Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do

Do Ti La Sol Fa Mi Re Do!

Beautifully done! (and yes, it is Sol, not So!)

Even if you haven’t seen The Sound of Music, you’re probably quite familiar with this little method of assigning syllables to the seven major musical notes.

It’s known as solfège, and is used to help a musician distinguish between different pitches of notes. It’s not something I’d ever given much thought about until one day, likely while I was living in Belgium, I saw The Sound of Music dubbed into French

All was going fine, and then it got to the scene where they sing “Do-Re-Mi” for the first time – Do, then Re, then Mi, and so on, nothing unusual. Until after La, they sang… Si.


I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Si! It just sounded wrong. I knew, deep down, that logically I shouldn’t have any problem with it. It still fits, in terms of rhythm, and how different does it really sound to Ti?

But I was just so used to hearing Ti that my brain just refused to accept Si.

I tried to step back and be objective, and consider that there might be sound (pun not intended, but enjoy it) reasons for using Si instead of Ti. I’ve mentioned before that some sounds just don’t feature in other languages, and can therefore be difficult to say for speakers of those languages. But no, that couldn’t be the case with Ti, for French speakers. It’s perfectly easy for a French speaker to say, even in the context of the song.

The song… the song… that was it!

They had to change it to Si for the lyrics which say what each syllable stands for: Re, a drop of golden sun, for example. And si is a word in French, many words in fact: it can mean if, or so, or it can be a positive response to a negative question. So I looked up the lyrics to the French translation of the song…

Si, c’est siffler comme un merle.

Which means Si, it’s listening/whistling like a blackbird.

Now, I’m not an expert on blackbirds and the sounds they make, but couldn’t Ti suffice to represent their song? Did they really need to change Ti to Si, to get that authentic blackbird sound?

Perhaps we’ll never know why they changed it. Perhaps it was just to differentiate it from English. I guess I could keep googling, but, eh…

Anyway, as my main linguistic focus outside of English is now Italian, I decided to check how the song’s translated into Italian. And thankfully, it’s a little more logical.

Now, it still replaces Ti with Si. And si is a word in Italian, meaning of course, yes (ti is also a word by the way, meaning at/to yousingular!) The line is…

Si, se non ti dico no (Yes, if I don’t tell you no.)

OK, now that makes sense! Think about that, French.

Actually, the song overall’s not bad for learning Italian. It teaches you the difference between mi and me, for example, which is very useful.

Now if only I could sing…

12 thoughts on “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do

  1. T and S are SUBSTITUTE-ABLE in many languages – and it’s why they are next to each other in the alphabet too. The best examples in English are words like NATION or NOVA SCOTIA. We see the T – but we say SH ( which is essentially an S-sound – in Hebrew and Arabic the S and SH sounds are inter-changeable with the same letter or designated with a DOT at the bottom of the letter.) Then there are words like TSUNAMI. ) Scotia is real interesting. From Scotland – new Scotland is Nova Scotia, right? But what is being said? Closest word is SCOUT. A scout looks out for you. SC=LOOK as in scene and scan. In Scotia, if you consider the T to be an S, it would be LOOK at the OS or OSIA – which should .be… OCEAN or WATER ( as in OSMOSIS, water/move) . In Scotland and Nova Scotia, well one sort of looks at the ocean. – What i found is that EVERY WORD is a description of something, and the consonants have primal meanings that are fairly consistent thru most languages.
    Thanks for your thoughtful article. Being a songwriter as well, I really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It becomes obvious as long as you can place yourself back 100,000 years ago – in Africa, when scientists say speaking replaced body/sign ( or click ) as the prime mode of communication. The letters are hieroglyphs for those once-known ( by at least the scribes ) connections.
    I want to write a children’s book on this.

    When Trump is gone, things like this will seem important again. his presidency has stalled the progress of the entire human race and it may yet prove to be a fatal delay – like what happens when you wait on a cancer. Hope not. PS. I went to school with him. In a class with DT in 67. He paid a classmate to do his work. International Finance. He was a know it all then too.


  3. or –

    select TWO CANDLE PRESS. That is me. I will sign it. And refund you down so its $10 all tolled. You should have this. It explains the primal meaning(s) of every consonant. And yes. I made EDUCATED guesses supported by long lists of words that share consonants and meanings.

    you can also text me at 818 423 1533 ..
    i like what you do …
    i am in los angeles


  4. sorry to run on. I see you say “how to teach English” . I concluded that having ONE LANGUAGE could save the planet. ESL has that ability. My book shows how all the languages connect. You will get it instantly. It’s amazing. But again obvious when you really think on it.
    I would LOVE a partner in re-writing my book – down to simplicity. Something kids at age 7 would soak up. with Every science we document its roots. Not so with language. So are thrust into the middle of its history and accept words on faith as being “defined” that way. No thought as to WHY they were chosen in the first place. Its like teaching PHYSICS without discussing Newton. Help me fix that – for the world.


  5. The very simple answer is that in mediterranean countries when they say the do re mi scale of notes, they say SI and not TI. So when they translate the song into French for example they use the SI because that’s what’s familiar to them. They don’t recognise TI in the solfege. (Shrug!)


  6. “The seventh note was not part of the medieval hexachord and does not occur in this melody, and it was originally called “si” from “Sancte Ioannes” (Johannes).[2] In the nineteenth century, Sarah Glover, an English music teacher, renamed “si” to “ti” so that every syllable might be notated by its initial letter. But this was not adopted in countries using fixed-do systems: in Romance languages “si” is used alike for B and B flat, and no separate syllable is required for sharp “sol”.”



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