Welcome to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary's Teach Yourself Chant program! We hope that this will help you to learn chant, and to teach it to others.
It is recommended that before you sing, you read through the Learning the Basics of Chant section. However, if you would just like to go straight to trying to learn something or already know the basics of chant, you can get started below with Chapter 1.
- Click this symbol to access a PDF of the chapter exercises which you can print.
SECTION 1 - Learning The Basics:
SECTION 2 - Working with the Do Clef on Line Four:
Chapter 1: Lower Notes
Chapter 2: Higher Notes
Chapter 3: Working with Thirds; Lower Notes
Chapter 4: Working With Thirds; Higher Notes
Chapter 5: Working With Fourths; Lower Notes
Chapter 6: Working With Fourths; Higher Notes
Chapter 7: Working with Fifths; Lower Notes
Chapter 8: Working With Fifths; Higher Notes
SECTION 3 - Working with the Do Clef on Line Three:
Chapter 9: Lower Notes
Chapter 10: Higher Notes
Chapter 11: Working with Thirds; Lower Notes
Chapter 12: Working With Thirds; Higher Notes
Chapter 13: Working With Fourths; Lower Notes
Chapter 14: Working With Fourths; Higher Notes
Chapter 15: Working with Fifths; Lower Notes
Chapter 16: Working With Fifths; Higher Notes
SECTION 4 - Working with the Fa Clef:
Chapter 17: Lower Notes
Chapter 18: Higher Notes
Chapter 19: Working with Thirds; Lower Notes
Chapter 20: Working with Thirds; Higher Notes
Chapter 21: Working with Fourths; Lower Notes
Chapter 22: Working with Fourths; Higher Notes
Chapter 23: Working with Fifths; Lower Notes
Chapter 24: Working with Fifths; Higher Notes
Gregorian Chant looks different from modern music. There are only 4 lines in the musical staff, whereas modern music uses five lines. The lines are numbered from the bottom up, so the bottom line is line 1 and the top line is line 4.
Below you see a Do (pronounced "dough") clef. It tells you where the note called do is. On a piano or organ you can use any key that is the note C to be do when you practice. In this example the do clef is on line 4.
There are only seven basic notes to learn for chant. If you know the basics of playing a piano or organ, think of do as C, the next note up, re is the next white key, and so on for each of the notes. You only need the white keys to play these notes on the piano or organ. The name for a square not all by itself is called a punctum.
If the music goes very high or very low, the notes start all over again from do, to re, to mi, etc., when going higher, or from do to ti to la when going lower.
leger lines - these are lines that go through notes that are two (or in rare cases four) positions above or below the staff. Notice the leger line running through the very first and the very last note in the example below.
Note also the two lines at the end of the Gregorian Staff: they form a double bar. The double bar comes at the end of every piece of chant. It is also used in pieces like the creed to show where one group would stop singing and another would start when the singing was divided between two groups, as is often done between the schola and the congregation at a sung mass.
You will see other kinds of bars used in chant. You can see all four possible kinds below. They will be explained in more detail later, but for now realize that at a quarter bar no breath is taken, at a half bar you pause just long enough to breath, but you do not want to change the timing of the piece by pausing there. Make breaths quickly and quietly at the half bars, and keep right on singing. The full bar is a place where you come to a stop and take a deep breath.
There is a way to show that a punctum should be sung for twice as long as a normal punctum. To do this a dot is put beside it, and then it is called a dotted punctum. Normally you see that done on the last note before a half bar, a full bar, or a double bar, as you can see below.
Another note used in chant is the virga. It is sung for as long as the punctum, and it also can have a dot put beside it and so become a dotted virga. But the virga is different from the punctum because it is only used when two or more notes are being put right beside each other. Only in the example below will you see it by itself. The tail that hangs down from the virga can be on the right or the left side.
A group of two or more notes is called a neum. Below are 3 examples of each of the most important nuems. The instructions for singing the notes are very important, since these little things are what give chant much of its beautiful and mysterious sound.
podatus - sing the bottom note first, then the top note. Make the top note softer.
clivis - sing the top note first, then the bottom note. Make the bottom note softer.
torculus - sing the bottom note on the left first, then the top note, and then go back down and sing the bottom note on the right. Make the middle note softer.
porrectus - this is actually only three notes. The long black swoop marks were originally made by the quill pen going from the first note to the second note without picking up the quill pen. Do not slide your voice from the first note to the second, instead move your voice normally. Soften your voice on the third note.
climacus - you see the virga forms a part of the climacus. The virga is sung with a little more volume than the others. The diamond shaped notes which trail behind the virga are each called a rhombus.
scandicus - sing these from the bottom up, with the first note being a little louder than the rest..
Do you feel pretty confident with those notes? If so, you are probably ready to move on to the exercises below. The key to learning how to read chant is repeating these simple exercises over and over. Soon you will find that they are running through your mind during the day.