18th-Century Solfeggi and Third Stream Ear Training: Creating a Foundation for Teaching Improvisation to Classical Music Students

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review


The art of improvisation requires the musician to draw on their knowledge-base of melody, harmony and other musical elements to create spontaneously. Improvisation is today commonly associated with jazz, however for centuries it was a dominant feature of different aspects of Western Art Music. In 17th- and 18th-century Italy, all students of music learnt how to improvise as part of learning theory and composition. Importantly, they also learnt to sing melodies known as solfeggi. Italian solfeggi from this period are melodic compositions for voice with bass accompaniment. They played an influential role in establishing the necessary melodic knowledge-base required for composition and improvisation exercises. A similar method, known as Third Stream ear training, is currently used by some jazz and contemporary music schools to support teaching improvisation. Like solfeggi, this method involves learning to sing melodies, but from a variety of contemporary music genres. Improvisation has been largely absent from classical music pedagogy for over a century. There is growing interest to reintroduce it using adapted 18th-century and jazz techniques, however there is little research on developing a suitable singing practice to support students. This study presents a comparative analysis of 18th-century solfeggi and Third Stream ear training repertoire and techniques, to identify how to develop a singing practice that can support classical music students approach improvisation tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 29 Apr 2022
EventAustralian National Choral Association Inaugural Conference - Online, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 29 Apr 202230 Apr 2022


ConferenceAustralian National Choral Association Inaugural Conference


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