Guido d'Arezzo


Italian theorist, noted as a reformer of musical notation and vocal instruction. Because of the remote period in which he lived, it is difficult to separate fact from tradition, and determine the exact extent of his individual work. He is  known as Guido of Arezzo from his supposed birthplace. Reared as a Benedictine monk, he was familiar with music as a part of his religious training. He greatly simplified the musical notation of his day, introducing a four-line staff with lines and spaces, and with the F and C clefs, out of which our modern staff has been gradually developed. Prior to his invention musical notes were represented by the letters of the alphabet, placed upon a single line; by the use of points on several lines, the pitch of a tone could be determined without employing different letters; hence, according to J. W. Moore's Encyclopaedia, the term counterpoint. Possibly this gave rise to the supposition that Guido invented counterpoint in the now known sense of the word, which  is denied by Grove on other historical evidence. Brown states that he  " invented or gave a basis for the science of counterpoint," which latter seems the more rational view. Another improvement made by Guido, an idea not unlike the modern tonic sol-fa system, was that of representing six respective tones of the scale by corresponding syllables in a fixed order that could be applied in any key. These syllables were simply the accented ones of three lines of a Latin hymn to St. John sung in the monasteries, and five of them are used in the modern " Do, re, mi," etc. This method is known technically as soltnization. The practical application of these methods in teaching the boys to sing at sight proved their usefulness. In Hawkins' History of the Science and Practice of Music, 1853, it is stated that by the use of Guide's method, " a boy in a few months might learn what no man, though of great ingenuity, could before that attain in several years." His fame traveled fast, and he was summoned to Rome by Pope John XIX., who insisted on learning to sing by Guide's new method.

At some time in his life, Guido was in the monastery of Pomposa, near Ferrara. Some historians say that he was driven hence by the jealousy of the other monks; that he traveled, taught, and finally settled as abbot of a monastery at Avellano, near Arezzo. The account would seem more probable that ascribes his connection with the monastery of Pomposa to an invitation from the abbot to come and teach his method of singing to the monks and choir-boys.

The most important of his theoretical works, the Micrologus, is said to have been written in 1024, about Guide's thirty - fourth year. This treatise, according to Grove, contains no mention of the inventions previously named, and Guide's claim to them rests on the general agreement of the statements of a number of early musical theorists, including Gafqn, Glareanus, Galilei, and Zarlino. Copies of this work in manuscript exist in the Vatican Library, in the Bibliotheque Natiqnale, Paris, and other similar collections in Europe. It describes a method of teaching choristers to sing in tune, and presents rules for the composition and performance of the Plain Chant. The Harmonic or Guidonian Hand, was still another practical method used by this clearheaded monk to simplify the relation of notes to each other, and was nothing more not less than the use of the human hand as an imaginary diagram from which the position of notes might be quickly recognized by associating each one with a separate joint of a respective finger.