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Alphabetical Letters as Written Musical Notes

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Alphabetical Letters as Written Musical Notes

In general, notations for musical instruments were indicated as 1) a companion to the singing syllables as well as alternating with vocals, or 2) music without singing.

1) Accompaniment to Vocals

In order to minimize confusion between the text syllables and accompanying music, musical notations are shown as alphabetical letter-forms in various positions—mutilated, barred, lengthened, doubled, etc.

The second and fifth degrees/notes of the scale, B and H (E), were given 2 symbols each. All other notes of the diatonic scale had three symbols - or rather, one letter written in 3 positions: erect, prone and reversed.

Erect signs designated the diatonic naturals (corresponding to our white keys), and both the flattened and reversed signs meant sharps, representing smaller intervals such as 1/4,1/3,3/8 tones (enharmonic notes).

Barred musical symbols operate in conjunction with text syllables. Certain notes sometimes appear with a bar above them or through them (¥), signifying a portion of a natural note. The barred symbols appear above short syllables in several places, as well as above the second element of the divided long vowel. The bar means that the same note is sung, but in a different way; or with some difference in musical accompaniment.

2) Music Alone

Individual notes were indicated by alphabetical letter-forms. Each degree of the scale was represented by a letter of the alphabet, used purely for musical instruments.

Letters were used to signify the seven natural tones of the diatonic scale, and each of the seven original notes of the scale was followed by two supplementary notes for smaller intervals, such as 1/4,1/3, and 3/8 tones—enharmonic notes.

[An except from The Musical aspects of The Ancient Egyptian Vocalic Language by Moustafa Gadalla]

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