< Previous | Next >


Senior Member
"...But usually one can sol-fa the beginning of that symphony (hoping that the musical memory of the interlocutor will do the rest)..."
Does the above verb mean hum? If my guess is correct, what is the French word for that?
I found in the dictionary "bourdonner", "fredonner" and "chantonner" for hum. Thank you.
  • LV4-26

    Senior Member
    The ususal word in French is "solfier".
    But beware, when we say "solfier" we most often mean "speak the names of the notes (do-ré-mi) with the rythm" and less frequently "sing them"
    I'm not sure about "sol-fa" but if it implies singing I would rather say :
    "chanter avec le nom des notes"
    then it would go
    Mais en général on peut chanter le début de cette symphonie avec le nom des notes.

    This is my impression but maybe in other areas or other surroundings, people use "solfier" for both speaking and singing.

    It can also be "solmiser" but I will explain the meaning of that only if you ask because it's rather complicated (especially in English for me)


    Senior Member
    As much as I want to know about solmiser, I don't want to overburden you :) with that, at least for now.
    I am still not sure about the following:
    1.So solfier is not humming, I take it, because you don't speak the notes, you just "reproduce" the melody when you hum. Is that correct?
    2.What is the difference between speaking the notes and chanter avec le nom des notes?
    Thank you.
    (I will ask about sol-fa and its conjugation in the English forum.)
    Last edited by a moderator:


    Senior Member
    Right so, I've looked up in an English monolingual dictionnary and it appears that "sof-fa" is the English for "solmisation" rather than for "solfier"

    Now "solmisation" (sol-fa in English) is when you sing saying "do-ré-mi" whatever the key used. You have to know a little about music to get this right. What I mean is it can be F-G-A-F (which is a melody in F major) and you would sing do-ré-mi-do.

    Unfortunately the verb "solmiser" doesn't seem to exist any longer.

    So you could use "solfier" instead but you have to be aware that it isn't exactly the same.
    The problem mainly stems from the fact that the English or the German (and others maybe) don't use the same method as the French to name the notes
    (letters in English and German)

    So, there it is. I understand it's confusing.:eek:

    EDIT : we posted almost simultaneously. I'll answer you second post in a few minutes (having lunch :) )


    Senior Member
    charlie2 said:
    1.So solfier is not humming, I take it, because you don't speak the notes, you just "reproduce" the melody when you hum. Is that correct?
    Yes, that is perfectly correct.
    2.What is the difference between speaking the notes and chanter avec le nom des notes?
    I'm not sure I understand your question. The difference lies in the fact that speaking is not singing, that's all. When you just speak there is no melody.

    Just an addition about "solmisation"
    The English use letters to name the notes : A to G (the Germans use A to H, but I won't go into details)
    These letters are used as absolute pitches. So if you change the key of the melody, the letters change. In my example inf F major, F-G-A-F would become Aflat - Bflat - C - Aflat, if the key were A flat.
    Whenever the English want to use relative pitches, my melody (which, incidentally is "Frère Jacques" or "Bruder Jacob" or whatever its English name)
    becomes doh-ray-me-doh* regardless of the key (C major or F major or Aflat major or whatever)

    *referred to as "syllables" at the end of my post.

    The French always use doh-ray-me (in French, do-ré-mi) for absolute pitches (never letters). So if they were to sing Frère Jacques in F major, they would say "fa-sol-la-fa" and in A, "la-si-do-la".
    In some "modern" (I mean post 19th century ;) ) methods of teaching music, the French may also use "solmization" (the word also exists in English and is a synonym of "sol-fa" and also "tonic sol-fa") and use do-ré-mi, etc.. for relative pitches as well, that is, exactly as the English do.

    To sum up
    French system
    absolute pitches ----> syllables ----> solfier
    relative pitches -----> syllables ----> "solmiser"

    English system
    absolute pitches ---> letters ----> ????
    relative pitches ----> syllables---> to sol-fa/ to solmizate



    Senior Member
    Don't mention it. It's a pleasure, really. I love speaking about things I like.

    As far as your sentence is concerned, if it's to be read by French people, I think I would go for "solfier" even if it is slightly inaccurate but it seems simpler to understand.

    "chanter les premières notes" (which is yet another suggestion that came to my mind) would be fine only it doesn't necessarily mean that you pronounce the names of the notes.
    "chanter avec le nom des notes" would be closer but still not a strict synonym (sol-fa implies relative pitch where as this one implies relative or absolute). In addition, it may be a bit long and heavy.
    "solmiser" tends to disappear as a verb. Moreover, very few people would understand it.
    < Previous | Next >