# How do you figure out the solfege with a natural music sign?May 15, 2019 9:13 AM   Subscribe

If there is a piece of music with two flats then I know that a whole note on the C space will be RI if it has a sharp. But what about a natural?

Another words, if the note would normally be RE, then it would be RI if there was a sharp in front of it. But what would it be if it had a natural in front of it?

Am I correct that if you flat a note it goes a half step down in the chromatic scale and if it has a sharp it will go a half step up? But what about a natural, does the solfege just stay the same?
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Education (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Fixed do, or moveable do? It looks like there are differences in how they are handled, and, in general, variant systems for denoting chromatic tones.

Here is one reference.
posted by thelonius at 9:34 AM on May 15

I have a background in music but not very knowledgeable on solfege as I never use it.

My educated guess would be that since naturals can either raise or lower, that the solfege would be based on whether or not the note is being raised or lowered at that instance. If the key signature has a B-flat and the note is showing B-natural, then it's raised. But if the key signature has an F-sharp and the note is F-natural, then it's being lowered. This would apply to changes happening within a measure too.
posted by acidnova at 9:52 AM on May 15

I'm assuming you're talking about a movable "do" system. In that case, if you were in the key of D-flat-major, for example, and you came across an E-natural, that would be "ri" instead of "re" because in D-flat-major, "re" is E-flat.

However, if you were in the key of B-major, normally "re" would be C-sharp, so C-natural would be "ra" because it's a lowered pitch. It wouldn't be "di" because it's not written as B-double-sharp, even though it's the same pitch.
posted by Cygnet at 10:00 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

(To more specifically address your example, in the case of G-minor [two flats], "re" is A-natural. If you put a natural sign in front of A-natural.... that doesn't mean anything and would be considered an error. To make it "ra" you'd need to add a flat. This is also true for B-flat-major, the other key signature with two flats: "re" is C-natural, and adding a natural sign does nothing.)
posted by Cygnet at 10:04 AM on May 15

(To more specifically address your example, in the case of G-minor [two flats], "re" is A-natural. If you put a natural sign in front of A-natural.... that doesn't mean anything and would be considered an error. To make it "ra" you'd need to add a flat. This is also true for B-flat-major, the other key signature with two flats: "re" is C-natural, and adding a natural sign does nothing.)

Not an error if there was an A-flat earlier in the measure and the natural was returning it back to A. In that case the A-flat would be "ra" (as you stated) and then A-natural would be "re"
posted by acidnova at 10:14 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I take it the piece of music with two flats is in Bb major, if a C# is "ri". (Rather than talking about G minor) If, in that example, the C has a natural sign in front of it, it's just "re". The natural sign is just bringing it back to what it normally is in that key signature.
posted by profreader at 10:31 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I take it the piece of music with two flats is in Bb major
Two flats in the key signature is either B-flat major or g minor. One has to look at the actual music to determine the key by seeing which note is being treated as the tonic. Looking at the question again, I see the poster is referring to C as the re note which would be correct in b-flat major. But the poster said that C is automatically re when there are two flats in the key signature and that's not correct.

Lynnie-the-pooh, can you please let us know what piece is it you're looking at? Naturals are all about canceling out a previous instruction, whether it was indicated in the key signature or canceling out an accidental that occurred earlier in the measure.
posted by acidnova at 10:39 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

In "movable do" solfège the second scale degree is "re" if it is unaltered, "ra" if lowered and "ri" if raised. In your example of a key signature containing two flats, C would ordinarily be a natural note and thus a natural sign would not change the normal solfège syllable. It would be "re" in B-flat major and either "re" or "fa" in g-minor depending on which "movable do" system you're using.

In "fixed do" solfège, C-natural is "do" (most, but not all, "fixed do" systems do not bother changing the syllable to indicate chromatics).
posted by slkinsey at 11:53 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Just to round out this answer and to echo some earlier comments, chromatic symbols serve four functions:

First, when they are placed just after a cleft symbol or double bar they indicate that certain notes will be raised or lowered from the natural scale (C-major and a-minor) by default throughout all systems and measures until or unless the indicated modification is explicitly changed or canceled. The modifications apply to every octave of the notes so indicated. This arrangement of symbols is typically called the "key signature" and they are used to indicate the modification required to form all major, minor and modal scales other than the natural scale.

Second, they can be placed within a measure to indicate that a specific pitch will be raised or lowered from the "default" pitch indicated in the key signature. These symbols only apply to the specific pitch they immediately precede (not to the same note in other octaves) and only within that single measure. The pitch remains modified throughout the remainder of the measure unless it is changed again within the same measure. These are typically called "accidentals." A flat symbol lowers the pitch by a semitone from the natural scale, a sharp symbol raises the pitch by a semitone from the natural scale, and a natural symbol indicates that the pitch from the natural scale should be used (there are also double-flats and double-sharps, which indicate whole tone modifications). The natural symbol in this usage is employed to "cancel out" a chromatic symbol from the key signature. Applying these three symbols in the key of A-flat major, a natural sign in front of a D would indicate that D-natural is performed rather than the expected D-flat, a sharp sign would indicate that an D-sharp is performed rather than the expected D-flat, and a flat sign would indicate that the expected D-flat is performed as usual. This last example would rarely be used except for the two cases below.

Third, sometimes chromatic symbols are used to restore a pitch that had been modified previously in the measure to the default pitch indicated by the key signature. Returning to the earlier example of A-flat major, if the composition called for a lowered third scale degree with flat sign in front of a C, a C later in the measure could be restored to the default pitch (C-natural) by putting a natural sign in front of that note. This would effectively "cancel out" the modification that happened earlier in the measure. Similarly, a raised fourth scale degree (D-natural) could be "canceled out" later in the measure with a flat symbol in front of a subsequent D.

Finally, sometimes there are what one might call "courtesy accidentals." These are chromatic indications that are not necessary under the rules of music notation, but help to clear up any confusion that might exist for the performer. For example, if the composition modulates to a different key for several measures without changing the key signature, there will sometimes be a few courtesy accidentals when the composition returns to the original key just as a reminder to the performer. Courtesy accidentals are sometimes placed within parentheses, but not always.
posted by slkinsey at 1:03 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Acidnova and slkinsey are totally right about "restoration" accidentals, restoring a pitch modified earlier in the measure, and also about courtesy accidentals. I don't know why I didn't think of that when I was writing my answer; it's actually quite common.
posted by Cygnet at 11:28 AM on May 21

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