Guido, a Benedictine monk of Arezzo (Italy, c. 990-1050), developed a four line staff that became the basis of our grand staff. He wrote a number of works about music, singing technique, and notation, including an explanation of his new staff. He also composed a hymn to St. John the Baptist, using the words written by Paul the Deacon. Lyons has argued that Guido used a melody dating from sometime between the tenth and early eleventh century that was set to the words of Horace’s Ode to Phyllis (I.11). In the Hymn, each phrase starts one note higher on the staff; Guido designated the first syllable of each phrase on that starting note as the name of that tone of the scale, making it easier to learn the notation system and thus, “read” music. This was the basis of our “do, re, mi” scale. “Ut” was later replaced by the arbitrary syllable “doh.” Originally, there were only six. Our “ti” for the seventh is a later form of “si” (added from the initial letters of Sancte and Ioannes in the last phrase).

Hymn for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Ut queant laxis resonare fibris
mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
Solve polluti labii reatum,
Sancte Ioannes.

Lyons, Stuart. Horace’s Odes and the Mystery of Do-Re-Mi. Oxford, Oxbow Books, 2007.
Oxford English Dictionary s.v. doh, te.
Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum. (incomplete beta version after cyber attack)(scroll down to GUI- for links to his writings).