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Shape Notes for Choral Music
Adding character to notation.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (7 votes) 
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ELCBK
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December 12, 2021 - 5:29 am
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https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-fUNBpM8oq0E/V1HEZRbTHZI/AAAAAAAAJN4/8zsQL8PjFYc1OBwC-msMrxkkXJOgnMsPwCLcB/s640/sevenshapes.pngImage Enlarger

Since I've never been a member of a Choir, I was unaware this notation existed! 

Wikipedia -

Shape notes are a musical notation designed to facilitate congregational and social singing. The notation, introduced in late 18th century England, became a popular teaching device in American singing schools. Shapes were added to the noteheads in written music to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales without the use of more complex information found in key signatures on the staff.

Shape notes of various kinds have been used for over two centuries in a variety of music traditions, mostly sacred music but also secular, originating in New England, practiced primarily in the Southern United States for many years, and now experiencing a renaissance in other locations as well. 

More about shape notes: 

Shape Notes

 

https://static.vecteezy.com/system/resources/previews/004/676/740/non_2x/stave-and-heart-shaped-notes-wedding-and-valentine-day-concept-vector.jpg

Anyone find these useful? 

Could they benefit musicians as well? 

- Emily

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AndrewH
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December 12, 2021 - 7:15 am
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I have sung in choirs, and was aware of shape notes, but I've never used them. I don't think they're especially useful outside of the purpose they were originally developed for: namely, getting large groups of untrained singers to recognize degrees of the scale so as to be able to sing without having to understand key signatures.

If you can read standard music notation and key signatures, there's no need for shape notes. And if the music modulates at all, shape notes are unusable.

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ELCBK
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December 12, 2021 - 7:24 am
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https://www.entertainmentmesh.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/merry-christmas-snowman-card-image.jpg

 

 

@AndrewH -

Thanks, Andrew!  

 

https://www.maxpixel.net/static/photo/2x/Christmas-Song-Notes-Sheet-Music-Musical-Score-6850819.pngImage Enlarger

I like this kind of notation! 

- Emily

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ABitRusty
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December 12, 2021 - 8:42 am
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i dont know why but since ive become aware of shape note singing ive associated it with a type of old timey mountain Church singing.  probably a documentary or youtube ive seen since started violin.  I think my first impression was if i had to learn the pitch of a shape...why not just put that energy into learning the notes.. but figured I was missing something about the subject.  I think I liked the music more in that/those videos alot though.  seemed very modal sounding.

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ELCBK
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https://i.pinimg.com/736x/97/91/74/9791746604bed20d84485817b6519fdc.jpg

@ABitRusty -

 

Interesting. 

Please let me know if you run across any of those again. 

I've been trying to figure out if this is something that my Grandkids might benefit from. 

Thanks!

 

- Emily

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ABitRusty
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December 12, 2021 - 12:39 pm
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@elcbk i feel like it was in one of the Ulster Scots series of videos somewhere... but theres at least 3 of them and theyre pretty long so cant verify that at the moment.

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AndrewH
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December 12, 2021 - 4:16 pm
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It's mostly associated with that style because of geography; shape notes were used much more in Appalachia than anywhere else. It's not modal music, but has some of the same features as medieval and early Renaissance church music such as the frequent use of bare fifths and parallel fifths, which is why it might remind one of modal music.

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ABitRusty
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December 12, 2021 - 7:52 pm
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@elcbk what I remembered watching is at 32:00 and forward for a time in this video.

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ELCBK
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https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/t/christmas-owls-choir-singing-image-representing-white-60563550.jpg

@ABitRusty -

This is great - wish I would've watched this one 1st. (lol) 

I don't see where shape notes are easy to learn. 

Actually they were singing solfège at one point, which would be as hard for me to do as sing the names of the notes!  In other words, I can sing the solfège scale in ascending & descending order, but can't mix them up.

I'm not to where I can sing a note and definitively say what that note is (without looking at some kind of notation) - only whether the pitch is higher or lower than the previous pitch. 

https://clipartmag.com/images/merry-christmas-word-art-2.JPG

I've previously gotten some books for the Grandkids that color code the notes for notation and supply the corresponding color stickers to use on the keyboard and other instruments. 

...so far, the 'color-coding' (along with note name) seems to be the best for them. 

- Emily

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ABitRusty
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@AndrewH by this time I should probably know the answer to the following but I dont.. so when I play the root note and also play the note 5 notes up the scale....say a C and a G... is that a bare or parallel?  is a perfect 5th used interchangeably with either one?

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JohnG
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@ABitRusty - That whole Wayfaring Stranger show was fascinating. One of my grandparents had roots going back to late 1700's in Pennsylvania, so it was particularly interesting to me.

Thanks for sharing it. And I did like the segment on shape notes!

The old curmudgeon!

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Mark
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December 13, 2021 - 12:25 am
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Here's An example of shape note singing.

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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AndrewH
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ABitRusty said
@AndrewH by this time I should probably know the answer to the following but I dont.. so when I play the root note and also play the note 5 notes up the scale....say a C and a G... is that a bare or parallel?  is a perfect 5th used interchangeably with either one?

  

Bare fifth. When I say "bare fifth" I mean a chord that omits the third degree of the scale.

Parallel fifths can occur in any chord progression. It's where two voices that are a perfect 5th apart in one chord move the same way in the next chord so that they are still a perfect 5th apart. In the classical world, parallel fifths are viewed as something to be avoided, but they were common in the medieval era and early Renaissance, and they are used in many folk traditions.

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ABitRusty
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December 13, 2021 - 1:38 am
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 @AndrewH . i recognize the bare fifth description now...new to the parallel though.  Thank you!

@Mark ! 😁

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ELCBK
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https://i.pinimg.com/736x/37/c2/c0/37c2c032346b6c3affd8c7028ea40f30--winter-clipart-christmas-clipart.jpg

@AndrewH - 

I didn't know what 'Bare Fifths' or 'Parallel Fifths' were, either - but, wouldn't 'Parallel Fifths' actually be 'Bare Fifths'? 

 

@Mark - 

That was hilarious!  I think I could memorize a shape note song once I heard it enough. 

Fun example - Thanks! 

 

https://entertainmentmesh.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/merry-christmas-greetings-image.jpg

 

 

Btw, were you aware there are two 'Mark' user names that show up in the drop-down box?  I always have to make sure I use the right one. 

- Emily

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Mark
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ELCBK

 

Btw, were you aware there are two 'Mark' user names that show up in the drop-down box?  I always have to make sure I use the right one. 

- Emily

 

That I did not know.

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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