Byzantine Music Formulae
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Click here for version in Greek
Composing Byzantine music in a traditional manner is a great challenge, because it requires not only inspiration, but also two technical prerequisites: 1) knowing which musical gestures or "formulae" are permitted for a particular syllabic pattern, and 2) knowing how to group these formulae together in a given mode. For, as the musicologists Egon Wellesz and Gregorios Stathis have observed, "the task of a composer of Greek Orthodox church music has always been not to invent as many original melodies as possible, but to 'compose' a new melody from old and well-known formulae and cadences, or to write a variation on a given melody." These formulae are a priceless treasure of Orthodox liturgical chant, because they were devised by hymnographers who over the centuries perfected the art of clothing liturgical texts with a melody that highlights their meaning in a way that aids prayer.
Unfortunately, the rules governing these formulae have never been codified thoroughly. As a result, composers who are only partially familiar with these rules frequently write music that departs from traditional melodic lines. This is a serious defect not only ideologically (in that such compositions can not be considered a valid continuation of the tradition of Orthodox chant—which, as the musicologist Dimitri Conomos has pointed out, is "the only music in world history that has a continuous 1500-year unbroken melodic tradition") but also aesthetically, because—to quote Conomos again—"these age-old chants, especially preserved on Mount Athos, bear a relevance and a beauty that is unmatched by other, later productions." Besides, melodies that break these rules usually sound awkward even to the untrained ear, due to a lack of balance between words and melody.
This webpage presents these rules in an organized manner that facilitates traditional composition.
The links in the following chart contain more than 10,000 Byzantine music formulae. Because of the completeness of these lists, one may determine if a new composition breaks the formulaic rules by checking if its melodic phrases exist in these lists. One may also use these lists to compose a Byzantine melody for a liturgical text in any language. The "workshop" demonstrates how to use these lists in order to compose a melody for a sample liturgical text in English. By studying these lists, a chanter can quickly develop the invaluable skill of being able to invent on the spot a valid Byzantine melody in any mode for any text in any language.
- First Mode
- Second Mode - hard
- Second Mode - soft
- Second Mode - verses
- Third Mode
- Fourth Mode - legetos
- Fourth Mode - soft
- Plagal First Mode
- Plagal First - verses
- Plagal Second Mode
- Plagal Second - verses
- Grave Mode
- Plagal Fourth Mode
- Plagal Fourth - apolytikia
- Plagal Fourth - canons
- First Mode
- Second Mode
- Third Mode
- Fourth Mode
- Plagal First Mode
- Plagal Second Mode
- Tetraphonos Pl. 2nd
- Grave Mode
- Plagal Fourth Mode
- Formulae for Verses
- Papadic Formulae Webpage
To download all lists as a single PDF file that has a cover, this introduction, the workshop, a glossary, and the formulae for verses (but excluding the papadic formulae), click here
To download all lists as separate PDF files in zip format, click here
To download all lists as separate Word files in rar format, click here Having these lists in Word format is useful for those who want to copy and paste formulae into their own compositions using our Byzantine music font package.
A brief article by Nancy Takis explaining the importance of following these formulaic rules of Byzantine music is available at: http://www.newbyz.org/correctness.pdf
Γιὰ ὅσους ἀγνοοῦν τὴν ὁρολογία στὰ ἀγγλικὰ ποὺ χρησιμοποιεῖται σὲ αὐτὴν τὴν συλλογή, παραθέτουμε ἕνα ἁπλὸ γλωσσάρι μὲ τὶς σημαντικότερες λέξεις.
Classification of Modes
Each of the eight modes can be subdivided into several categories based on the ratio of notes to syllables and on the tempo of a particular genre. Chrysanthos of Madytos, one of the three teachers, wrote that the "forms of psalmody belong to four melodic genera: the old sticheraric, the new sticheraric, papadic, and heirmologic."  Georgios Hatzitheodorou, however, teaches that there are actually eight such subdivisions:
1) the concise, syllabic heirmologic melody (e.g., the brief version of the katavasia Χριστὸς Γεννᾶται)
2) the "new" concise sticheraric melody (e.g., the brief versions of Κύριε ἐκέκραξα found in the second half of the Ἀναστασιματάριον)
3) the slow heirmologic melody (e.g., the slow version of the katavasia Χριστὸς Γεννᾶται)
4) the "new" slow sticheraric melody (e.g., the slow versions of Κύριε ἐκέκραξα found in the Ἀναστασιματάριον) These melodies are considered "new" because they constitute a genre of music that was perfected in the eighteenth century.
5) the "old" sticheraric melody (e.g., the very slow version of the doxasticon Ἀναστάσεως ἡμέρα by Chrysaphes the New). This melodies are considered "old" because they were composed between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries.
6) the papadic melody (e.g., cherubic and communion hymns) 
7) the kalophonic heirmologic melody (e.g., the very slow version of Λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν on p. 336 in volume IV of the series Μουσικὸς Πανδέκτης)
8) the ekphonetic melody (e.g., the melodies used for intoning the gospel, epistle readings, and the petitions of the priest and deacon)
The vast majority of troparia chanted today are the heirmologic melodies that comprise subdivisions 1 and 2. The next most frequent kind of troparia in contemporary usage is the sticheraric melodies of subdivision 4. (See footnote  for a list of these troparia.) Less frequently used are the papadic melodies in subdivision 6 and the slow herimological melodies in subdivision 3. The very slow melodies of subdivisions 5 and 7 are rarely chanted today. The melodies of section 8 are usually intoned according to oral tradition rather than from written music.
Each of these subdivisions has its own rules of composition that determine which melodic gestures are permitted for a particular syllabic pattern. Our lists contain the musical formulae used in the heirmologic melodies of subdivisions 1 and 2, and the sticheraric melodies of subdivision 4. We chose to codify only these formulae since they cover the vast majority of troparia in current usage.
Limitations of these Lists
One slight drawback of our lists of formulae is that they do not include every single possible melodic formula. Nevertheless, they do include 100% of all commonly used formulae and at least 90% of the less common formulae. In the rare event that no formula or combination of formulae in our lists provides a satisfactory solution, a chanter with moderate experience should be able without difficulty to combine his knowledge with these lists in order to find an acceptable solution.
Another limitation of these lists is that they were compiled only from Byzantine music in Greek. There is a considerable amount of Byzantine music written in Slavonic, Romanian, Arabic, and more recently also in Western European languages including English, French, and Spanish. However, most of these compositions are merely adaptations of original Greek melodies, and some of them depart considerably from the style of the original. Therefore, we considered them to be secondary sources and excluded them from our compilation. Even though we have relied solely on Greek sources of Byzantine music, our experience has shown that our lists of formulae contain more than enough variety necessary for composing new melodies in English. To see many compositions made by relying on our lists of formulae, see our Vespers book at: Vespers.htm
Sticheraric melodies (i.e., the "new, slow sticheraric melodies" of subdivision 4) consist of two kinds of formulae: formulae that are purely sticheraric and formulae that are heirmologic. The purely sticheraric formulae have two or more syllables in them that are held for more than one beat, whereas the heirmologic formulae have at most one syllable that lasts for two beats. These heirmologic formulae are also named "bridges" or "fillers" since they are used to connect two sticheraric formulae. There are hundreds of possible bridges allowable for each mode. We have not included a list of all such bridges in the sticheraric lists of formulae, since the building blocks to construct such a bridge are found in the heirmologic lists. Nevertheless, we have included a sampling to serve as a reminder of what bridges are common for that particular mode .
Another minor drawback of these lists is that they do not delineate which patterns of formulae are acceptable. For example, a sticheraric melody in third mode frequently begins with a phrase ending on KE, followed by a cadence on PA, and then two consecutive cadences on KE, etc. It is expected that the composer will already have a general notion of these melodic movements and will be able choose formulae accordingly. It is also expected of the composer to know when to select a formula from the section entitled "Fthoras" in order to color a certain word or phrase according to its meaning.
One other aspect that is left to the composer's discretion is the choice of how many notes to use per syllable on average. An astute observer will notice that based on this ratio of notes to syllables, one can classify sticheraric melodies into three sub-categories:
1) sticheraric melodies for idiomela,
2) sticheraric melodies for doxastica, and
3) sticheraric melodies for doxastica of special feast days.
Melodies for idiomela will typically have a smaller ratio of notes to syllables than melodies for doxastica do. Composers accomplished this by inserting heirmologic bridges between the sticheraric formulae more frequently. They also accomplished this by increasing the length of these bridges. Some sticheraric compositions can be found with such bridges consisting of as many as eighteen consecutive syllables, each having a single note. On the other side of the spectrum , the doxastica of special feast days tend to have more notes per syllable than the doxastica of regular days, because composers made their melodies more elaborate by using some of the lengthy "old" sticheraric formulae (which we have included in a separate section in each list of formulae).
The following books were used to collect formulae for our lists:
- Ἀθωνιάς, Πέτρου Φιλανθίδου, Ἐκδόσεις «Ὁ Μιχ. Ι. Πολυχρονάκης», Κρήτη (ἀνατύπωσις τῆς πρώτης ἐκδόσεως ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει τῷ 1906).
- Ἀναστασιματάριον, Ἰωάννου Πρωτοψάλτου, Ἀδελφότης Θεολόγων ἡ «Ζωή», ιδʹ ἔκδοσις, Ἀθῆναι, 2002.
- Ἀναστασιματάριον Νέον, Ζαφείρου Ζαφειροπούλου, Ἀθήνησιν, 1853.
- Ἀναστασιματάριον Πέτρου τοῦ Πελοποννησίου, Μουσικὴ Βιβλιοθήκη, Τόμος Δεύτερος, Ψαλτικὰ Βλατάδων, Πατριαρχικὸν Ἵδρυμα Πατερικῶν Μελετῶν, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1999 (ἀνατύπωσις τῆς πρώτης ἐκδόσεως τῷ 1869).
- Δοξαστάριον, Κωνσταντίνου Πρωτοψάλτου, Ἐκδόσεις «Ὁ Μιχ. Ι. Πολυχρονάκης», Κρήτη (ἀνατύπωσις τῆς ἐν Κωνσταντινούπολει ἐκδόσεως τῷ 1844).
- Εἱρμολόγιον Καταβασιῶν, Ἰωάννου Πρωτοψάλτου, Ἐκδοτικὸς Οἶκος Βασ. Ρηγοπούλου, Θεσσαλονίκη, 1998 (ἀνατύπωσις τῆς ἐν Κωνσταντινούπολει ἐκδόσεως τῷ 1903).
- Μουσικὴ Κύψελη, Τόμος Αʹ, Βʹ καὶ Γʹ, Στεφάνου Λαμπαδαρίου, Ἐκδόσεις «Ὁ Μιχ. Ι. Πολυχρονάκης», Κρήτη (ἀνατύπωσις τῆς ἐν Κωνσταντινούπολει ἐκδόσεως τῷ 1883).
- Μουσικὸν Ἐγκόλπιον Παρακλητικῆς, Τόμος Αʹ καὶ Βʹ, Ἱερομονάχου Ἱεροθέου, Ἐκδόσεις Ἱ.Μ. Φιλοθέου, Ἅγιον Ὄρος, 2003.
- Νέον Ἀναστασιματάριον, Πέτρου Ἐφεσίου, Ἐκδόσεις Κουλτούρα, 1999 (ἀνατύπωσις τῆς πρώτης ἐκδόσεως ἐν Βουκορεστίῳ τῷ 1820).
- Πατριαρχικὴ Μουσικὴ Κιβωτός - Ἑσπερινός, Ἱερομονάχου Ἱεροθέου, Ἐκδόσεις Ἱ.Μ. Φιλοθέου, Ἅγιον Ὄρος, 2002.
 cf. 'An Introduction to Byzantine Music,' Blackfriars, 23 (1942), p. 377, as quoted by Gregory Stathis in Studies in Eastern Chant, Vol. IV, Miloš Velimirović, ed., St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1979, p. 192f. Nanna Schiødt also points out that "...one of the main paths toward an understanding of this structure [of Byzantine chant] lies in an examination of the melodic formulae." —Schiødt, Nanna, "A Computer-Aided Analysis of Thirty-five Byzantine Hymns," in Studies in Eastern Chant, Volume II, Wellesz, Egon and Velimirović, Miloš, London, 1971, p. 129. back to reference
 Χρυσάνθου τοῦ ἐκ Μαδυτῶν, Εἰσαγωγὴ εἰς τὸ Θεωρητικόν καὶ Πρακτικὸν τῆς Ἐκκλησιαστικῆς Μουσικῆς, ἐν Παρισίοις, 1821, σελ. 179, §402.back to reference
 Χατζηθεωδόρου, Γεώργιος Ι., Θεωρητικὸν Βυζαντινῆς Μουσικῆς - Μέρος Δεύτερον - Θεωρητικόν, Ἐκδόσεις «Πολυχρονάκης», Κρήτη, 2004, σελ. 68-70. back to reference
 A further subdivision could be made for the more elaborate sticheraric melodies such as those found in the 11 Eothina Doxastica of the Ἀναστασιματάριον and in the Ἀθωνιάδα published by Petros Philanthidis in 1906. back to reference
 Gregorios Stathis clarifies that there are two other forms of papadic melodies: the melody of the Kontakarion (or Oikematarion) and the melody of the Kratematarion (e.g., the old Anoixantaria, verses of the Polyeleos, etc.) Vid. Στάθης Γρηγόριος, Οἱ Ἀναγραμματισμοὶ καὶ τὰ Μαθήματα τῆς Βυζαντινῆς Μελοποιΐας, Ἵδρυμα Βυζαντινῆς Μουσικολογίας, Μελέται 3, Ἀθήνα, 1979, σελ. 46. back to reference
 In contemporary Greek Orthodox practice, the following troparia are chanted with a sticheraric melody:
1) The Κύριε ἐκέκραξα (Lord, I have cried) of Vespers chanted every Saturday and every feast day.
2) The Ἑσπέρια and Ἀπόστιχα troparia chanted every Saturday—i.e., the troparia following "Lord, I have cried" and the troparia preceding Νῦν ἀπολύεις (the prayer of St. Symeon). Note that the Ἀναστασιματάριον (the book with music for the resurrectional hymns of the Octoechos) has two versions for each of these melodies: a sticheraric version and a heirmologic version. In current practice, the Aposticha are almost always chanted according to the heirmologic melody, whereas the Esperia are usually chanted according to the sticheraric melody.
3) The Saturday evening Doxasticon of the Esperia (also known as the first Dogmatikon Theotokion) and the Saturday evening Doxasticon of the Aposticha (also known as the second theotokion). Although the Anastasimatarion has heirmologic versions of the Dogmatikon Theotokion, in most places it is rarely used. On the contrary, though, the second theotokion is almost always chanted heirmologically according to contemporary usage. According to some Athonite rubrics, however, the sticheraric version of the second theotokion is chanted when it is not immediately preceded by a doxasticon.
4) The Πᾶσα Πνοὴ (Let every breath) of the Αἶνοι (the Praises), which is chanted near the end of Orthros every Sunday and every feast day. The Anastasimatarion does have heirmologic versions of this troparion as well, but those brief versions are used only in a weekday Orthros in which a major saint is not commemorated.
5) The resurrectional troparia for the Praises chanted every Sunday morning. Again, the Anastasimatarion provides both sticheraric and heirmologic versions of these troparia. In contemporary usage, the heirmologic versions are preferred, although practices vary. In some places on Mt. Athos, the sticheraric versions are chanted for first, second, plagal first, and plagal second modes, while the heirmologic versions are chanted for the remaining modes.
6) The eleven Eothina Doxastica.
7) The Esperia troparia of the Twelve Great Feasts, except for the feasts of the Entry of the Theotokos, the Annunciation, and the Dormition, in which the Esperia troparia are prosomoia (which can however be chanted in the slow heirmologic style).
8) The Aposticha troparia of the Twelve Great Feasts, except for the feasts of the Exaltation of the Cross, the Entry of the Theotokos, and the Meeting of our Lord.
9) The Doxasticon of the Esperia, Aposticha, and Praises for every saint's feast day that has such doxastica.
10) All troparia of the Liti except for the Theotokion of the Liti, which sometimes is heirmologic.
11) The idiomela of Orthros that are chanted on feast days after the fiftieth psalm.
12) Various troparia from the Divine Liturgy, such as the slow Trisagion, the slow Alleluias, and some versions of the Anaphora, It is Truly Right, Communion hymns, psalm verses, etc. back to reference
 Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis has also compiled a list of heirmologic formulae in Western notation, but her work is unpublished. back to reference
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