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 re mi

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

 

 

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16 Comments

  • William Lawyer

    Reply Reply December 9, 2015

    THAT explains where the hand signals came from in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!” LOL!

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply December 22, 2015

      Baha!

  • Diedrich Bode

    Reply Reply October 26, 2016

    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.

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply November 5, 2016

      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

  • Jim

    Reply Reply November 10, 2016

    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

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply November 19, 2016

      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

  • Pablo Villegas

    Reply Reply June 12, 2017

    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.

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply June 14, 2017

      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

  • Srr

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    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

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply December 15, 2017

      Yah, it just depends on which country you’ve learned it. There ‘are a few different approaches. 🙂 ~Rebecca

  • Ken Madsen

    Reply Reply July 31, 2018

    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.

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply August 3, 2018

      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

  • Augustine Lèmondier

    Reply Reply August 20, 2018

    As if US of A knows anything about music. Pff

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply August 23, 2018

      Haha, love it. 🙂

  • cheryl walther

    Reply Reply December 6, 2018

    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…

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply December 15, 2018

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

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