This chapter introduces the
basic principles of Gregorian notation and how to write scores
in Gregorian notation with Harmony-Melody.
If you do not know this notation, we hope that
reading the present chapter will make you want to investigate it.
Here is an example of a gregorian staff made with
Some pieces of gregorian music are provided in
the Demos folder ("Gregorian" subfolder).
Gregorian notation was designed primarily to commit
to paper the sacred chants of the beginning of the second millennium.
The scale used is, in modern notes: C, D, E, F,
G, A. The intervals between these notes are the same as in modern
Notes are written on a 4-line staff. Each staff
corresponds to a single singer, so there are no chords on such
(a normal human being has difficulty in singing several notes at the
Only note pitch is written, the choir master
(or singer) is left free to choose duration. In some cases, however,
of longer or shorter notes can be given.
Places where the singer
can breathe (rests) are written too.
These are equivalent to pauses and rests in modern
Because we are talking about chants, lyrics
are almost always associated with the staff.
Each lyrics word (or syllable) matches one or
several notes (up to 4).
All notes sung on the same word or syllable are
grouped into an entity called a
The neume is the foundation of Gregorian notation.
A neume is defined by:
Each neume has a different name. Notes inside
the neume are drawn with a square, a diamond or a bold line.
the notes composing the neume (from one to four)
the intervals between these notes (upward or downward)
A neume always starts at the beginning of a syllable.
A neume is always read from left to right (like
in modern notation) but from bottom to top when notes are written on
Here are three notes in modern notation. Pitch
is increased from the first to the second, and increased again from the
second to the third.
It is the “Scandicus” neume, drawn like this
in gregorian notation:
From 1 to 4 notes can be drawn in the same neume.
Thus there can be up to 3 pitch changes (inflexions) in a single neume.
It follows that there are 1+2+4+8, i.e. 15 different
neumes. Each one has its own name.
||Punctum (simple note) or Virga (note with stem)
Here is a neume. Find its name in the array above
(answer at the bottom of this page)
Neume names are given only for information. It
will not be necessary to know these names to work with Harmony-Melody.
Indicators of note duration
Generally, notes are of equal duration. It is
possible, however, to provide information about note duration on the
A longer note will be marked with a dot
(punctum mora) as in modern notation.
A shorter note (liquescens) will be indicated
by a smaller square. Generally this note is located at the end of the
and changes its name.
Two accidentals can be
found in gregorian notation: flat and
are notated in the same way
as in modern music.
There are two kinds of clef:
(C is located on the line marked with the
(F is located on the line marked with
These clefs can be placed on any line of the staff,
to indicate which line equates to the named note.
(accidentals just after the clef) are rare but possible: sometimes you
will come across one flat as a key signature.
Breath indicators are the equivalent of pauses
and rests in modern notation. They are written as a vertical bar.
Custos are little notes written on the
staff, at the right hand edge of the paper. They forewarn the singer
the first note on the next line will be. Melody-Harmony generates
and displays custos automatically.
All regular editing operations can be applied
to a gregorian staff (Cut, Paste, Transpose, Insert, etc.). However,
can only cut & paste
Menu and palette
In the "Edit>Actions" menu, two commands have
been added. The first one splits a neume into individual notes, the
one merges individual notes into a single neume.
A gregorian tools palette has been added to the
"Windows" menu. A description of of its elements is given
in the help window.
Creating a gregorian staff
Create a new document and select its type as
You can also add a new staff to an existing document,
and change its type to "Gregorian".
Selecting the clef
Select the clef change tool and click in the gregorian
staff. Select then the C or F clef and the base line of the clef.
Adding a note
Select a note duration in the Gregorian tools
palette (dotted punctum, punctum or liquescens) and move over the
The help line displays:
If the neume already contains 4 notes, this fact is
displayed in the help line; if you try nevertheless to add a new note
a 4-notes neume, an error message is displayed and the note is not
The type of neume located under your mouse pointer
(with the included note pitches)
The kind of neume you will obtain if you add the
To add a note to the beginning of a neume, click
before the neume on the right line.
To add a note to the end of a neume, click after
the neume on the right line.
To add a note in the middle of a neume, click
at the right location in the neume.
Notes are sometimes graphically very close together
within a neume. To be sure to click at the right place, increase the
display scale of your document.
Adding a rest
Select a rest in the palette and move over the
gregorian staff. Click to insert a rest (breath). Click several times
increase the breath duration.
Deleting a note or a rest
Select the delete tool (lightning bolt) and click
on the note (rest) to be deleted. If you click on a neume, only the
that is pointed at will be deleted from the neume.
Answer to the exercise:
In order to synchronize several gregorian staves
(or a gregorian staff with a regular staff), you need to select a time
signature for the document. With a 16/4 time signature however, you
can write 32 puncta in a single bar.
- Neume graphical location within the bar is not
free. You will not be able, for example, to add a punctum just after a
4-note neume: the area used by a neume is always the sum of the
- It is possible to cut and paste between gregorian
and modern staves. However, some groups of notes (for example, chords)
can generate strange results on a gregorian staff.
It is a 3-note neume, going
up then down, so
it is a Torculus.