Solfege and Scale Degrees

Now that you know your keys and scales, we can name all of the notes in a key. We have three ways of labeling pitches inside a key.


If you have never used solfege before, you probably know the syllables we use from this famous song from The Sound of Music.

The version of solfege we use moves Do to always be the keynote. So here is our solfege for the notes in C major.

And here it is in G major.

And so forth.

For minor, since the third, sixth, and seventh notes change, we have different syllables for the changing notes. Here is the solfege for C natural minor.

The vowels for Me, Le, and Te match the sound for Re (so they sound like May, Lay, and Tay). The raised pitches in harmonic and natural minor match La and Ti in the major scale.

This system of solfege is called movable do with do-based minor. There are also versions of solfege where Do is always C (fixed do), and another movable do that starts minor keys on la (to match relative keys rather than parallel ones).

Finally, there are syllables to match any raised or lowered pitch, if we need them. Here is the whole system of movable do solfege.

You should learn the major and minor solfege syllables fluently. Solfege syllables help me as I listen to music and help ground my ears when I am having trouble telling what key I am in.

Scale Degree Numbers

A second system of note labels is scale degree numbers. These number are pretty easy to figure out and use, and I will use these terms interchangably with solfege to talk about specific notes in a key.

Note the caret above each number. This caret tells us we are talking specifically about scale degrees.

To say these numbers out loud, we can say either “scale degree one” or “the first scale degree.” For example, Sol is the fifth scale degree.

Make sure you can connect solfege syllables to scale degree numbers and back again.

Scale Degree Names

A final set of labels can be called scale degree names. These names are also used interchangably with the numbers and solfege. These will come in handy when we want to name chords related to keys.

Solfege Number Name
Do 1 Tonic
Re 2 Supertonic
Mi (Me) 3 Mediant
Fa 4 Subdominant
Sol 5 Dominant
La (Le) 6 Submediant
Te flat 7 Subtonic
Ti 7 Leading Tone

Please make sure you know these terms as well. I happen to like using solfege most often, as I think it is the most versatile, but you will see these words over and over again.