Characteristics of Gregorian chants

  1. Melody

2. Very free flowing.

3. The chant moves up and down by steps and small leaps within a narrow range.

4. Some chants are responsive, soloist or chorus.

5. The three main classes.

6. Syllabic, one note set to each syllable of text.

7. Neumatic, a few notes set to one syllable.

8. Melismatic, many notes set to one syllable.


2. Harmony

2. Monophonic in texture, so have no harmony.

3. Melodies are modal, set in one of the church modes or scales.

4. No strong pull to tonic.


3. Rhythm

2. No precise rhythm, notes may be held for a duration of short or long, but no complex rhythms are used.


4. Form

2. Some Gregorian chants tend to be in ternary form. A cantor begins the piece with an introductory solo called an incipit. The choir then sings the piece and at the end, the cantor concludes with his solo, which was often in a reduced dynamic level and featured a narrower range of pitches.


5. Texture

2. Gregorian chants are one of the few pieces of music that are entirely monophonic. There is only one melodic line in a Gregorian chant.


6. Medium

2. Gregorian chants are traditionally sung by all male choirs. Some Gregorian chants, however, were written for women choirs.


7.  Context

2. Gregorian chants were used by the church to aid prayers. Monks would sing them.

3. The mass has two categories of prayers.

4. The proper, texts that vary according to day.

5. The ordinary, texts that remain the same for every mass.

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