Samples of Musical Notation

The Sacred Harp, like many other American tunebooks printed between 1801 and 1861, is printed in Little and Smith's four-shape notation, introduced in The Easy Instructor (1801). Here are samples of this and other music notations used in America and Britain, both before and after the introduction of the Little and Smith system. Note that four of these were devised at least in part to avoid the expense of music types by employing only characters and symbols found in a standard printer's font. This quality makes them potentially useful today for exchanging music in electronic form without the aid of complex and expensive music printing programs.

  • The Easy Instructor (1809)
    Four-shape (fasola) notation
  • The Bay Psalm Book (1698)
    Standard notation with fasola letters
  • Tufts, Introduction (1727)
    Fasola letters on a staff
  • Law, Musical Primer (1803)
    Law's four shape notes without a staff
  • BRIDGEWATER by Edson
    Dearborn letter notation
  • AMERICA by Wetmore
    Harrison numerical notation
  • "Come let us join our cheerful songs" by Tye
    Tonic sol-fa notation
  • "Thou holy watcher, God most high" (1852)
    Shaker letteral notation (single voice)
  • [NEW] MISSISSIPPI by Bradshaw (1820)
    Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)
  • Warren Steel (mudws@olemiss.edu)

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