Solfege Hand Signs

Solfege Hand Signs

Solfege is indisputably the do re mi fa sol la and ti notes. These notes can however be represented by hand movements which stand for different pitches in a scale, be it minor or major scale. The hand signs are mostly used at various height degrees depending on the pitch to reveal the comparative pitch intervals among the solfege pitches.



  • Do = in front of the navel
  • Re = In front of the chest
  • Mi = at shoulder level
  • Fa = at the mouth level
  • Sol = at the eye-level
  • La = at the forehead level
  • Ti = at top of the head level
  • High Do = a little bit above the head level


The solfege hand sign is not strenuous to learn and can be learned easily with enough practice. The ‘Do’ sign include the total fisting of the hand, the ‘Re’ sign include the raising of the four fingers without the thumb, the ‘Mi’ sign include the lowering of the four fingers without the thumb, the ‘Fa’ sign takes the shape of a thumbs-down with the hand fisted and the thumb facing down.

The ‘Sol’ sign takes the shape of a handshake with the thumb folded back inside, the ‘La’ sign takes the shape of slightly opened fingers as if to pick something, the ‘Ti’ sign involves pointing the index finger into the air with other fingers folded inside and the high ‘Do’ involves the partial fisting of the hand into the air.



Some music teachers prefer to use it because they supply pitch intervals with their own movements. Typically, it is difficult for some learners to sing and identify pitches in major scale musical components. The hand signs help to connect their skill and make it easier to learn by being able to easily identify changes in pitches. Since it gives a visual effect, it helps to easily recollect certain pitches.

Moreover, the hand sign, especially the Curwen hand sign helps encourage inner hearing and improve aural skills in music education. Inner hearing encompasses being able to internalize the pitches one is reading or that come to mind. One can easily visualize the movement and identify the pitch accurately in one’s mind. For instance, a learner can get hold of a new melody and sing it within herself from getting only the hand signs.

Moreover,  the solfege hand signs can serve as a useful conducting tool. The hand signs can help learners and even musicians sing in harmony once they all get familiar with the movement of the signs. They can be led through many different patterns and pitches with the knowledge of the hand signs. It will in the same vein make work easier for the teacher and even more motivating.


The solfege hand sign was invented by John Curwen in the 19th century, a choral director and then British Minister. He never really emphasize the chromatic alteration but mostly focused on the seven diatonic pitches, the Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti. The hand signs are essentially for enhancing better sight-singing skills.


The solfege hand signs are also referred to as the Kodaly hand signs or the Curwen hand signs simply because it was invented by John Curwen but made popular through the Kodaly method. Kodaly further Curwen’s hand sign by adding the upward and the downward movement which enhances height and depth of pitch levels as the signs are made from eyes level to about the waist level.

The Curwen hand sign concurrently starts with the teaching of sol-mi or can as well start with the popular do- re- mi. This can be done either way based on the teacher’s preference but most people adopt using the sol- mi first.

The hand signs are used to represent various pitches on a tonal scale mostly to supply visual coordination of a pitch system to enhance the reading of pitches and inner hearing of any musical component.


It is an incontestable fact that the solfege hand sign supports and enhances the identification of pitches and sound patterns. Hand signs and solfege go hand in hand and are both proven tools that help learners and musicians in the course of making a musical composition.

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