Trope is a medieval French word used in liturgy.
We use the term to describe a body of traditional melodies used to sing various
biblical selections during our service, together with a system of symbolic notation to call for
specific sequences of notes. The symbols probably represent
hand signals originally given by a prompter to the reader. The traditional Hebrew
trope chant is over 2000 years old.
Please examine these two lines of Hebrew text. They say "Shema Yisrael".
They are almost identical, except for two small symbols under the second line.
They are TROPE symbols. A trope may stand for from 2 to over 10 musical notes.
The musical notes for each trope vary, depending on the "nigun", the Hebrew word for melody.
Specific nigunim apply to certain texts, e.g.: TORAH, HAFTARAH, RUTH etc.
Also, Chazzanim may have certain preferences of melodies. In "Tropes-Lite" we use
the Haftarah trope taught by Maurice Glick, Cantor Emeritus of Temple Ner Maarav in Encino, CA.
The trope melodies are distinct from the liturgical melodies used by all chazzanim for the rest
of the service. The selection of these is up to the chazzan.
When you switch to the TROPES page you will see some symbols above and below a heavy
black line.The black line represents the line of Hebrew letters. Some symbols are written
above the letters and some below. IMPORTANT: The tropes are a supplement to the text to
emphasize its meaning. The text should be understood by the reader. For best results a
teacher (Rabbi, Cantor or knowledgeable lay person) should monitor the student's progress.
The need to read the Hebrew text well and understand it is paramount. If needed, consult
an English translation.
Let us begin!
When you click here you will see a sample
sentence, taken from the Bible, Joshua, chapter 2. It is the beginning of the story how the
children of Israel conquered the city of Jericho. Read it in English. It is a spy thriller.
This Haftarah is read annually a few weeks after Shavuot. When you see the page print it.
Then go to the main TROPES page. Find each trope symbol, click inside the proper trope box
to play the sound and listen. NOTE: Occasionally you may not find a one-to-one correspondence with
all symbols. The trope symbol system is not as rigid as the modern musical notation. For example, you
might use one Zakef Katan trope to sing the first two words (vayishlach yehoshua) in the sample.
Do the best you can.
If after this experience you are ready for more we can provide you with a photocopy of a
complete Haftarah. How about your original Bar/Bat Mitzvah Maftir? Do you remember it at all?
Go to the "TROPES with MUSICAL NOTATION" page for more information. After you have the photocopy
use a yellow highlighter felt pen and find and mark each trope symbol. Go to the TROPES page,
look up each trope symbol and click on it. Mazal tov!. If you decide to proceed be sure
to consult with the Rabbi at all stages.
Back to Tropes Page