Solfege 101: BRIM - Breath Impulse Method

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

If you need to begin with just the basic Solfege - Do, Re, Mi Syllables, this video series is for you! It goes though the 8 notes of the Major Scale: just click “play,” wait for 4 clicks and sing along!


Why do I recommend utilizing Solfege for all areas of Music Education? I taught band for 30+ years and found during those years that my students best succeeded when their instruction began with singing in Solfege. Simultaneously, they were introduced to the basic breathing-embouchure concepts of counting, tizzling, & buzzing all while singing on pitch*.


Although instrument matching was done several different ways during my career, the most successful process was with two teachers (both Brass Players) working together 4 to 6 weeks at the beginning of the 6th grade year. We utilized a band room and adjoining portable classroom. During this time, one teacher introduced tone-production for brass instruments while the second teacher did woodwinds and percussion. A marimba and piano became primary tools for getting students to sing while using worksheets. Later, an overhead CPU projector, followed even later by a Smartboard, helped students visualize the keyboard and learn the major scale via Solfege. (*I implemented variations on this process when teaching Chorus and Strings.)


Our goal with these BRIM and Solfege methods of instruction is to provide teachers, parents and students with video-based worksheets which allow them to see, hear and (when printed) write basic concepts necessary for truly understanding musical rhythm, pitch, and tone-production.


I will elaborate on the instrument matching process in more detail as we progress & per requests. Meantime, I highly recommend the Division of Beat Method published by Southern Music Company. (If you have access to a tape player, order the tape and listen... it will change your teaching forever.) The Beginner Level Books are complicated to use, so one must study the method carefully before committing to it.


The ‘Eastman’ Counting System’), which is used throughout, I believe should be referred to as the ‘Breath Impulse Counting Method or System (BRIM)’ and should be sung on pitch as the (Division of Beat) tape illustrates so well. My Video worksheets will assist in this process. (Breath Impulse Rhythm Counting from the Division of Beat Method-Southern Music Company)


I am in the midst of transitioning from my former Music Education Consultants web-site and YouTube channel to my new MusicReadingforAll website and YouTube Channel. During this process, I am revising and updating worksheets, videos, etc.


The original “Eastman Counting System” is included below. Our new worksheets use it as a starting point.




Comments, suggestions and requests are welcomed as we work through this process:

Please comment on this post or e-mail to: musicreadingforall@gmail.com


Briefly, how we used BRIM-Division of Beat, Solfege along with Bruce Pearson’s

Standard of Excellence Method to help propel our band program to the Midwest

Clinic (Chicago, Il) Invitation/Performance.


(Irmo Middle School Honor Band-David C. Woodard, Jr. and Kenneth D. Turner, directors Columbia, SC) as well as the Sudler Cup in 2000 from the John Phillp Sousa Foundation.


Although I began teaching middle school band in 1979, it took me some time to be brave enough to sing Solfege with my band students, especially when teaching older middle school (grades 7-9). During my first 12 years teaching, the grades and groupings of students varied greatly; therefore I had mixed results introducing band students to singing. Finally, in 1992, I was assigned all 120 Irmo sixth grade beginners. After that, I always began my band classes each year with singing, utilizing both the Division of Beat (Eastman Counting System-BRIM- Breath Impulse Counting along with Basic of Solfege Singing the C-Major Scale. Starting with unchanged voices in 6th grade as part of initial instrument matching made all the difference from starting with older students, especially if taught by different teachers & methods. I believe BRIM (really any counting system) is best taught singing on pitch ('count-singing'). This became clear to me after attending Tom C. Rhodes’ Division of Beat clinic at U.S.C.- Columbia, S.C. around 1985. I immediately ordered a Division of Beat, Bk. 1A: Beginning Conductors' Score and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the Division of Beat Tape, which slowly began to revolutionize my teaching. Initially I applied the method to my small 7th grade band classes during the mid 1980's. Later, when 1992 zoning and school organization changes mandated, I was assigned, as was mentioned earlier, all 120 beginners. At that time, I fully instituted the BRIM method, along with simple Solfege singing as we began mouthpiece matching for all Irmo Beginners. I began to insist that we sing on solfege as well as count on pitch every method book exercise through page 12 or so (of Bruce Pearson’s Standard of Excellence Book I ). We could then (sometimes) sight-sing full arrangements somewhat on pitch. I should interject here that around 1987, a concert festival sight-reading room judge, who had been a former classmate at USC, took me to task for clapping & counting, which she said caused my bands to constantly rush. Nonetheless, soon after listening to those sight-reading room tapes with my students, I began to insist we sing while fingering or sticking every method book exercise. Over time this ability enabled us to often sing through a piece in the sight-reading room at state concert festival, amazingly, somewhat on pitch, especially if we figured out the tune-main theme. Keep in mind this was usually grade 1 or 2 sight-reading which our bands read during much of my 1979-2005 middle school band career.


More to come. We continue to focus on how to make this more easily accessible for teachers from a variety of backgrounds, especially as teachers are increasingly assigned music classes without majoring in or sometimes even studying music.

Please share your comments, requests and suggestions.





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