Setting a chant

Modern chant settings use modern notation with varying numbers of elements taken from ancient notation. Some of the elements and methods to consider are shown here.

Chants often use quarter notes without stems to indicate the pitch, with the rhythm being taken from the spoken rhythm of the words.

stemOff = { \hide Staff.Stem }

\relative c' {
  \stemOff
  a'4 b c2 |
}

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Chants often omit measure bar lines or use shortened or dotted bar lines to indicate pauses in the music. To set a chant with no musical meter, see section Unmetered music. To retain all the effects of a time signature but disable automatic measure bar lines, set measureBarType to '(). Without regular bar lines, you might need to take steps to control horizontal spacing; see section Line breaking.

\score {
  \new StaffGroup <<
    \new Staff {
      \relative {
        a'4 b c2 |
        a4 b c2 | \section
        a4 b c2 |
      }
    }
    \new Staff {
      \relative {
        a'4 b c2 |
        a4 b c2 | \section
        a4 b c2 |
      }
    }
  >>
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      measureBarType = #'()
      forbidBreakBetweenBarLines = ##f
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Measure bar lines can also be modified on a staff-by-staff basis; see section Modifying context plug-ins.

Rests or pauses in chants can be indicated by modified bar lines.

\relative a' {
  a4
  \cadenzaOn
  b c2
  a4 b c2
  \bar "'"
  a4 b c2
  \bar ","
  a4 b c2
  \bar ";"
  a4 b c2
  \bar "!"
  a4 b c2
  \bar "||"
}

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Alternatively, the notation used in Gregorian chant for pauses or rests is sometimes used even though the rest of the notation is modern.

divisioMinima = \caesura
divisioMaior = { \caesura \shortfermata }
divisioMaxima = { \caesura \fermata }
finalis = \section

\score {
  \relative {
    g'2 a4 g
    \divisioMinima
    g2 a4 g
    \divisioMaior
    g2 a4 g
    \divisioMaxima
    g2 a4 g
    \finalis
  }
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove Caesura_engraver
      \consists Divisio_engraver
      \EnableGregorianDivisiones
      caesuraType = #'((breath . chantquarterbar))
      measureBarType = #'()
      forbidBreakBetweenBarLines = ##f
    }
  }
}

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Chants usually omit the time signature and often omit the clef too.

\score {
  \new Staff {
    \relative {
      a'4 b c2 |
      a4 b c2 |
      a4 b c2 |
    }
  }
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove Time_signature_engraver
      \remove Clef_engraver
      measureBarType = #'()
      forbidBreakBetweenBarLines = ##f
    }
  }
}

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Chants for psalms in the Anglican tradition are usually either single, with 7 bars of music, or double, with two lots of 7 bars. Each group of 7 bars is divided into two halves, corresponding to the two halves of each verse, usually separated by a double bar line. Only whole and half notes are used. The 1st bar in each half always contains a single chord of whole notes. This is the “reciting note”. Chants are usually centered on the page.

SopranoMusic = \relative {
  g'1 | c2 b | a1 |
  a1 | d2 c | c b | c1 |
}

AltoMusic = \relative {
  e'1 | g2 g | f1 |
  f1 | f2 e | d d | e1 |
}

TenorMusic = \relative {
  c'1 | c2 c | c1 |
  d1 | g,2 g | g g | g1 |
}

BassMusic =  \relative {
  c1 | e2 e | f1 |
  d1 | b2 c | g' g | c,1 |
}

global = {
  \time 2/2
  \skip 1*3 \section
  \skip 1*4 \fine
}

% Use markup to center the chant on the page
\markup {
  \fill-line {
    \score {  % centered
      <<
        \new ChoirStaff <<
          \new Staff <<
            \global
            \clef "treble"
            \new Voice = "Soprano" <<
              \voiceOne
              \SopranoMusic
            >>
            \new Voice = "Alto" <<
              \voiceTwo
              \AltoMusic
            >>
          >>
          \new Staff <<
            \clef "bass"
            \global
            \new Voice = "Tenor" <<
              \voiceOne
              \TenorMusic
            >>
            \new Voice = "Bass" <<
              \voiceTwo
              \BassMusic
            >>
          >>
        >>
      >>
      \layout {
        \context {
          \Score
          \override SpacingSpanner.base-shortest-duration =
            \musicLength 2
          fineBarType = "||"
        }
        \context {
          \Staff
          \remove Time_signature_engraver
        }
      }
    }  % End score
  }
}  % End markup

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Some other approaches to setting such a chant are shown in the first of the following snippets.

Selected Snippets

Chant or psalms notation

This form of notation is used for Psalm chant, where verses aren’t always the same length.

stemOff = \hide Staff.Stem
stemOn  = \undo \stemOff

\score {
  \new Staff \with { \remove "Time_signature_engraver" }
  {
    \key g \minor
    \cadenzaOn
    \stemOff a'\breve bes'4 g'4
    \stemOn a'2 \section
    \stemOff a'\breve g'4 a'4
    \stemOn f'2 \section
    \stemOff a'\breve^\markup { \italic flexe }
    \stemOn g'2 \fine
  }
}

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Canticles and other liturgical texts may be set more freely, and may use notational elements from ancient music. Often the words are shown underneath and aligned with the notes. If so, the notes are spaced in accordance with the syllables rather than the notes’ durations.

Ancient notation template – modern transcription of gregorian music

This example demonstrates how to do modern transcription of Gregorian music. Gregorian music has no measure, no stems; it uses only half and quarter note heads, and special marks, indicating rests of different length.

chant = \relative c' {
  \set Score.timing = ##f
  f4 a2 \divisioMinima
  g4 b a2 f2 \divisioMaior
  g4( f) f( g) a2 \finalis
}

verba = \lyricmode {
  Lo -- rem ip -- sum do -- lor sit a -- met
}

\score {
  \new GregorianTranscriptionStaff <<
    \new GregorianTranscriptionVoice = "melody" \chant
    \new GregorianTranscriptionLyrics = "one" \lyricsto melody \verba
  >>
}

[image of music]

See also

Learning Manual: Visibility and color of objects, Vocal ensembles templates.

Notation Reference: Ancient notation, Bar lines, Modifying context plug-ins, Typesetting Gregorian chant, Unmetered music, Visibility of objects.


LilyPond Notation Reference v2.25.13 (development-branch).