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The New Curriculum

Vol 1. An Introduction to the Byzantine Music Notation

How does the new Curriculum originally introduce the
concept of moving between notes in music, and how
does it help beginners to master the interpretation of notes.

In the Practical Part


This is the book of the beginners in Byzantine Music. This audience does know nothing about music so now we have to introduce it to music and make him understanding basically how to get upward and downward in the scale.

And most of all, we should teach the new students how they should think while reading music.

We believe that difficulties in reading music are due in major parts to the way of thinking; if you teach students how to think while reading, they will get over their difficulties IMMEDIATELY!

During our experience in teaching Byzantine music, we reach a conclusion that there is a problem with the old way of teaching Byzantine Music. Only very talented students were able to learn music; their learning was not due to the method at all but to their own talent. This is why we had to invent a new revolutionary way.

The Problems of the old way in teaching Byzantine Music

The old way in teaching Byzantine Music is based on the following general academic strategy:

  1. Starting with teaching students the Diatonic Scale (Based on Ni or on Pa)
  2. Then teaching them going upward and downward in this scale on one note move basis.
  3. Then increasing the move to 2 notes then 3 notes then 4 notes... till 7 notes.
  4. Then starting with gorgon... and its derivatives.

The problems of the old way are basically the following:

  1. The old way is not efficient and does not help students learn
    • Excluding students who cannot interpret the scale at the beginning
      The old way starts with the interpretation of the scale. Hence, if someone cannot interpret the scale upward and downward, there will be no way he can start learning Music! This would be the case of a large number of students!

    • Letting students memorize the exercises
      The exercises of the old method are easy to memorize. Hence their possible learning effect stops from the moment the student memorizes the exercise; after that he will not be reading any more.

    • The old exercises are test exercises and not teaching exercises
      For example the exercise: Ni, Bou, Pa, Gha, Bou, Di, ... does not have any teaching value. It does not teach the student how to move between these notes; it rather tests if the student knows how to move between them. It has no strategy; It tells nothing to the student! In other words, if the student cannot read such exercise in the old method he will have 2 possible solutions: Either he memorizes it as it is and hence he would have learned nothing, or he stops learning Byzantine music!!!

  1. The old way is not logical and it is confusing for students
    • The strategy of the old method is not logical
      The evolution in difficulty of the old method is based on an increased difficulty positively related with the length of the move between notes. This bases is not logical at all; for example:

      In mode 8 (plagial 4th): moving six notes from Ni' to Pa is much more difficult then moving seven notes from Ni' to Ni. An moving 2 notes from Di to Zo' is much more difficult then moving 3 notes from Di to Ni'

      On the other hand, moving from Ke to Pa is much more difficult in mode 8 then it is in mode 1.

      We can conclude that the evolution in difficulty is more based on the length between the note we are moving to and the closest basic note in the mode we are chanting accordingly (each mode has its basic notes that are the most important notes in the mode.)

    • The old method induces students in error
      The old way groups all moves of the same amount of notes under the same chapter (1 note move, 2 notes move, ...). It makes the student think that he is learning for example the 2 notes move and applying it everywhere. Yet, not all 2 notes move are equal. The 2 note move from Ni to Bou is equal to 12+10=22 comas, while the 2 note move from Pa to Gha is equal to: 10+8=18 comas.

      Hence, the old way leads students to wrong conclusions.

    • The old method teaches students a wrong way of thinking
      In the old method, the student thinks that every time he is moving for example from Ni to Zo, he is moving 6 notes upward; he does not have any other hint to execute this move. As a matter of fact no chanter thinks that way. Every chanter thinks for example in mode 8 that the Zo is a half note below Ni's that is the octave basic note in the mode. The chanter knows very well Ni' so when he wants to get to Zo (from anywhere i.e. whatever is the starting note), he will think of Ni' then targets a half note below it to reach Ni'.

      In other words: When moving in mode 8 between Ni and Zo', every chanter thinks that he is going half note down from Ni', while a student of the old method thinks that he is going 6 notes upward which is meaningless!!!

      What is sure is that no student under the old method can learn Byzantine music before he becomes convinced that he should forget about everything that method taught him!

The Solutions of the New Method

The new method starts from the enharmonic scale based on Ni that is the easiest scale.

It starts by teaching students to move between Ni, Bou, and Di that are the basic notes in this mode. Then it starts getting more and more away from the basic notes which increases the difficulty.

At the end of the preparatory level (that is Vol 1) the students reach the full scale performance.

This method is taken from the new method of teaching western music.

The solutions of the new method are the following:

  1. The new method starts with Ni, Bou, and Di
    • These notes are the basic notes of the mode; hence, they are the easiest to learn.

    • These notes are not adjacent hence the student can feel that each of them is different then the others, and which of them is higher then the other... Accordingly, he can understand the concept of going upward and downward in music.

    • This way, the student will not be confused from the beginning with the names of 7 notes.

    • This way, even people who cannot perform the whole scale will be able to learn music.
      Success Stories: Many students who were not able to perform the entire scale's notes at the beginning at SEM, became teachers due to the new curriculum. Those teachers wouldn't have been able to start learning Byzantine music under the old curriculum.)

  1. Then it adds Ni', Pa, and Ke
    • Ni' is the final basic note in the mode.

    • Pa and Ke constitute complete intervals (12 comas) with the basic notes.

    • Pa is located in reference to Ni and Ke is located in reference to Di. Hence, going from any note to Ke would stand for going only one note upward from Di that has been memorized as a basic note on the mode. The same is valid for Pa that is located in reference to Ni.

  1. Then it adds Gha and Zo'
    • Gha and Zo' constitute small intervals (6 comas) with Bou and Ni'. The evolution of the difficulty is clear in the method's strategy.
    • Gha is located as a half interval away from Bou and Zo' is located as half interval away from Ni'

In the Theoretical Part

The theoretical part of the 1st volume encompasses, in addition to the known rules of reading the Byzantine notation, two additional chapters:

An introduction to the Western Music Theory

This is just a simple introduction to the concepts and names and categories of the intervals in the Western Music. This chapter is essential to the general knowledge of the students and it does not address difficult concepts for students of this level.

The Rules of Reading Greek language

Reading the Greek language is extremely important for Byzantine Chanters since all ancient compositions are available only in Greek and most traditional recordings are in Greek as well.

This chapter will allow students to extend the scope of their readings in Byzantine Music compositions.


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