In shape-note music, the notes are the same as in conventional music, except that instead of an oval, notes have different shapes — a triangle, circle, square or diamond — which correspond to one of four sounds: "fa," "sol," "la" or "mi."
This unique method of sight-reading music was developed in the early 1800s to make it easier for groups of people to come together and sing sacred music.
The Tune book
There are several books in use, published by different editors from 1844 to today. Many singing groups use only one songbook. Minnesotans use three, but only one at a time at a given singing.
"The Sacred Harp" is a popular title; it's also another name for shape-note singing.
Many song titles retain their original roots. For example, "Amazing Grace," penned as a religious poem, is known by its melody of "New Britain," which is how it appeared in an 1847 shape-note tune book.
Watch a video
Listen and watch Twin Cities area shape-note singers in action at www.startribune.com/lifestyle.