What is the Difference Between Do Re Mi and A B C

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What is the Difference Between Do Re Mi and A B C

Depending on which country you are from in this beautiful world you may have been introduced to music theory in a different way. Some countries use do re mi fa sol la ti do, and some countries use alphabet letters instead.

So, what is the difference between Do Re Me and A B C really? And which one is best to learn from?

I’ll give you my opinion in this brief article:

In the movie “The Sound of Music” Maria describes “do re mi” as being similar to the alphabet, because they both start at the beginning of a musical scale.

What they have in common is that they are both the first three syllables of a pattern. ABC starts off the sequence of letters in the English alphabet, and they are a way of categorizing the sounds we hear and speak in the English language.

Do, re, mi, are the first three syllables that represent the first three notes or “tones/pitches” of a scale.

Not every country uses the same method of do, re mi!

The official name for this is “solfege”. If you are in the key of C Major, “do” would be C, “re” would be D, and “mi” would be E, etc. Or if you are in the key of A Major, “do” is A, “re” is B, “mi” is C#.

I hope that’s super easy to understand so far. The United States uses only A, B, C, (etc) and many European countries use “do, re, mi etc”. The rest of the world is a mix. But, it really depends on where you are and the teacher you are studying from. So, don’t take this as a 100% truth.

Which method is better?

My little ole’ opinion is to use A,B,C… and this is why:

Not every country uses the exact same method of do, re mi. So it gets a little confusing.

Some people use Moveable “do”, and some use Fixed “do”.

This can be quite confusing.

Here is the difference:

Moveable Do:

This is when Do depends on the key you’re in.

A Major: do=A,

B Major: do=B,

Gb Major: do=Gb.

(etc)

Fixed do:

This means that do never changes. The pitch C is “do” no matter what key you are in.

Example;

A Major: do=C, A=la

B Major: do=C, B=ti, etc.


Here is a basic scale in solfege:

 

do (like dough)

re (like ray without the “y”)

mi (like me)

fa (as in far)

so (like it looks)

la (like it looks)

ti (like tea)

do

Each syllable also as a corresponding hand sign. They do this so that you use more of your senses. Sight, sound,  and movement/touch. This is sometimes referred to as Kinesthetic or Tactile Learning.

Choir directors who teach with this method are really good at flashing these signs at choir members to help them find the correct pitches quickly (kind of cool).

So, to end off this little discussion I’d say that because of the confusion of ‘moveable’ or ‘fixed’ do the A B C method is more universal. I am, of course a little bias since I studied music here in the U.S., but there you have it.

I bet you’re smarter now, and the next time you come across this subject you may be able to join in on the conversation as well.

It’s worth it to get to know these signs and syllables. They will broaden your scope as a musician and intervals will make even more sense to you as you continue learning.

Love your effort – let me know how you’re doing as a student of flute playing.

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

32 thoughts on “What is the Difference Between Do Re Mi and A B C”

  1. Really good explanation. Thanks. One of my struggles has been, so we have a symphony in Re Dur but the tonic is Do. I play clarinet and bass clarinet in a local orchestra and came late to music so my music theory has always been sketchy but learned with alphabet letters.

    1. Hi Bob,
      I’m glad you found this article helpful! Music theory is an important part of learning to play an instrument, so take the time to learn more about it and keep studying 🙂 best of luck!
      -Rebecca

  2. This is exactly what made music theory hard to understand for me. In chemistry Ag means silver, Au means gold. In electricity V is volt, A is ampere, W is watt.. When you encounter floating and fixed solfeges, and B and can mean either H or Bb depending on who you talk to…Not to mention concepts like B#…Why not agree on a simple to understand universal naming system?

    1. Rebecca Fuller

      Oh yes, I understand what you’re saying Kim. No worries, I can show you how to easily understand the notes and what you need to know to play flute well without getting all confused on these different types of theories from different countries. There’s pretty much a standard nowadays and I’ll show you in an easy way. Flute is fun, and I’m excited you’re here to learn. -Rebecca

    2. Bit like doing floating point arithmetic across different number bases 🙂 except that the solfege is what they learn first.

  3. It was originally Si, but it is better to use Ti instead, because then you can use only one letter to indicate each note: Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti. This is natural and nice not like the artificial ABC. And why do we need movable, Do is always the white key before the two blacks on piano

    1. Rebecca Fuller

      Hi Adam, thanks for the question! The reason we have a moveable “Do” is because it is always the first note of a scale. For example in the C major scale, “Do” is the note C. But in the Bb scale, “Do” is the note Bb. So…”Do” moves depending on the scale or key you are playing in. -Rebecca

  4. Do, d
    Re, r
    Me, m
    Fa, f
    So, s
    LA, l
    Ti, t, and am I right? (NOT Si, )
    t is different from other six notes
    So that it is easier to write in a short form in 7 notes. Not mix it with So, s,,,, namely two “s”

    1. Yes, you’re thinking is good. I use musical notation (alphabet letters) here at Learn Flute Online though so we don’t ever have mixups on what notes we’re talking about. Glad you’re here! 🙂 Rebecca

  5. Another way of thinking of the do re me system, in music theory, is simply the major scale. Where T=tone (a full step) and S=semitone (half step), the major scale is simply TTSTTTS. So the do re me system works fine as far as a major scale goes, but when you get into minor scales (TSTTSTT) or other more complicated scales (seventh, diminished, etc) do re me doesn’t work.

    1. Wow Bill, what great insight! Thank you so much for being here and listening to this podcast, and thanks for the comment! – Rebecca

  6. So do we know what countries use movable do? I grew up in Greece and fixed do is all I knew for years, I just assumed that’s what everyone uses. I of course know of the ABC notation in US and some of Northern Europe but this is the first time I hear of movable do.
    Thanks,
    Peter

    1. Hi Peter, I believe the Germanic countries are still using movable Do as well as many of the Commonwealth Countries. Also here in the USA, the solfege taught to children (especially in choirs) is movable Do. Relative pitch is connected to using movable Do as well. Methods such as the Kodaly Method usees movable Do. Without getting too complicated here in this answer, I’ll point out that movable Do is the same as learning the scale degrees (but in a nice kid-friendly, nutshell type of way). There’s no right or wrong – just different methods. The ABC way is nice and universal though if you’ve learned this way. Thanks for asking about his – fun subject! Rebecca

  7. In Canada we learned do re mi..do a deer a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun… etc…but we did not study keys then.guess it was the fixed style…. we simply played or sang in the original key of publication… it think learning both are good but with an explanation…

    1. Yah Cheryl- it kind of depends on where you are in the world. A little knowledge will help if ever needed. 🙂 ~R

  8. Since I am from the United States I might be biased toward A B C, so I am persuaded to try to overcome this by learning do re mi in addition to my A B C training to round out my studies.

    This is what I expect to gain from movable do.

    Since adults lose their ability to obtain perfect pitch; at least relative pitch can be mastered and ought to be best learned through movable do.

    I will be able to hear the pitches of music in any key and be better able to follow what is being played. If at first I don’t know what key I hear it in I will be naturally more tuned to hear the tonic and distinguish the sounds and name them in do re mi terms.

    I should be better prepared to repeat the tones and describe them in any key as appropriate. I would be better prepared to guess at what I am hearing and make a better imitation of perfect pitch.

    It should help me transcribe music, and write music.

    I expect my sight reading skills will improve as I begin to hear in my head the relative pitches as I read them.

    My four year old grandson will be able to share his music adventures with me and I should be able to reciprocate intelligently with him.

    1. Ken, sounds fun! The cool thing is that your ear will do much of the work for you as you continue learning both methods. Since the flute is a melody based instrument you get a lot of ear training every time you play. So the more often you play, the less scientific you need to be about it. If you use theory knowledge along with practice and ear training you will improve much more rapidly and have lots of fun doing it. I’m looking forward to see you improve here 🙂 ~Rebecca

  9. If you look at a piano, well it’s set to be a Do = C major scale. That means Do,re, mi is the way to go.
    Wha is the reson for A as La (440hz) to be the first instead?
    Moreover do,re,mi,.. sounds so much better than A,B,C. since they are real name for the notes, not just letters. Using A,B,C is like calling the planets with letters instead of using their cool names.
    There should be no need to fix the DO to be anything else rather then C

  10. Pablo Villegas

    Is not ti it’s Si.

    Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si.

    This is what we are taught in Spanish as the notes, not
    as letters.

    Do=C
    Re=D
    Mi=E
    Fa=F
    Sol=G
    La=A
    Si=B

    This is why it is so hard for us to study music in English, is not natural for us, since we know the notes since childhood by other names, so we need to translate them to the real notes when we are starting.

    1. Yup. Every country uses a slightly different version of this. Some countries use a ‘fixed do’ and others use a ‘movable do’ (even many English-speaking countries), so this is why it’s important to point out the differences and similarities. It’s a good thing when it’s actually ‘on’ the staff, it’s all the same. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  11. You are ABSOLUTELY correct about that fixed ‘do’ being confusing! I remember we used to play with that a bit in ear training/sight singing in college. … with that fixed ‘do,’ I could easily pick out the tones… but, hmmm… is that sol.. or la…… oh no.. wait a minute… I think it’s ti! LOL how about I just whistle it for you!
    Good article.. thanks! .. Jim

    1. Agreed! That’s why I use ABC for this whole course (even for the Europeans). It eliminates any confusion of ‘fixed’ or ‘moveable’. Glad you’r here learning. ~Rebecca

      1. “I use ABC for this whole course (even for the Europeans”
        Most Europeans use ABC iso Do Re Me. Only know Belgium and France using it.
        Do Re Me is for us, Dutch, from a musical 🙂
        But even ABC is different. In Germany the B-flat is called B, and the B = H…..

        1. Hi Nico, oh yes some countries call the B natural “H”. Part of Canada included. 🙂 – Great observation and comment, thanks -Rebecca

  12. Thank you Rebecca,
    I heard these syllables “do re mi” often and never knew what it meant. I was too ashamed to show my own special lack of education. This Gap is closed now, which makes me happy.

    1. Hi Diedrich- I know it’s kind of a strange thing to see – do re mi and then A B C – confusing! It really depends on the country you’re in also. I’ve decided ABC is best for me to teach in because at least it doesn’t change on you. 🙂 Good luck!! ~Rebecca

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