Wanna be great? Do the solfège.

Last night I sat spellbound as the board members of the GGMC (Golden Gate Men’s Chorus) debated the value, and frankly desire of specific chorus members to incorporate solfège as part of their overall technical development. For those musicians out there, the idea of solfège either makes you cringe, go running for the door, or jump up and down and squeal “more, more.” The latter I would imagine only applies to a few of us geek musicians who wouldn’t think of going a day without doing our scales.

For you non-musicians, I’ll simplify. Remember the “Do, re, mi” song from “The Sound of Music.” It’s the seven syllable method for breaking down musical scales. Start with “do” and end with “do.” The technique of setting “do” then finding the various intervals between the syllables for any given scale is a great way to learn sight singing, sharpen the ear and voice for hitting the pitch, and in general, keeping a musical brain tight.

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The argument in a semi-professional chorus is understandable. You’ve got many folks who have the technique nailed. It seems remedial. For those who have no formal training, but lots of singing talent, solfège is irritating. “I just want to sing.” In this day and age when people like Lindsay Lohan can launch a singing career, and any old hack can be a marketer, who needs scales? Oh wait, Lindsay is now in a pit of despair…but I digress. I started my training as a violinist at the age of 4. I started piano at 9 and began singing at about the same age. As you can imagine, I had lots of great teachers with varying styles, but the one thing they had in common was an insistence on scales, Etudes and the dreaded “s” word. I did arpeggios, major, minor scales, and finger cramping Etudes for hours. And only after I’d mastered these, during each and every lesson, did I get to move on to the pieces. Magically, those exercises made the music easier and easier and it’s way more fun to do something when you know how to do it well.

My kids want to learn music. They take piano, drums, and guitar but they always, always complain about the exercises. Being the “no fun” mom that I can be, I put the pressure on the technique. And I tell them, music is way more fun when you have technique. And even the professionals practice their technique. Have you ever been in a concert hall with a pianist during his warm up? I have and guess what? Almost always, there are a few scale-like things that happen before the music starts.

This also applies to business. Just the other day I sat through a webinar on crafting a pitch to big business by Jill Konrath author of “Snap Selling.”

It was 20 minutes well spent. I’ve been doing a lot of business development lately and was feeling in the mood for a little confidence-building technique. This session did the trick. It seemed pretty basic at first but when I applied the techniques to my current approach, I found there were many small tweaks I could make that would make me more effective. I also learned that the current business environment requires a slightly different approach. I took the time to apply what I’d learned and the very next day I was feeling more confident, generating better results, and finding new ways to connect with people who I could help.

In this day and age, everyone thinks they can market, sell, create a business. Many, many people are succeeding doing things they’ve never been trained to do. But, it’s a heck of a lot easier, and in the long run, more fun, to have a little underlying technique. So whatever you’re trying to do today, find an exercise to sharpen your skill, do that first, and the rest is gravy.

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