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Introduction to

Gregorian Chant

The Staff
There are four lines and three spaces used
in Gregorian chant notation
Both lines and spaces are counted from the
lowest to the highest
There may (rarely) be one supplementary
line above or below the staff

The Notes and Their Names

Musical sounds are distinguished by sonic
packages called notes
Notes used in Gregorian melodies include:
(1) la ti do re mi fa sol la ti do re mi fa sol
(2) A B C D E F G a b c d e f g
(3) 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5

The Diatonic Scale

Gregorian chant uses notes arranged in a
diatonic scale: seven pitches arranged in a
set pattern of tones and semitones
There are only two semitones in the diatonic
scale: between mi and fa and between ti and
All other pitches are at intervals of a whole

The Flat
There is only one accidental permitted in
Gregorian chant: the flatted ti which is then
called teu
The flat is in effect:
(1) as long as the word lasts
(2) until the next bar line of any type
(3) until revoked by a natural sign

The Flat

The Natural

The Clefs
A clef is a stylized letter placed on a line at
the beginning of a staff
A clef indicates the name of the note written
on that line
Gregorian chant notation utilizes two clefs:
(1) the UT or DO clef
(2) the FA clef

The UT / DO Clef
The form of the UT or DO clef is derived
from the letter C in alphabetic notation
The C clef is usually found on the third and
fourth lines
More rarely it is found on the second line
It is never found on the first line or in

The FA Clef
The form of the FA clef is derived from the
letter F in alphabetic notation
The FA clef is normally placed on the third
On rare occasions the FA clef may be placed
on the second line
The FA clef is never placed on the first line or
in the spaces

Bar-lines in Gregorian notation do not
indicate time-division
Gregorian notation uses four kind of bars:
(1) the double bar
(2) the full bar
(3) the half / member bar
(4) the quarter / incise bar

The Double Bar

Closes a chant piece or one of its major
May indicate where whole choir takes up
singing (also indicated by **)
May indicate where the chanting alternates
and changes sides in choir (also indicated
by *)

The Double Bar

The Full Bar

Cuts all four lines of the staff
Indicates the end of a phrase
Specifies that the last notes just before it be
Directs a full breath be taken before
resuming the chant

The Full Bar

The Half Bar

Cuts the two middle lines of the staff
Indicates divisions known as clauses or
Specifies that the notes just before it may be
given a slight prolongation
Directs that a short breath may be taken

The Half Bar

The Quarter Bar

Cuts only the top line of the staff
Indicates divisions known as sections or
Specifies a short sustaining of the voice
When serving as a comma or virgula it
may indicate a very rapid breath

The Quarter Bar

The Custos
Sign placed at the end of each line of
Gregorian notation to indicate in advance
the first note of the following line
Also employed in the course of a line when
there is a change in the placement of the
clef to show the relative pitch of the first
note after the change

The Custos

Single Notes
The ordinary single note is the punctum
(quadratum): a simple square note
As part of a group of notes (neum) as single
note may appear as:
(1) a virga (punctum with a tail)
(2) a rhombus / punctum inclinatum
(diamond-shaped note)

Punctum (Quadratum)


Rhombus (Punctum Inclinatum)

The duration of a single note may be
(1) by the addition of a dot, doubling its
(2) by the horizontal episema, a slight
prolongation without doubling its length

The grouping together of several notes is called
a neum
Neums may be classified as:
(1) simple (podatus, clivis, torculus, porrectus, climacus, scandicus)
(2) augmented (flexus, resupinus, subpunctis, praepunctis)
(3) compound (combination of simple neums)
(4) ornament (quilisma, distropha, tristropha, pressus, oriscus, salicus,

Two-Note Neums
Two-note neums occur in four categories:
(1) podatus / pes (second note higher than
(2) clivis / flexa (second note lower than
(3) distropha (second note on same pitch as
(4) bivirga (same as distropha with differing

Podatus / Pes

Clivis / Flexa



Three-Note Neums
Three-Note Neums appear in five
1) torculus
2) porrectus
3) climacus
4) scandicus
5) tristropha

Torculus (2nd note higher than

1st and 3rd)

Porrectus (2nd note lower than

1st and 3rd)

Climacus (each successive note

lower -- may have more than 3)

Scandicus (each successive note

higher -- may have more than 3)

Tristropha (three notes on same


Four-Note Neums

Four-note neums appear in five categories:

1) torculus resupinus
2) porrectus flexus
3) climacus resupinus
4) scandicus flexus
5) pes subbipunctis

Torculus Resupinus
( torculus + 4th note higher than 3rd)

Porrectus Flexus
(porrectus + 4th note lower than 3rd)

Climacus Resupinus
(climacus + 4th note higher than 3rd)

Scandicus Flexus
(scandicus + fourth note lower than

Pes Subbipunctis
(podatus followed by descending
rhombi -- may be more than 2)

Five-Note (+) Subpunctis

Subpunctis neums of five or more notes
1) porrectus subbipunctis / subtripunctis
2) scandicus subbipunctis / subtripunctis

Porrectus subbipunctis /
subtripunctis (porrectus + 2 or 3
descending rhombi)

Scandicus subbipunctis /
subtripunctis (scandicus + 2 or 3
descending rhombi)

Special Neums

Special Neums include:

1) the quilisma
2) the oriscus
3) the pressus
4) the salicus
5) liquescent neums or groups

(a tremulant note whose
preceding note is prolonged)

Oriscus (meeting of a neum and

a note on the same pitch)

Pressus (meeting of a note and a

neum [minor] or 2 neums
[major] on the same pitch

A scandicus with the ictus (vertical
episema) on the second last note, which
second last note is somewhat prolonged
(but not two beats)
A scandicus is not considered a salicus
unless it has the ictus (vertical episema)
printed on the second last note of the neum

Liquescent Neums
Neums in which the last note is printed
smaller than the note or notes which
precede it
Facilitates the pronunciation of words at the
juncture of vowels and certain consonants
The smaller note has the same duration as
the larger note(s)