The basic hexachord system and its origins
Expanding the gamut: Musica ficta and "invented" hexachords
Renaissance and Manneristic approaches
Alternative solmizations: Ramos, Lippius, and beyond
The hexachord system, introduced and developed by Guido d'Arezzo and his colleagues in the 11th century, was a central element of musical practice and culture in medieval Europe, and continued to influence Renaissance and Manneristic practice through the early 17th century.
While rightly acclaimed as a very successful method for teaching the art of sight-reading, Guido's hexachord system more generally serves as a familiar framework from which to approach many issues of medieval and Renaissance composition and performance.
This FAQ article will first present the basic hexachord system and its origins; then medieval and Renaissance extensions of the system to permit a fuller set of accidentals; and finally some alternative systems proposed by Bartolomé Ramos (1482) and Johannes Lippius (1610, 1612) based on octaves rather than hexachords.
To Foreword - Why learn hexachords?
To Section 1 - The basic hexachord system and its origins.
To Early Music FAQ.Margo Schulter