You are on page 1of 6

Week 1

Thursday, September 15, 2016

BYZANTINE MUSIC 101


MUSICAL ALPHABET | MELODIC SOUNDS | BASIC CHARACTERS

INTRODUCTION:
Like learning any new language starts with learning the Alphabet of that language, learning
Byzantine music starts by learning the musical alphabet, or the musical notation. To make any
progress in learning Byzantine music, it is very important to master the names of the note and their
order.
The Byzantine music alphabet, notation, consists of characters and signs. Each character and sign
carry a special value that expresses sound, time and rhythm.
Once we learn the names and order of the notes, we will proceed to learn the melodic sound of
these notes. Remember, it will seem hard at first, but with exercise and practice, it only gets easier.

THE MUSICAL ALPHABET:


The names for Byzantine music notes originate from the first seven letters of the Greek alphabet.
1. (alpha)
2. (beta)
3. (gamma)
4. (delta)
5. (epsilon)
6. (zita)
7. (ita)

St. Elias School of Byzantine Music

Week 1

Thursday, September 15, 2016

To create a complete syllable from every letter in the Alphabet, they added vowels and or
consonants to that letter. This makes it easier to pronounce this letter melodically. Therefore:
1. (alpha) becomes (Pa), by adding (P) before the letter.
2. (beta) becomes (Vou), by adding (ou) before the letter.
3. (gamma) becomes (Ga), by adding (a) before the letter.
4. (delta) becomes (Thi), by adding (i) before the letter.
5. (epsilon) becomes (Ke), by adding (k) before the letter.
6. (zita) becomes (Zo), by adding (o) before the letter.
7. (ita) becomes (Ni), by adding (n) before the letter.

Consequently, the first seven letters of the Greek Alphabet became the names of the Byzantine
music notation as follows:
Ni,

Pa,

Vou, Ga,

Thi,

Ke,

Zo,

Ni (eight note in total)

Please remember, that memorizing the names of the notes is vital to any future progress in learning
Byzantine music.

Exercise 0.1
Learn by heart the following order of notes in which they will be used,
forwards and backwards:
Ni, Pa, Vou, Ga, Thi, Ke, Zo, Ni

St. Elias School of Byzantine Music

Week 1

Thursday, September 15, 2016

THE MUSICAL PITCH (SOUND):


Every Character of the eight notes holds a special unique sound. This sound is called a musical
pitch. Byzantine music notes are very much like the western music notes where every note carries
a unique name and sound of its own. For example, Ni corresponds with the western note C or (also
knows as Doh), Pa corresponds with D (or Re) and so on as follows:

The note D (or Re) corresponds to the note Pa.

The note E (or Mi) corresponds to the note Vou.

The note F (or Fah) corresponds to the note Ga.

The note G (or Soh) corresponds to the note Thi.

The note A (or Lah) corresponds to the note Ke.

The note B (or Si) corresponds to the note Zo.

Exercise 0.2
Learn to match the name of every note with its musical pitch or sound
using your sound (sing it). This step is the foundation for all exercises
that will follow!
Ni, Pa, Vou, Ga, Thi, Ke, Zo, Ni

St. Elias School of Byzantine Music

Week 1

Thursday, September 15, 2016

THE MUSICAL SCALE:


In Byzantine music, a scale is a group of musical notes in ascending or descending order. Every
eight musical notes form a musical scale. After every eight consecutive notes, there are another
eight notes with the same name. They sound alike, although they are heard lower or higher in
pitch.
Very much like playing a piano, the more we ascend on the keyboard, the higher the pitch of the
note becomes, and the more we descend on the keyboard, the lower the pitch of the note sounds.

St. Elias School of Byzantine Music

Week 1

Thursday, September 15, 2016

THE MUSICAL SIGNS AND CHARACTERS:


Byzantine music is expressed through musical signs and characters. These signs tell us what to do
with our voice when we chant. They either tell us to ascend the musical scale, descend the musical
scale, or keep the same note or pitch.
There are three main categories of musical signs:
Sings of Ascent
Signs of Descent
Signs of Equality

= Ison (+0)

Ison means to stay on the same pitch as the previous note.

= Ison (+1)

Oligon means to ascend one note from the previous note.

= Ison (-1)

Apostrophos means to descend one note from the previous note.


For reading Byzantine notation, consider the following points:
1. Reading progresses from left to right.
2. Before the first character, there will be a key indicating from where the first character will
progress.
3. Throughout the Byzantine notation, vertical lines called bars appear. They aid in measuring
the rhythm of the melody. Same as bars in western music.
St. Elias School of Byzantine Music

Week 1

Thursday, September 15, 2016

EXERCISES
EXERCISE 1

EXERCISE 2

EXERCISE 2

St. Elias School of Byzantine Music