Saturday, 23 August 2008


I need to try to learn square chant notation to help with singing parts of the Mass. By searching the Musica Sacra site, I discovered "An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes."

This is a start, because it tells me whether the neumes start up and go down or start down and go up, or start up, go down and go back up again, or start down, go up and... well, you get the picture!

I didn't really have a problem with that bit... I can follow modern notation to that extent, and the squiggles in square notation are fairly straightforward...

What actually has me chewing the table leg is trying to work out how much a note goes up and down... I know the do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do thingy, but can't quite work out the jump from, say, do to sol in my head without going through the whole lot...


I took Leutgeb's advice, and tried looking at a piece of music I knew well. I decided to try the Kyrie from the Missa de Angelis, figuring that I knew the tune quite well, and could follow the notation... Alas, I found that there were notes where I wasn't expecting notes, which suggests that I've been singing it all wrong for months...

I think I must be a musical dunce. At least it's a Low Mass tomorrow morning!


gemoftheocean said...

Vel, vel, vel....let's let professor Karen put her thinking cap on here. It seems to me that back in the fall of 7*cough*4 when I was a frosh in college the nice instructor for the class in "history of music" or whatever it was I took to fulfill the general distribution requirement ... said that for musical notation for Mozart (and I dare say many other composers) they just put noted a baseline of what was to be played and the musician was supposed to take it upon himself to embellish it.

Check with Leutgeb, and see if she thinks a similar thing might be going on here. I.E. the basic tune might be the same or similar from place to place, but if people added notes here and there - well, so be it. "Scat" for chant.


Jeffrey Tucker said...

Practice your solfeg systematically. Re Re Mi
Re Mi Fa
Re Mi Re
Re Mi Fa Mi Re
Re Fa Re
and so on up and down the scale. Do it daily as you would with any language.

Fr. Daren J. Zehnle said...

I'm right there with you.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry. I'm still counting notes in standard notation. It takes me a lot of time to learn a new one (for playing and for singing).
And sing gregorian hymns with neumes, IMHO, more comforlable. If you know neumes.
Where is such clef (looks as [ )is "do", ergo in lines down "la", "fa", "re".

Anonymous said...

Karen has a point. We always seem to sing two extra notes to what is in the simple chant of the Salve Regina.

Do you have a piano? I find it helps. But let me know how you get on, as I cannot sight read--hence I have to practice everything on the piano.

Ches said...

Here's a few tips that I always found useful.

Most of the Sunday Masses are now available on CD and you can listen to them as an aid. In addition to what Jeffrey says, I'd recommend also practising intervals (leaps) such as:

do-sol-do etc.

Try a scale in steps backwards as well, so:

(starting at the top and then going down)

If you get stuck at an interval in a piece of chant, try singing a scale up or down to that note from the note note you're on.

Anonymous said...

We've sung Halleluia my father together - in two parts - so you're most definitely not a dunce!

I'm not good on the intervals using the (what I learnt as) tonic solfa thing either. The closest I come to it is being able to recite the entire script of the Sound of Music off by heart, including songs.

Last week I was on a Gregorian chant course in Solesmes and all of a sudden I have a confidence boost. My best tip would be: practise!! Get a decent recording, cd or otherwise, of the Salve Regina or the like and follow along. Then sing along.

Sing with other people :D It's lots of fun and you'll get such a confidence boost when you're all together. Have you seen Mr. Tucker's article called How to Start Your Own Garage Schola? Read it, it's great fun and encouraging, even if you don't actually go out and start one up.

Above all remember - even though some of the Proper chants are solo-material, this is our music and it's completely normal to be able to read and sing it, esp. the Ordinaries. So don't let anyone, including your inner demons, make you think that you can't do it. Because you can.

Mac McLernon said...

Puella, that's so sweet of you! But I wasn't really reading the music - just using it to check timings - as I was familiar with the tune.

The Mass settings, and propers, are written in square notes... and it'll be years before I'm "familiar" with the sound of the propers, because I don't know any Latin, and they change each week...

I love to sing, and I think I have quite a nice voice... but I just can't seem to get my head around intervals!

Terra said...

While you are doing your sol-fah exercises (which will take time - I'm afraid I'm still mentality translating from standard notation!), you can cheat by getting an idea of what everything should sound like here:

Coffee Catholic said...

Get yerself a copy of "A Gregorian Chant Master Class" by Dr. heodore Marier. It's produced by the Abbey of Regina Laudis in America but I think you can find it for sale through an Irish site ~ can't remember what site that it, maybe google will deliver results...

This is THE best source I've found yet!!

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