A Beginning Course In Fixed Chromatic Solfege and Music Theory
1990, Revision of 2006

With Related Pieces

CF's Composition Desk

CF In His Studio
About the Time of Work on
(Pictured on the Music Stand and the Architect's Desk) and VOCAL MUSICIANSHIP

Evan Angle and Sabrina Adler ca. 1985-1989
at the San Francisco Girls Chorus

by Christopher Fulkerson


This textbook in elementary musicianship was requested by Elizabeth Appling when she hired me as Theory Director at the San Francisco Girls Chorus; I took the title verbatim from a phrase she used in passing to describe what the Chorus needed. When discussing the position she gave me to understand that a very high percentage of the girls were far more expert at music than were their parents, but since their parents could read a book and understand the words, if the child could only sing the music, the parents could help them with their homework, even if they, the parents, didn't know music. It was a good image to have in mind when writing the book, and I kept that mental paradigm long after it was clear that no American parents would ever bother over music with their kids in such a dedicated way. (In fact we found the parents such an obstruction to their children's progress that around the Chorus our private motto became "Next time, with orphans!") Still, everything in the book is coordinated to allow a musically talented child to be led by more intellectually cognizant but less musically capable parents, if only they will. The ideal of parental involvement was obviously not that of "stage parents," which is what we usually got at the Chorus, if the parents were involved at all. One of the reasons the very first exercises have so apparently little musical content, and are mere scales, was that if the child could sing the scales the parent could learn music along with their offspring. The only assumption I made was that interested parents would recogize a scale sung in solfege, Do through Ti, or what we sometimes lovingly call C to shining C. If the parents can recognize that much, they can become mutually-self taught musicians, with their children.

Naturally I had the Bartok Mikrokosmos in mind, and some sections of the book answer to this design, as well as some parts yet to be presented, including the Concert Duets called the Transcendental Etudes, of which two are available here, and the Musicianship Test called Symmetries, also found below. But as I explained I had a humbler pedagogical situation in mind, in which the parent and the child, not the child and a teacher, would be going over the material together. Originally the course of study was to include progressive training in species counterpoint along the way: this was to begin with very easy written exercises, which the students could sing. The student was to harmonize the notes above and below a Cantus Firmus, and the original draft of the Table of Contents called for this. However the classroom situation did not allow nearly enough time for this effort; things had to be more practical than this in a highly performance-oriented singing school in which the students had only one hour of group music theory per weeks. The girls had, first of all, to be trained to read music well enough to learn their chorus music. Nevertheless some traces of the coordination of musicianship with counterpoint can be found in the text as I have presented it. I found it also possible to make points in class that would contribute to the students' feeling for and understanding of voice leading, that is, in the Schenkerian sense. Traces of this work can be found here are there in the text. I plan to revise the whole thing thoroughly and hope to include the written counterpoint exercises in a new edition. I believe in fact that counterpoint would be easier for children to learn than harmony. Certainly, two-voice species counterpoint is easier to do than four-part harmony exercises.

The titles of the volumes are meant to draw attention to the main things that the students are learning to hear and sing. There are many other musical matters in the book than those summarized by the titles of the volumes. I hope you will want to acquaint yourself, and your child, with the material... perhaps you can even get your kid to teach you music. That was the plan.

The volumes average about fifty pages each.


Volume One: Hearing and Singing C Major

Volume Two: Introducing the Minor Mode

Volume Three: Introducing the Chromatic Scale

Volume Four: More Intervals and New Keys

Volume Five: The Great Staff

Musicianship Test Duets from Vocal Musicianship

Transcendental Etudes for Piano and Two-Part Chorus

ONE-PAGE SUMMARY of the Fixed Chromatic Solfege System


Posted 9/28/2010. Last updated 11/16/2010.