Can tonic sol-fa cope with quarter tones?

Music: Practice & Theory Asked by Brian THOMAS on November 7, 2020

Tonic sol-fa gives names to the seven scale degrees then modifies the vowel sound of note names to indicate semitone modifications. It handles enharmonic respellings, so for instance, do di re ri mi is enharmonically equivalent to do ra re me mi

Regular stave notation has symbols for half sharps and three quarter sharps and so on.

Does tonic sol-fa have further modifications of the existing note names to describe quarter tone note names? Or is it 12-tone only?

3 Answers

There are some proposed solutions for a variety of tunings.

For example, here's a solfege for 31-EDO, attributed to Andrew Heathwaite. The same page contains links to systems for 17-EDO, 22-EDO, 29-EDO, and 41-EDO.

The original system was invented by Guido d'Arezzo (ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la) and pre-dates the major/minor system. It was later adapted for such.

Tonic sol-fa seems to have emerged in the early 1800s and is attributed to Sarah Ann Glover.

Correct answer by Aaron on November 7, 2020

In the composer John Lambert's ear-training classes, he got his students to sing quarter-tone exercises using - I think - DIE RYE MY FIE SIGH LIE and TIE for quarter sharps, and DAW TAW LAW SAW FORE MORE and RAW for quarter flats. Although musical grammar also requires three-quarter sharps and three-quarter flats, I don't think they were used.

I never saw these syllables written down so they may not be spelt as he spelt them. (In the UK we really do spell spelled, spelt!) But he did invent a system called 'English solfege', and perhaps if you could track it down...

Answered by Old Brixtonian on November 7, 2020

Apparently there are such systems, but I don't know how much they have been adopted.

degrees of 31edo    syllable
0   do
1   di

But that conflicts with chromatic solfege...


Answered by Michael Curtis on November 7, 2020

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