The singing school was developed in rural English parishes to improve congregational singing. These were workshops that lasted usually between a week and a month, in which a singing master instructed the faithful in the rudiments of music. The institution continued in New England in the 1700s, where singing masters like William Billings, Justin Morgan, and Daniel Read taught men and women to sing traditional hymns as well as tunes of their own composition. Shaped notes were a key innovation of such singing schools, since the shapes helped singers to develop a facility for sight-reading. After the Revolutionary War, a "Better Music Movement" sought to eradicate the primitive sound of the singing schools, and they disappeared from New England. They continued in the South and West, however, where the musical styles inherited from New England merged with southern and Appalachian folk influences. One can read about a singing school in Laura Ingalls Wilder's These Happy Golden Years.

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