Debates on the pedagogical merits of do- and la-based minor solfège are often beset by conceptual muddiness and regrettable antagonism between the fields of music theory and music education. Trivial arguments that amount to ‘scale degrees best represent scale degree functions’ regularly occupy these debates.
In this chapter, I will unpack and clarify existing debates on do- and la-minor and then locate common ground on which genuine dialogue can take place. I argue that the distinction between do- and la-minor is clouded by the use of overlapping syllables, and the concept underlying la-minor remains unnamed and little theorized. Do-minor maps solfège syllables onto familiar scale degrees, which are intervals from the tonic. La-minor maps syllables onto what I call diatonic positions, intervallic relations in a scale without regard to the tonic. Therefore, the debate over solfège actually concerns the significance of centricity and scale, both of which engender independent yet intertwined elements of tonality.
A deeper examination of their arguments shows that both sides share the same values: similarity between modes, typicality of such similarity in a given repertoire, and an optimum balance between information and cognitive load. I conclude by proposing an essentiality argument, which states that fixed-do, do-, and la-minor all serve a distinct and necessary role in defining a key, the basis of tonal constructs.