Better Guitarin’ – ep 4 – Solfege for Guitarists

Solfege is a pretty invaluable tool for any musician, but most of the videos on Youtube discussing it do so via the piano, or just vocally. Having something explained and shown to you on your own instrument is a big help in getting the idea across and allowing you to start practicing and implementing that idea. So I’m gonna show you how solfege works via the guitar!

In the video, I mention that I’m using “moveable Do chromatic solfege with a Do based minor”. What that means is that, in this system, Do is always your tonic pitch. So if you’re in A, then Do is an A note. If you’re in Bb, Do is a Bb note. If you’re in D, Do is a D note. You get the point. Fixed Do solfege is the other main method of solfege, and it’s just an alternative to using letter names for the notes. So a C note is Do, a D note is Re, an E note is Mi, and so forth. I find this method to be a HUGE waste, as moveable Do solfege is the absolute best system I’ve ever encountered for relative pitch classification. If you’re using fixed Do, then you can’t use moveable Do, and you’re missing out because of it. Letter names are fine. The alternative systems for relative pitch classification all fall short of moveable Do solfege for various reasons. So that’s what I use.

I also use a “Do based minor”. This just means that in a minor key, your tonic is still Do. The alternative is a La based minor, where your tonic in a minor key is La… I honestly can’t make any sense of that. You’re just undermining the benefits that moveable Do solfege offers in the first place. I’m yet to hear any argument for La based minor that holds water. It’s just a dumb idea. For example, what happens if you’ve got a song that switches from the A minor to A major? Does La become Do? Does Do move up a half step and become Mi? It’s just stupid, but that’s a lot of exposition. Let’s just talk solfege.

If we take a major scale, such as G major (G A B C D E F#), we can use different syllables to sing the different notes of the scale. The root of the scale (G), is Do. The 2nd scale degree (A) is Re. The 3rd (B) is Mi, then Fa, Sol, La, and Ti. Consistently using these syllables to sing these notes is a great way to memorize the relative sound of those notes in the context of a key! Check out the video for some examples.

But what about the other notes? We’ve got unique syllables for all of them too! Here they are in relation to a tonic C note, major scale notes are in bold text:

C – Do, C# – Di, Db – Ra, D – Re, D# – Ri, Eb – Me, E – Mi, F – Fa, F# – Fi, Gb – Se, G – Sol, G# – Si, Ab – Le, A – La, A# – Li, Bb – Te, B – Ti

The following website has some good exercises for arranging these syllables and practicing them. I encourage you to give it a read:

I will make a video showing how to play different intervals on the guitar and link to it here in the near future, until then, just try to figure out some of the melodies I played in the video.

Better Guitarin’ – ep 3 – What do all these Roman numerals mean?

For musicians in the know, describing a song as “I V vi IV in F” is WAY more helpful than saying “F C Dm Bb”. Often times, when my bassist and I start talking that way, our band mates just sit there looking confused, curious as to how what we said was sufficient enough for us to teach each other a song in just a few seconds.

If you’ve ever been in that situation, and want to be in the know, then this video is for you!

For quick reference, here are all the chords for major, natural minor (which are just the major chords shifted over), and the harmonic minor in both the traditional and “Berklee” way.

  • Major: I ii iii IV V vi vii° -or- I IIm IIIm IV V VIm VII°
  • Natural minor: i ii° III iv v VI VII -or- Im II° ♭III IVm V ♭VI ♭VII
  • Harmonic minor: i ii° III+ iv V VI vii° -or- Im II° ♭III+ IVm V ♭VI VII°

Better Guitarin’ – ep 2 – When and Why You Should Use Flats

Guitarists have a REALLY bad habit of stubbornly avoiding flats, and not only can that make your charts and stuff awkward for other musicians to read, but it can also prevent you from gaining a proper understanding of how music is put together!

In this video, I’ll tell you when and why you should be using flats so that you can stop perpetuating the stereotype of the ignorant guitarist.

Better Guitarin’ – ep 1 – Know How To Tune

This is the first in a new series I’m doing where I try to correct common misunderstandings, bits of misinformation, or shortcomings common amongst guitarists. It’s kind of like “Adam Ruins Everything” but for guitar… and my hair is nowhere near as magnificent as his. This first episode is about tuning.

I’m often baffled at how anyone who has played the guitar for more than a month doesn’t know how to tune their guitars without the aid of tuner. Whenever I get a new guitar student I spend the first 15 minutes of our first lesson going over how to tune relatively and why it is important.

So why is it important? Well, we’re musicians, right? And if you’re going to be a musician, you need to develop your ear. You need to develop your sense of intonation. You should be able to recognize when two pitches match! Tuning your guitar is a simple way to work on those skills every day (yes, every day).

In this video I show you the most basic way to tune by ear, but I also show you a simple way to gamify the tuning process. Have fun!