Italian Solfeggi and Third Stream Ear-Training: A Pathway to Develop Auditory Memory for Improvisation Pedagogy

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review


The improvising musician consciously and subconsciously draws on their lifetime of accumulated auditory memories and learnt theoretical knowledge to create and compose spontaneously. The practice of specifically developing students’ auditory memory for improvisation can be found in both Baroque and Jazz pedagogies. Melodic improvisation and composition was taught in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian Conservatoires by way of keyboard-based exercises called partimenti. Prior to learning partimenti, all students learnt to sing and memorise countless melodies known as solfeggi for at least three years. Solfeggi are melodic compositions for voice, often taught aurally with a keyboard accompaniment extemporised by the teacher. They played a pivotal role in establishing the necessary auditory memories required for future melodic improvisation exercises. Third Stream ear-training is a modern-day method with several striking similarities to solfeggi. It was developed in the 1970’s by improvising pianist and pedagogue Ran Blake, and is currently taught at a small number of jazz and contemporary music schools. Third Stream ear-training, like solfeggi, uses aural learning and singing to help the student develop a rich auditory library. It uses a broad range of styles, which inform and enhance the students’ improvisations and musical language. Increasingly improvisation is being included in classical music pedagogy and classroom music curricula. Within this, however, little attention is given to developing students’ auditory memory for the task. This paper addresses this by proposing a new, targeted method using Italian solfeggi and Third Stream ear-training principles and techniques, to help prepare students’ auditory memories for improvisation in any genre or style.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2023
EventAustralasian Jazz and Improvised Research Network 2023 Conference - Ian Potter Centre, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 19 May 202321 May 2023
Conference number: 6


ConferenceAustralasian Jazz and Improvised Research Network 2023 Conference
Abbreviated titleAJIRN


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