St John of Damascus

Byzantine Chant

Studies Page

St John of Damascus

This page contains a few of my articles on Byzantine Chant, which I am working on to help beginners learn the Byzantine Chant system. Please be advised, however, that it is necessary to have a certain amount of technical knowledge about music in general. I don't know how to simplify most of these things further without degrading the musical theory involved. If you really want to learn Byzantine Chant, the best way by far is to find someone who is proficient and apprentice yourself to him.


I now have an Audio Page which contains audio files of Byzantine chant which I have recorded in English. These files are in MP3 format. To listen to them you will need an audio player capable of playing MP3 files such as Winamp.

Sheet music

I have begun making sheet music in Western notation available in PDF Format.


The foundation of chanting well is to have good texts from which to chant. I have been working on certain services from the Paraklitiki and the Menaion, and will be posting the resulting texts here. Note: Where applicable, portions of these translations are taken from the Pentekostarion and/or Great Horologion published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, whose liturgical materials I highly recommend.


This article features some answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Byzantine Chant. For a much more in-depth discussion on the nature and history of Byzantine music,


This article gives a basic overview of the foundational issues involved in approaching Byzantine musicology, such as scale and tempo, as well as common terminology and tonal organization.

The Tones

The music of the Eastern Orthodox Church is based upon an eight-tone (or mode) system, as first devised by St John of Damascus (see icon above). In the Greek Byzantine tradition (observed more or less by the Mediterranean churches), the eight tones follow a pattern which is a refinement of pre-Christian Greek, Syriac and Jewish musical traditions. They are divided into four "authentic" and four "plagal" tones, the plagals being somewhat related to their respective authentic tones.

The following articles were written (somewhat in a hurry) by myself. They may contain technical errors to which a real purist might object, but by and large I think they present to the novice a fairly accurate picture of the musical modes.


Here are a few other links to sites of interest:


On a somewhat related note, regarding Byzantine artistic achievements, here are a few links to pages featuring active Orthodox iconographers:

I also maintain the home page of St John the Theologian Antiochian Orthodox Church in San Juan Capistrano, California.

This site is maintained by Daniel Johnson.
Please be so kind as to email me with any comments regarding this site. If you are fluent in Greek I would welcome your critique of my translation work, as well as any suggestions you might have on solving metrical problems.

This site is hosted by Orthodox Internet Services.