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Shapenote Notation

Much of the music that we in Sussex Harmony perform is taken from books that use the Shapenote notation originated in the USA at the turn of the 19th century.   Here the notes are represented by symbols: triangles, ovals, rectangles and diamonds  They represent fa, so, la and me.  A major scale in shapes is fa, so, la, fa, so, la, me, fa where the first fa is an F.  The note heads are full, or black, for a quarter note (Crotchet) and open or white for half notes(minims). Quavers are barred or flagged black notes as one would expect.  As an example here are four bars of Amazing Grace which show all the note types.

ShapeHote example 4 bars

See how a given shape always represents the same note (or notes) in a scale.

The music is frequently sung, not using the words, but the solfa shapes as an aid to learning the tune. For more information you could try www.ukshapenote.org.uk

Sussex Harmony Shape Note day 2008


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