What is Shape Note Music?

  • It is something anyone can do.
  • It is sung a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment) in three or four parts.
  • It uses shaped note heads to indicate intervals between notes. As an example, a simple scale in the key of C would look like:

scale

  • It is participatory music, not performance music. Singers face each other in a hollow square and take turns leading songs.

singers

  • It has a distinctive sound: modal, open chords, octave doubling, unusual harmonies.
  • It is usually sung at full volume in an exuberant outpouring of sound and feeling.

singers