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  The argument for learning the Trope system


  1. Why does my child need to learn the system of Tropes, why can’t he/she learn it by memorizing the portion from a tape?


When students master the system of Torah and Haftarah reading, besides the connection to the tradition of Trope chanting they also master new skills. These complex skills are found in fields like theatre, music and speech arts. They incorporate improvisation, arrangement, vocal production, communication and language skills. Building these capacities immensely contributes to the mental, intellectual and artistic development of a person.

Tropes are better categorized as heightened speech or as a monody rather than melody. The term: monody or monodia (singing alone), was coined during the 16 th Century as part of the search to find the best setting to express the text. The best monody according to Galilei (that is Vincezo Galilei a composer, the father of the famous Galileo Galilei), was,” to enhance the natural speech inflection of a good orator”.

In the same vein, during the late 16 th Century the composers introducing opera as we know it today, searched for the purest and most powerful form for text setting. Their inspiration was the Classical Greek poem recitation which used intonation. The Composer Peri who invented the modern Recitative; explained it in the introduction to his Opera “Euridice. “The recitative” stated pery, “ is a speech song, really an intermediate between the two, a system that takes care to emphasize or intone the relevant important syllables that would be naturally stressed in speech

In Tropes there is a measure of improvisation and any improvisation in a study subject is a tall order. Improvisation skills are a boon to master. Tropes, somewhat like Jazz, are made of groups of idioms that users put together to form a piece.

Learning by memorizing from a tape completely misses the point of the Trope learning heritage. Also, With Tropes system knowledge, the delivery is confident and mistakes are easily recovered from. The time it takes to learn the Trope system is not significantly different from memorization. Studying the Trope system in preparation for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a genuine learning experience with lifelong multifaceted skills benefits.


Ideas for instructors:

  • In order to make tropes a living language, consider expanding the application of tropes to texts other then the Bible. Let the students explore applying tropes to their chosen favorite text.
  • Inspire the student for self growth in interpretation, and presentation. Encourage a thorough understanding of the text, and a prepared interpretation to color the text’s story.
  • Invite the student to introduce at least one new thing of his or her interpretation. A small musical decoration, an elongation, a swoop, or at least a crescendo, to drive the point of original interpretation. The aim with tropes is: that the same Biblical passage read by different people will sound different!

Cantor Tzvi Taub © 2008

Cantor Taub is the author of the interactive course Chant the Bible published by Koltor.