Gregorian Modes Demystified
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    I am building a flash module called 'Modes Demystified' which will demonstrate:

    1. The eight modes, including their names, final and dominant (notation with audio)
    2. Demonstrations of the modes and the peculiarities of their respective intervalic relationships that give them their unique character. I have composed a 1 minute 'etude' for each mode demonstrating step motion, 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, etc. in a scale like fashion that allows one to 'taste' the pure flavor of hearing and experiencing each one's effect. (notation with audio)
    3. Transcription of each mode into modern notation with C as the tonic. This will demonstrate each mode in a modern notation 'key signature' to help people get a reference of how it relates to our modern scales since we tend to think of C major as the 'neutral' tonal center in the circle of fifths. (notation with audio)
    4. Best two or three examples from the body of chant that illustrate these modes in their (theoretically) purest form. (notation with audio)

    What I am looking for FROM YOU is suggestions of which pieces fill the bill for number four (4) in the list above. Please use the Graduale (1961) from the CMAA website as the reference so I can easily find the samples to which you refer. Once I have received the 'list' from all of you, I will then incorporate the demonstration into number four. This will be a great teaching tool for understanding the modal structures all in one easy to use flash file.

    When submitting suggestions, please include:

    1. Title
    2. Mode Number
    3. Page Number in the Graduale (1961)

    Thank You!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    Hi All:

    I put up the initial module that lets you all hear and experience the effects of the Gregorian modes. Go to:

    Modes Demystified

    At the bottom right on the home page is the link.

    Let me know what you think and if you can help me with the final part of this study (see initial post)

  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Francis: Although I know nothing of modes, I'd suggest that you could use the various Alleluias in the back of the Gradual. Those seem to be characteristic of each mode, more or less.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    Thanks, Gavin. I will look them up. I am even able to use gregorian notation for the simulation!
  • Francis,
    On this forum's host website ( if you scroll down on the right side, you will see a section of resources called "Teaching Aides." About 4/5 of the way down the list of resources, you will see, "'Textbook of Gregorian Chant' by Dom Sunol (1930)." If you open that PDF file and go to pages 40-45 of that book, you will find a series of solfege exercises and typical melodies for each of the eight modes.

    This book, by the way, will be used by Scott Turkington as one of his texts in the Chant Intensive he will be offering from June 9-13 at Loyola University prior to the colloquium.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    Thanks, Brian. I will also look those up too.
  • Brian, thank you for this reference—VERY helpful.

    Francis, I am grateful for your efforts—I will direct my students to this page on your site. There is also a series of solfege exercises and typical melodies for each of the eight modes in Mrs. Ward's chant book for adults, whose exact title I do not have close at hand. I'll try to get the reference later and edit this post accordingly.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    It's here at the back.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    Thank you Paul and Jeffrey. I will certainly look over all these resources and try to finish up this little etude asap.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Maestro Bruce Ford has posted examples of each of the eight modes (Antiphons and Psalms) on this site and it is highly instructive.

    It is the same Psalm in eight different modes
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Splendid, splendid.

    I hope this doesn't sound too ridiculous, but each authentic mode has a seasonal association for me:

    Dorian - fall
    Phrygian - winter
    Lydian - spring
    Mixolydian - summer

    And yes, it's the different combinations of major/minor thirds and sevenths, and the augmented fourth and minor second, that make these differences.

    Francis, this is very helpful, particularly the plagal demonstrations. Really nice job laying out the available palette.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    Hi Pes

    It would be interesting to next do a comparison to common chants. That is interesting about the seasons of the year. Do you know if particular modes are more or less aligned with the liturgical seasons? Does anyone know if this has been studied?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    fixed link to modes. sorry.
  • You probably don't need this anymore (I see your post was in March) but I just signed onto this forum recently and am making my way through the various threads. As to seasons, I noticed long ago that many (most?) of the graduals in the green season, at the middle part, are in Mode V. I believe there are some other seasonal things but I can't think of them right now. When we are singing at mass I will notice it (e.g., "Oh, there is another offertory in Mode II like last week...").

    I think there are perhaps more similarities between the same proper in successive weeks, rather than a number of the propers for a particular time. I seem to recall James McKinnon saying something about such things (maybe not modes, but texts or something) in the Advent Project.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Do you know if particular modes are more or less aligned with the liturgical seasons?

    In the Orthodox church, we cycle through the tones on each Sunday, so there are eight resurrectional troparia and many parts of vespers come in all eight tones. The ordinaries stay in the same tone all the time though, just depending on which piece you picked. But at my home parish all the ordinaries change during lent, so that might have something to do with modes. Dorian/Phyrgian music seems more lenten and Lydian/Mixolydian more paschal... no? I don't have the resources to verify this though.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    Fascinating information. I would certainly like to find some documentation on this.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,746
    restoring the link to this page from eons ago