Going lo… teaching low so and la

Blog about teaching low so and la

In my last blog I told you how I introduce Hi Lo Chikalo, using it for rhythmic dictation and game ideas.  Did you miss it?  Catch up here.

Since I want you to know where I’m going with this blog post, I’ll tell you that I think Hi Lo Chikalo is great for presenting low so and low la.  Below, I’ll show you how I do it and some ideas for practising low so and la with other songs.

p.s. pretend I haven’t told you about low so and la yet! 

Solmizing Hi Lo Chikalo

The children have been singing the song and playing the game over the last couple of weeks so know it really well.  Here’s a demonstration of the next microsteps for discovering the solfa of this song:

Have a listen to this audio clip.  Does it sound finished or unfinished at the end?

What did you think?

If you thought finished, I agree!  So if it sounds finished, what do you think the solfa will be for the final pitch?


Does that seem weird?  Why?

If your students aren’t sure, you can hold the hand sign for do in the air and ask more questions:

What solfa do we start on?

What word do we start on?  What word do we finish on?  Hi! 

So it starts and finishes on the same pitch.

For my students it will be different to all of the other songs because do is at the top, not the bottom.

Next ask,

how many pitches in are in this song? (3!)

We have a “lo” and a “chika”… any ideas what the lo is?

So! What do we think the middle pitch is? (la)

A note: the steps above would be done across several weeks with a class of children!

Here’s the solfa for the whole song:

So that we can tell that the low so and low la are below our main do, we put a comma next to them.  When it’s high we use an apostrophe.

Let’s sing it in solfa

Let’s add the hand signs.

And now lets use our hand stave.  If do is the middle line, where is la, going to be?

Here’s a picture of how the. hand stave works.  Each finger represents a line of the stave.  Point to the line or space with your other hand as you sing the solfa.

Hand stave

You can help your students by singing a minor third:

Do la, that’s a…. skip!

Which means la, is where?

And where is so,?  Another skip?  No, it’s a step lower than la.

Putting this on the hand stave is a brilliant kinaesthetic way to build an association to the stave.  When we look at notes below do the pattern of line and space notes reverses because there are seven pitches in the scale.  So, if do is a line note, la (above) is a space note, but la below is a line note!  Practising with the hand stave helps our students be clear about this.

Here’s the stave with our new notes and notes we already knew.

Hi Lo Chikalo toneset

Toneset Echoes

Now we have more pitches so many new songs are available!  We need to reinforce our new pitches by singing some echoes:

Do la, do

Do la, so, do

Do re mi do

Mi re do

Mi re do la, so,

So, la, do re do

You can then repeat this but you sing the pitches on a neutral sound like ‘lu’ and the children repeat in solfa.

Songs to practice low so and la: Down the Road

I also like to use this one for introducing a new rhythm later!

Here’s an audio clip of the Down the Road:

And here’s some questions I might ask my students:

What do you notice about the first, second phrases?

(they descend)

and the last phrase?

(it ascends)

All of these roads lead to which pitch?  Do!

If all the roads lead to do, what is the solfa for the first (and second) phrase?

(mi re do)

How about the last ascending phrase?  We know it finishes on do…

(so, la, do)

 Let’s sing phrases 1, 2 and 4 in solfa….

Any suggestions for “everybody walk together”?  We need to link it to “down” in the next phrase which we know is low so…

(mi mi mi mi mi re do la)

I love that “everybody” is all on one beat, has four sounds, four syllables and is also all on the same pitch.   It’s just so perfect for this job!

Let’s sing the whole song in solfa twice through.

Another song to practice low so and low la: On the Farmer’s Apple Tree. 

This follows on nicely from Hi Lo chikalo because it follows the same melodic contour at the start and it extends to mi and re, giving us the pentatonic scale using low so and la.

What’s the solfa for the last note?

How do you know?

It’s likely the children will say all of the songs finish on do because they all have so far.

If the last note is do, the tonic, what does it start on?


Let’s work out the rest of the solfa.

I’ll give you a do

On the Farmer's Apple Tree score

So this song uses the whole pentatonic scale but with low la and so.

And of course, once they’ve worked it out and sung it, sing it all through together again!

Want more advice and ideas?​

If you found this blog useful.  Please comment below if you did or if there is anything you would like to say to me about it.  If you’d like to find out more about preparing your students to learn about pitch and much more, including over a year’s worth of lesson plans for teaching all the important musical skills with Helen’s clear microsteps, why not try out Doremi Membership for 14 days for just £1

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