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Author Topic: Help understanding the tones? Beginner, I have no idea what they mean.  (Read 1227 times) Average Rating: 0
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Mokek Kwe
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« on: October 27, 2012, 08:02:43 PM »

I have no clue what these even mean.  Huh
3rd tone? 6th tone? etc?

Help, please?
Thanks in advance. Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2012, 08:24:27 PM »

Unless you're the choir director, I wouldn't sweat too much about it.

In the Byzantine tradition, tones are basically the scales that make up a song. In the Russian tradition, IIRC, they're more like pattern melodies.
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2012, 02:47:59 PM »

I have no clue what these even mean.  Huh
3rd tone? 6th tone? etc?

Help, please?
Thanks in advance. Smiley

The Byzantine tradition, like the Syrian, makes use of 8 Tones. Each of these represent a different musical scale around which the melodies for hymnody is based.

If you look at the Book of Eight Tones (Octoechos), which is used primarily at Matins and Vespers, each day of the week has a particular theme. Sunday, as you know, is the day of the Resurrection, on Monday we celebrate the Holy Angels, on Tuesday St. John the Baptist, on Wednesday and Friday the Cross, Thursday the Holy Apostles, and on Saturday the departed.

For each of those daily themes, the Octoechos contains eight different sets of hymns - one for each tone. Every week, a different tone is used. In order to accommodate these, many of the psalms and hymns that do not vary depending on the day of the week are sung according to the tone of the week. Lord, I have cried at Vespers, for example, will therefore have 8 different distinct melodies in order to match what's being sung from the Octoechos.

Hymns from the Menaion, Triodion or Pentacostarion, which are only used on one particular day of the year, will only make use of a single melody. Many of these hymns will use the same melody (these model melodies are called prosomia), and so the tone will be indicated above the text in order for you to know in which tone to sing it, since it generally will not correspond to the tone of the week.

I hope I haven't confused you.

« Last Edit: October 28, 2012, 02:49:58 PM by Orthodox11 » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2012, 04:18:15 PM »

If you want to listen to examples of the tones to compare how they sound, look here:

Russian Tones

These examples are known as Court Chant or "Obikhod", used for Troparion hymns (the short hymns before "Holy God" at Liturgy and elsewhere). There are other forms of these tones used for Stichera (the verses at the beginning of Vespers and the end of Matins) and canons (the epic-length hymns in the middle of Matins). There are also other whole chant traditions besides Obikhod under the Russian umbrella, which sound completely different, but these hymns below are sung every Sunday and are worth getting familiar with.

Tone 1
Tone 2
Tone 3
Tone 4
Tone 5
Tone 6
Tone 7
Tone 8

Byzantine Tones

Byzantine tones differ from each other because they use different scales (intervals between the notes). The first four are known as the "authentic" tones, and the last four are the "plagal" or "expanded" tones. Your profile says you're in the OCA, so you probably won't encounter much Byzantine chant, but again for comparison, here they are.

Tone 1
Tone 2
Tone 3
Tone 4
Tone 5 (Plagal Tone 1)
Tone 6 (Plagal Tone 2)
Tone 7 (Grave Tone)
Tone 8 (Plagal Tone 4)

All Orthodox music is ultimately derived from Byzantine chant, and have evolved in different directions. The Russian "Znammeny" chant tradition still sounds similar to Byzantine, while others like "Obikhod" evolved and have been greatly simplified.

Many people become chauvinists about chant, and come to like only what they're used to. Don't do it. All chant traditions are beautiful in their own way, and it's wonderful to learn to appreciate them all. Some take more work than others, but the rich traditions are worth appreciating. Smiley
« Last Edit: October 28, 2012, 04:42:54 PM by age234 » Logged
Mokek Kwe
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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2012, 05:43:34 PM »

okay, so idk if this question has an answer..... but *why* are there different tones?  Huh
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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2012, 06:20:58 PM »

okay, so idk if this question has an answer..... but *why* are there different tones?  Huh

It's ancient musical tradition. In the Hebrew temple, there were different melodies and tones, same in paganism. Jewis and Gentile Christians built on what they new. We glorify God with a diversity of prayers and melodies. The rotation of both the tones and the liturgical prayers helps everything to be absorbed spiritually. There's enough variety to be interesting and enough familiarity to enter into our lives so that, perhaps, we find ourselves on a Wednesday sitting at work and a hymn comes to mind and we can turn our minds to God.
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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2012, 01:58:53 AM »

If I remember correctly there were twelve or so tones (singing modes) known in apostolic times and thereafter. Some of the early fathers involved with structuring the bits and pieces of liturgy and Christian worship to function in it's new "legal" context decided that only 8 of those tones were sufficiently sober to be used with the hymnody of the Church.

In modern music we think of our notes (ABCDEFG) and their various sharps and flats as being separated from each other by a "half step" like on a piano keyboard (white key black key white key, etc.) The Byzantine tones are more ancient and more "organic" than the modern system. In each tone there are a different set of tonal difference/spaces between each note. Instead of a half step it may be a quarter step or some other combination. so it doesn't really fit the more mechanically spaced notes of modern music.  Some of the tones are bright sounding, others sober, and others yet grave.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe half the tones are plagals (copies…think plagiarism) of the earlier tones. This is to say they use the same bucket of note spaces for the tone…but rather than start on the normal beginning note of the series, it begins somewhere else in the string and overarches forwards and backwards from that note….it gives you the same tonal spacing but a different set of notes to construct the melody from.

Once the tones were established a system of notation was developed…which was also more organic than our modern fixed note system.  It looks like a collection of dots and squiggles over the tops of words to a hymn.  But basically what it is is sort of a musical syllabary.  One squiggle means do this thing or that thing or another thing with the note in the tone one starts on, and the next sign picks up with whatever the ending note is and says do this that or the other thing to the next note.  The tones tell you how to start and notes and in the bucket of melody, the notations tells you when and how to go up or down and when to rest and when to lengthen a note and when to give it some color, etc. The melody is essentially built of the interplay of the squiggles and the tones and the natural phrasing of the hymn…..this is if I've understood the basics of the matter correctly.
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2012, 02:20:00 AM »

^^ Sounds right to me.

You compared the scales to strings; I've also heard them compared to ladders. Each "ladder" has rungs spaced differently, and you run up and down the rungs as you chant. The plagal tones have a longer ladder to play with.

The churches of Constantinople and Antioch also have slightly different defined standards for the "rung" spacing, especially on the chromatic scales, so even Byzantine families will sound a little different.

And in the West, since we are used to the fixed western scale, it's almost impossible to get all the quarter tones right. And so western Byzantine chant is a bit simplified from the original, since we just plain aren't able to sing that way.

That's really getting in the weeds though. The OP definitely doesn't need (or probably want) this much detail. Grin
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2012, 07:26:05 AM »

If you really want to get technical, then go to http://www.newbyz.org/ModeMnemonics3.pdf

New Byzantium Publications has some excellent resources for Orthodox music.
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2012, 11:55:32 AM »

If you really want to get technical, then go to http://www.newbyz.org/ModeMnemonics3.pdf

New Byzantium Publications has some excellent resources for Orthodox music.

No offense intended Michael, but this excellent site is not a resource for 'Orthodox' music per se - it is a resource for Byzantine chant in the Hellenic tradition. To a Slav, describing the same as 'Orthodox music'  is as irritating as it is to a Greek or Arab Orthodox person when someone refers to a three bar cross as an "Orthodox cross." We have many venerable and equally valid traditions in Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2012, 12:01:14 PM »

I read somewhere that the tradition of 8 Tones goes back to Pythagoras and Hellenic therapeutic approach to music.
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« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2012, 12:03:43 PM »

I read somewhere that the tradition of 8 Tones goes back to Pythagoras and Hellenic therapeutic approach to music.

I've heard the same, but then what explains its use in the Syrian Orthodox tradition? Hellenistic influence?
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« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2012, 12:10:41 PM »

I read somewhere that the tradition of 8 Tones goes back to Pythagoras and Hellenic therapeutic approach to music.

I've heard the same, but then what explains its use in the Syrian Orthodox tradition? Hellenistic influence?

Possibly. I think that it makes sense that Church music was thought as a therapeutic tool and that explains why people don't want to change it. Even modern science aknowledge that music can influence the human mind (baroque stimulates rational intellect for example), so Church music was though of by "medical scientists" of the spirit to help in our ascetic growth.
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 01:51:03 AM »


The links are broken for the byzantine tones. Is it possible to find them elsewhere? Thank you.
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« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2013, 03:48:28 AM »

http://www.albertacantors.ca/GoodShepherd/AudioFiles8RessurectionalTonesEnglish/tabid/1390/Default.aspx

Here are the galacian tones as used in the Ukrainian tradition.  Overlooked and in my opinion is much better than obikhod.
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« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2013, 08:11:56 AM »

The Byzantine 8 Modes/Tones:
Tone 1st
Tone 2nd (chromatic)
Tone 3rd
Tone 4th

Plagal of 1st
Plagal of 2nd (chromatic)
Grave Tone
Plagal of 4th

And verses from Psalms 135 & 136 chanted in Octoechos (all eight modes of the Byzantine musical system): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3jjaDOHtII
Mode 1st
 00:18-2:12
 Mode 2nd diatonic (Legetos)
 2:13-4:23
 Mode 3rd
 4:24-6:35
 Mode 4th (Aghia)
 6:36-8:57
 Mode Plagal of 1st
 8:58-11:09
 Mode Plagal of 2nd chromatic (Nenano)
 11:10-13:30
 Mode Grave diatonic
 13:31-16:01
 Mode Plagal of 4th
 16:02-18:28
 And again Mode 1st
 18:39-End
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« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2013, 11:57:32 AM »

Good idea to put new links! Thank you!
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« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2013, 01:12:41 PM »

The parish of St. John the wonderworker has a page of Tones and Melodies (Obikhod):

http://www.atlantaorthodoxchurches.org/stjohn/sounds/Tones.html
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« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2013, 07:23:51 AM »

The Byzantine 8 Modes/Tones:

They're good exaples, but for somebody who is new to byzantine tones I think it's better to show them on one particular type of hymns like troparions, becasue there are some variations of each tone depending on the type of hymn (troparion=apolytikia; Lord I have cried, Doxology, Cherubic hymn, doxastikon etc.).

Fot he byzantine system that's very useful site:
http://www.goarch.org/multimedia/audio/orthros (there are Sunday apolytykia=troparions in all 8 tones).

As for Serbian system, which has its roots in Byzantine chant, that's good website:
http://www.nikolaresanovic.com/AnthologySerbChant-index.html (with voice in English)
and http://www.nikolaresanovic.com/Serbian-Troparia.index.html (midi)
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