(For the curious, accidentals change the vowel sounds. With sharps, do becomes di, re becomes ri, fa becomes fi, sol becomes si and la becomes li. For flats, re becomes ra, mi becomes me, sol becomes se, la becomes le and ti becomes te. There are other systems and not everyone uses these at all.)
|Guidonian hand from a manuscript from Mantua, last quarter of 15th century (Oxford University MS Canon. Liturg. 216. f.168 brecto) (Bodleian Library) This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.|
|Somewhat easier to read solfege and note layout on hand. Some notes have more than one syllable because of the overlapping pattern of solfege scales. For more info, click here. Be warned, it's complex.|
There is a set of hand symbols representing each solfege syllable that some people use today. The hand signs for the sharps and flats aren't used as often.
These are very similar to the sign language alphabet but the two systems have different meanings entirely and the signs for the music syllables are a little more flexible simply because there are fewer. Not every one uses the hand signs for solfege, there are different solfege systems in use and not all musicians use solfege at all.
I am fascinated by the ways we use our hands. It’s an instrumentalist thing as well as a human thing. There is a long list of systems that use the joints or knuckles in the hand as a way to organize, remember and communicate ideas such as musical notes, alphabets, calendar dates and on and on. It's all right there in our hands.