I was recently reminded of the controversy which music educators and performers often entertain concerning solmization, a system of designating syllables for notes, instead of letters. The syllables mostly used today are: do (or doh), re, mi, etc. There are two current methods of applying these syllables to the scale degrees, which are known as “fixed do” and “moveable do.” In the former, the syllables are applied to “fixed” notes: e.g. “do” will always equal C; “re” will always equal D, etc. In the latter, “moveable do,” the syllables can be applied to any major scale so that do, re, mi, etc. denote first, second, third, (etc.) scale tones, no matter what pitch the “do” starts on.
After studying this and hearing a heated discussion about which was the superior system — fixed do or moveable do — I decided to come up with my own version, one which should be especially useful for young jazz musicians just learning the lingo. Here are my definitions, learned through postgraduate education in the club scene:
1. Fixed Major Do: The most desired scenario. Musician has agreed upon a fair/excellent price for their services, has received a deposit and is paid in full at the end of the gig. Sometimes referred to as “good bread” or even better, “good green bread” when payment is in cash. Most likely scenario to receive a tip.
2. Movable Major Do: Less desired situation but not at all rare. Everything seems fine until the end of the gig when musician is asked to “just come by my house and we’ll settle up.” You will know it’s coming when payer asks “and what do I owe you?” Musician is usually required to stand in the hallway and allow the family dog to sniff his/her crotch while payer’s spouse writes a check and simultaneously screams at children. Tip unlikely. Observe two BMWs in the driveway as you leave.
3. Fixed Minor Do: Musician has agreed to provide music for a “cause” or fundraiser. The minor amount of money you have asked for will be inversely proportional to the guilt you feel when you receive it as the vast majority of these events fail to raise anything besides your blood pressure. Invariably run by amateurs wearing clothes from the ‘60s. Count on asking four different people for your check. Often referred to as an “exposure gig.” It will expose you to many organizations who will call to ask you to do more of the same.
4. Moveable Minor Do: The worst. You have agreed to play an event like #3 as a sideman, something for some cause the leader believes in. Gig will include a terrible load in, will be outside in lousy weather and most assuredly will go way overtime due to impassioned speeches by event organizers. Count on the phrase “I’ll send a check soon.” After two weeks your phone call will be answered with “this number is no longer in service.” Subject payer will have moved out of state to avoid child support. Sometimes referred to as “the musical screw.”