Those who sing their prayers pray twice! These psalm tones are modal and so work within the ancient musical form as traditional plainchant. The starting point is the natural rhythm of speech. The tones conform to the pattern of language, rather than imposing their own rhythm on the words. This means that once you understand how the system works, which is pretty simple, they flow naturally and it frees you to contemplate the text more deeply.
Scroll to the bottom to access links to audio and audio/video with scrolling musical score. You can hear examples of all modes, applied to psalms, canticles, Ordinaries of the Mass
Any psalm tone can be sung to any psalm, so once you know even just one, you can sing the whole psalter. These tones are arranged so that any tone can be applied to any text and they always follow the natural rhythm of the words of the text. The system is so simple, that you don’t need a deep musical training – if you can sing it, you can teach others to sing it. This means that in just a few minutes, you could have a completely fresh group able to learn a tone and sing a whole Office together. Also, because the system of matching tone to text is so natural, it makes it easy to compose new tones. So if you don’t like mine then compose your own, but if you use the system of matching the tone to the text, again, you can compose just one tone and then sing the whole psalter to it.
You can hear examples and see an instruction video on pointing the text at the bottom.
You can apply these tones easily to any off-the-shelf psalter, bible or breviary. You don’t have to buy a particular edition to sing them. So whichever version you or your group has, you can now sing it together.
In order to sing them you need to ‘point” the text. Pointing is the name given to marking the stressed syllables. This takes two minutes for an average psalm – you can just mark them lightly in pencil on the page of your breviary or bible. There is an instruction video below showing you how to do it; and then it explains how to sing the psalm.
If you get more sophisticated you can sing these tones in four-part harmonies – appropriate perhaps for more solemn liturgies and psalms sung in Mass. The harmonisations (with the exception of one done by Thomas Tallis) are done by Paul Jernberg. We recommend his sung Mass for the new translation, the Mass of St Philip Neri. We don’t have the scores for the harnomised tones up on this page yet, but you can contact me if you want copies. You can hear examples below. You can obtain scores for all Paul Jernberg compositions at csmus.org.
Pdfs of musical scores:
pdf: The Clayton Psalm Tones – musical scores for all the tones we have developed so far.
pdf: The Mass of St Thomas More – Chant Mass in English, unison or with organum drone
pdf: Credo I, Mode IV; Credo II, Mode IV; Credo III, Mode IV
pdf: Te Deum – four-part harmony
pdf: St Michael
Audio files with video of scrolling music scores – listen for yourselves. We have applied different tones to Psalm 141 (except where another is specified) so that you can see how all of them can be applied to the same text, the first set also have a scrolling musical score so you can see the link directly:
Harmonised – Our Father (composed by Paul Jernberg)
St Michael Prayer (Tr. Arr Jernberg/Clayton)
Holy, Holy, Holy from Mass of St Philip Neri (composed and arranged by Paul Jernberg)
All compositions are by David Clayton, unless otherwise stated, copyright David Clayton/ The Way of Beauty. All harmonisations are by Paul Jernberg, copyright