Guido of Arezzo

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Statue of Guido in Arezzo Statue of Guido of Arezzo.jpg
Statue of Guido in Arezzo
Guido of Arezzo and Tedald Guido and Tedald.jpg
Guido of Arezzo and Tedald
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Plaque of Guido Monaco, Arezzo.JPG
Guido of Arezzo's house with plaque at Via Andrea Cesalpino, 47

Guido of Arezzo (also Guido Aretinus, Guido Aretino, Guido da Arezzo, Guido Monaco, Guido d'Arezzo,Guido Monaco Pomposiano, or Guy of Arezzo also Guy d'Arezzo) (991/992 – after 1033) was an Italian music theorist of the Medieval era. He is regarded as the inventor of modern staff notation that replaced neumatic notation. His text, the Micrologus , was the second most widely distributed treatise on music in the Middle Ages (after the writings of Boethius).



Guido was a Benedictine monk from the Italian city-state of Arezzo. Recent research has dated his Micrologus to 1025 or 1026; since Guido stated in a letter that he was thirty-four when he wrote it, [1] his birthdate is presumed to be around 991 or 992. His early career was spent at the monastery of Pomposa, on the Adriatic coast near Ferrara. While there, he noted the difficulty that singers had in remembering Gregorian chants.

He came up with a method for teaching the singers to learn chants in a short time, and quickly became famous throughout north Italy. However, around 1025 he attracted the hostility of the other monks at the abbey who resisted his musical innovations, prompting him to move to Arezzo, a town which had no abbey, but which did have a large group of cathedral singers, whose training Bishop Tedald invited him to conduct. [2]

While at Arezzo, he developed new techniques for teaching, such as staff notation and the use of the "ut–re–mi–fa–sol–la" (do–re–mi–fa–so–la) mnemonic (solmization). The ut–re–mi-fa-sol-la syllables are taken from the initial syllables of each of the first six half-lines of the first stanza of the hymn Ut queant laxis , whose text is attributed to the Italian monk and scholar Paulus Diaconus (though the musical line either shares a common ancestor with the earlier setting of Horace's "Ode to Phyllis" ( Odes 4.11), recorded in the Montpellier manuscript H425, or may have been taken from it). [1] Giovanni Battista Doni is known for having changed the name of note "Ut" (C), renaming it "Do" (in the "Do Re Mi ..." sequence known as solfège). [3] A seventh note, "Si" (from the initials for "Sancte Iohannes," Latin for St. John the Baptist) was added shortly after to complete the diatonic scale. [4] In anglophone countries, "Si" was changed to "Ti" by Sarah Glover in the nineteenth century so that every syllable might begin with a different letter (this also freed up Si for later use as Sol-sharp). "Ti" is used in tonic sol-fa and in the song "Do-Re-Mi".

The Micrologus, written at the cathedral at Arezzo and dedicated to Tedald, contains Guido's teaching method as it had developed by that time. Soon it had attracted the attention of Pope John XIX, who invited Guido to Rome. Most likely he went there in 1028, but he soon returned to Arezzo, due to his poor health. It was then that he announced in a letter to Michael of Pomposa ("Epistola de ignoto cantu") his discovery of the "ut–re–mi" musical mnemonic. Little is known of him after this time.

The Guidonian hand

Guido is credited with the invention of the Guidonian hand, [5] [6] a widely used mnemonic system where note names are mapped to parts of the human hand. However, only a rudimentary form of the Guidonian hand is actually described by Guido, and the fully elaborated system of natural, hard, and soft hexachords cannot be securely attributed to him. [7]

In the 12th century, a development in teaching and learning music in a more efficient manner had arisen. Guido of Arezzo's alleged development of the Guidonian hand, more than a hundred years after his death, allowed for musicians to label a specific joint or fingertip with the gamut (also referred to as the hexachord in the modern era).[ citation needed ] Using specific joints of the hand and fingertips transformed the way one would learn and memorize solmization syllables. Not only did the Guidonian hand become a standard use in preparing music in the 12th century, its popularity grew more widespread well into the 17th and 18th century. [8] The knowledge and use of the Guidonian hand would allow a musician to simply transpose, identify intervals, and aid in use of notation and the creation of new music. Musicians were able to sing and memorize longer sections of music and counterpoint during performances and the amount of time spent diminished dramatically. [9]


A monument to him was erected in his native Arezzo. He is one of the famous Tuscans honored by a statue in the Loggiato of the Uffizi in Florence.

The computer music notation system GUIDO music notation is named after him and his invention.

The "International Guido d'Arezzo Polyphonic Contest" (Concorso Polifónico Guido d'Arezzo) is named after him.

Francisco Valls' controversial Missa Scala Aretina took its name from Guido Aretinus' scale.

See also

Related Research Articles

Musical notation graphic writing of musical parameters

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In music, an accidental is a note of a pitch that is not a member of the scale or mode indicated by the most recently applied key signature. In musical notation, the sharp, flat, and natural symbols, among others, mark such notes—and those symbols are also called accidentals.

In music, solfège or solfeggio, also called sol-fa, solfa, solfeo, among many names, is a music education method used to teach aural skills, pitch and sight-reading of Western music. Solfège is a form of solmization, and though the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, this system originated from other "Eastern" music cultures such as swara, durar mufaṣṣalāt and Jianpu.

Ut queant laxis Latin hymn in honor of John the Baptist, written in Horatian Sapphic

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Neume system of medieval musical notation

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Solmization is a system of attributing a distinct syllable to each note in a musical scale. Various forms of solmization are in use and have been used throughout the world, but solfège is the most common convention in Europe and The Americas.

Giovanni Battista Doni Italian musicologist

Giovanni Battista Doni was an Italian musicologist and humanist who made an extensive study of ancient music. He is known, among other works, for having renamed the note "Ut" to "Do".

Guidonian hand

In Medieval music, the Guidonian hand was a mnemonic device used to assist singers in learning to sight-sing. Some form of the device may have been used by Guido of Arezzo, a medieval music theorist who wrote a number of treatises, including one instructing singers in sightreading. The hand occurs in some manuscripts before Guido's time as a tool to find the semitone; it does not have the depicted form until the 12th century. Sigebertus Gemblacensis in c. 1105–1010 did describe Guido using the joints of the hand to aid in teaching his hexachord. The Guidonian hand is closely linked with Guido's new ideas about how to learn music, including the use of hexachords, and the first known Western use of solfège.

Soggetto cavato[sodˈdʒɛtto kaˈvaːto] is an innovative technique of Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez that was later named by the theorist Zarlino in 1558 in his Le istitutioni harmoniche as soggetto cavato dalle vocali di queste parole, or literally, a subject 'carved out of the vowels from these words.' It is an early example of a musical cryptogram.

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Tonic sol-fa Music teaching method

Tonic sol-fa is a pedagogical technique for teaching sight-singing, invented by Sarah Ann Glover (1785–1867) of Norwich, England and popularised by John Curwen, who adapted it from a number of earlier musical systems. It uses a system of musical notation based on movable do solfège, whereby every tone is given a name according to its relationship with other tones in the key: the usual staff notation is replaced with anglicized solfège syllables or their abbreviations. "Do" is chosen to be the tonic of whatever key is being used. The original solfège sequence started with "Ut" which later became "Do".

The Micrologus is a treatise on Medieval music written by Guido of Arezzo, dating to approximately 1026. It was dedicated to Tedald, Bishop of Arezzo. This treatise outlines singing and teaching practice for Gregorian chant, and has considerable discussion of the composition of polyphonic music.

<i>Missa Lhomme armé super voces musicales</i> Mass by Josquin des Prez

The Missa L'homme armé super voces musicales is the first of two settings of the Ordinary of the Mass by Josquin des Prez using the famous L'homme armé tune as their cantus firmus source material. The setting is for four voices. It was the most famous mass Josquin composed, surviving in numerous manuscripts and print editions. The earliest printed collection of music devoted to a single composer, the Misse Josquin published by Ottaviano Petrucci in 1502, begins with this famous work.

Tedald (bishop of Arezzo) Italian bishop

Tedald, also known as Theodald, Theodaldus, Tedaldus, Tedaldo, or Teodaldo, was the forty-third Bishop of Arezzo from 1023 until his death.

Bartolomé Ramos de Pareja was a Spanish mathematician, music theorist, and composer. His only surviving work is the Latin treatise Musica practica.

Reverend John Tufts was an early American music educator.

The diatonic, Guidonian, or major hexachord (6-32) is a hexachord consisting of six consecutive pitches from the diatonic scale that are also a consecutive segment of the circle of fifths: F C G D A E = C D E F G A = "do-re-mi-fa-sol-la".


  1. 1 2 Stuart Lyons, Horace's Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi with Full Verse Translation of the Odes. Oxford: Aris & Phillips, 2007. ISBN   978-0-85668-790-7.
  3. McNaught, W. G. (1893). "The History and Uses of the Sol-fa Syllables". Proceedings of the Musical Association. London: Novello, Ewer and Co. 19: 35–51. ISSN   0958-8442 . Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  4. Norman Davies, Europe: A History (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 271–7). ISBN   978-0-19-520912-9; ISBN   978-0-19-820171-7.
  5. Claude V. Palisca and Dolores Pesce: "Guido of Arezzo [Aretinus]". Grove Music Online , 11 February 2013. Accessed 11 February 2018. (subscription required)
  6. "Solmization" by Andrew Hughes and Edith Gerson-Kiwi, Grove Music Online (subscription required)
  7. Claude V. Palisca, "Theory, Theorists, §5: Early Middle Ages", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians , second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers).
  8. Bonnie J. Blackburn, "Lusitano, Vicente", Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. accessed 13 July 2016.
  9. Don Michael Randel, "Guido of Arezzo", The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996): 339–40.

Further reading