EXCEPT the "special pattern". The students who mistakenly repeat the "special pattern" must sit down. The last student standing is the winner. Rhythm Literacy

I can't believe how good my kids are at recognizing the "special" pattern aurally. They are getting better and better at listening. Next they decode familiar patterns and songs. I might clap a pattern they have already echoed many times and have them say it back to me using rhythm syllables. Or I might tap the rhythm on someone's back and that person says the rhythm using syllables. Then we move on to unfamiliar songs and patterns.

The steps move from aural echoing and decoding to reading patterns and songs to writing them to creating your own. I also do tonal patterns from unit 4 concurrently. Feierabend begins kids on do-re-mi patterns instead of sol-mi-la because the literature uses these patterns most. It isn't really critical which you use. I have found that my students are matching pitches better and are decoding better since I started this. Unit 2 uses triplet patterns (6/8) as does unit 3. I haven't started those yet.

The first 5-10 minutes of most lessons I use to have students echo rhythm patterns and tonal patterns from the manual. We might do a quick activity from the manual - Feierabend provides many of these as well as lesson plan sheets, pattern cards for xeroxing and writing sheets. It is all well planned, sequential and is working in getting my students excited about reading and writing rhythms and pitches. Best of all THERE IS A CREATIVE COMPONENT BUILT IN so the students are writing their own "compositions" using rhythm and tonal patterns they know.

Sorry this was so long. Probably more than anyone wanted to know. If anyone want to know more (imagine that!), I'll answer privately.

Jane Gnojek

Conversational Solfege Level 1
John M. Feierabend
The Hartt School, University of Hartford
Copyright 1995
First Steps in Music, Inc.
P.O. Box 73
Simsbury, CT 06070