Cantillation (trope) – Teachers’ guide


What are cantillation signs ?
      This video will explain:

    1. The role of cantillation signs (trope).
    2. The difference between trope when reading Torah and Haftarah.
    3. Teaching trope (demonstration).
    4. How to use the flash cards.

Supporting materials

Musical notation

טעמי המקרא

The history of cantillation signs. Dr. Emanuel Alon

Dr. Emanuel Alon

The tradition of using cantillation signs is an ancient one. In the Talmud, which was completed by the year 500 C.E., we find a number of references to the tradition of melodic reading of the Torah.  The cantillation signs themselves developed at a later date. They were developed over a long period of time, and were completed at the end of the 9th century at the same time that the vowels were instituted. 
The system of cantillation signs and marks we know today was developed in Tiberias, and is associated with the Ben Asher family.  The Bible has two sets of signs, one for the majority of the books of the Bible, the melodies with which we are familiar (from the Torah, Haftarah and Megillah readings in the synagogue), and the other for the books of Job, Proverbs, and Psalms, the melody of which is unknown.
The most important role of the trope is a musical one. The melody and rhythm help to learn a text. Remember that before the invention of print, most people only heard the Torah and the Haftarot when they were read out loud in the synagogue.
The cantillation signs also help make different linguistic distinctions. They indicate which syllable of the word is accented (which determines the meaning of the word), and they serve as punctuation marks that change the meaning of the sentence.


Teaching sequence

• Please note: Because the Maftir reading is relatively short, we recommend that beginning students learn the melody as a song, rather than learning a second set of trope melodies.

If you want to teach the Torah trope, use the following sequence:

The worksheet with the Torah trope (#2 above) and the recordings of the trope will be helpful.

1. Teaching the cantillation signs

  • Have the learner listen to the recording of the first cantillation sign.
  • Repeat the melody.
  • Have the learner find the trope in the text and practice the word with the melody.
  • Go through the text and practice the trope each time it appears.
  • Continue the process for each of the cantillation signs. If the text is printed, have the learner mark each trope in a different color.

2. After you teach and practice the individual trope, move on to the trope combinations:

  • Listen to the recording of the combination.
  • Repeat the melody.
  • Have the learner find the combination in the text and practice it.
  • Go through the entire text and practice the combination wherever it appears.
  • Continue for all the trope combinations.

3.Practicing the entire Maftir reading:

  • We recommend having the student listen to each verse and then repeat it.
  • After practicing individual verses, have the student practice the entire reading.
  • Make certain the learner practices with a text that does not include the trope, vowels or punctuation marks.
Cantillation signs

The most frequently found trope

The less frequently found trope

The least frequently found trope

Trope combinations