First Published in February, 2017
Last updated: March 29, 2017
Some resources for singing the St. Meinrad Psalm Tones
I absolutely love the Revised Grail Psalms which were published in 2010, and has the Psalms arranged into groupings or stanzas of various numbers of lines for easy singing.
I've been praying the Liturgy of the Hours with my copy of Revised Grail Psalms - Singing Version open in front of me, and have been quietly singing them with the St. Meinrad Psalm tones which I also love. I also spend a lot of time walking and singing these Psalms during free moments during the day, and it has been a very gratifying experience.
So I've made a few files to help me sing these particular Psalms to these particular Psalm tones.
I thought they might be of use to others, so I've put up links on this page along with a few links to other useful resources including official PDF files from The Saint Meinrad Archabbey. I have not asked for permission to make my own resources publicly available, so if the people who hold the rights to these Psalm tones complain or ask me to remove these, I certainly will.
Great introduction to the St. Meinrad Psalm tones on YouTube
There are excellent recordings on YouTube sung in acappella by Fr. Kevin Vogel. These also display the tones in square note neumes, so you can both see and hear the Psalm Tones.
Why do so many people prefer square notes? Because square notes are easier to read than round notes. There are only four lines on the staff, and no confusing key signatures. You will usually see a clef symbol which represents DO from the Solfege scale (DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI DO) or sometimes a clef symbol for FA instead, but that's it. I personally have difficulty reading modern music notation when it's not in the key of C, but square note notation is a breeze! For more information see An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes.
But if you still prefer modern musical notation, here's a PDF for you: Modal Psalm Tones Vocal Modern Notation .
MP3 files of the tones played on a church organ
If you search the web, you will discover that there are musical accompaniments to go with the St. Meinrad Psalm tones.
An organ accompaniment music score PDF is available on the web, but it comes in various keys with all those confusing sharps and flats (confusing to me, anyway).
So I entered the musical notes one by one into a program which converted them into sound files so I could just listen to the Psalm tones and all the chords without having to sight-read them.
Perhaps the most confusing part (at least for me) of singing these Psalm tones is switching back and forth between stanzas containing different numbers of lines. A two line stanza takes two measures from the Psalm tone, a three line stanza takes three measures, etc.
Normally you are supposed to start with the beginning measure, sing through the following measures in order, and then skip to the final measure to wrap up the stanza. But there are several exceptions to the rule.
So I made examples of each mode as it appears in all the various groupings, from two to six measures.
These are done with a church organ sound, which is very dramatic and helps to set these tones firmly in your memory.
I keep these files on my mp3 player and listen to them all the time, and have discovered that whenever I sing the Psalms now, the musical accompanimant is right there in my head, making it an even richer experience!
...and a harp
Here is a second set of mp3 files which is done with a harp sound for a more gentle, peaceful feeling; very appropriate with the Psalms.
These files have all six measures except for Mode 8 which actually has a different ending for 2-4 line stanzas and 5-6 line stanzas.
You can also hear the St. Meinrad Psalm tones sung by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration with nice organ accompaniment in the context of the Liturgy of the Hours on the Monastery Podcast
There is already a PDF of the St. Meinrad Psalm tones available for free on the web, and it is excellent.
But I like to tinker with such things, and have arranged the same tones on a two color card which you can slip into your copy of the Grail Psalms. It's sized specifically to fit in the smaller Deluxe Edition of the Revised Grail Psalms, and of course it fits in the larger paperback editions as well (see the photo above for a size comparison of the two editions)
This PDF is designed to be folded in half to make a two-sided card. I've included lots of notes in the margins for your reference, mainly because all that white space seemed like such a waste. After you print and trim the card, you can throw the marginal notes away.
Yes, you have finally found them, the "holy grail" for St. Meinrad Psalm tone fans, a printable PDF card with guitar chords.
Seriously, I searched the web high and low for guitar chords, and could find nothing. So I listened to the mp3 files listed above, and came up with chords that approximate what I heard, but in the two "easy guitar keys" of C or Am depending on whether or not the tone was major or minor (you can use a capo to adjust the key to your singing range).
These are basic guitar chords without the extra "color" notes which would require addditional fingers of extraordinary length -- or perhaps a higher level of guitar playing ability which I do not possess.
Today a guitar is as close as most people will ever get to playing a harp. I use these chords to accompany the Psalms on my Telecaster during private prayer (usually unamplified).
These chords may also be of use in groups where people don't mind a basic guitar accompaniment.
The card will fit in your copy of the Revised Grail Psalms, but most guitar players need something a little larger. So here is a larger version without the marginal notes.
Which Modes go with which Psalms?
I've also made a card has a chart which assigns each Psalm to one of the eight modes in the St. Meinrad Psalm tones based on the mood of the text.
I had tried different combinations of Psalms and Psalm tones, and often came to places where the tone just didn't fit the mood in certain parts of the Psalm (for example, it felt awkward to sing a Psalm to a light, happy tune and suddenly come upon a few lines begging for divine punishment of the wicked).
So I came up with my own Psalm tone assignments which evolved as I sang all the Psalms from cover to cover several times.
Like the two cards above, this PDF is designed to be folded in half to make a thicker card, mainly because it's easier to handle as a card rather than a thin sheet of paper. Again, I've included lots of notes in the margins for your reference, mainly because all that white space seemed like such a waste. After you print and trim the card, you can throw the marginal notes away.
3 X 5 index cards
When I'm singing the Psalms, my eyes go back and forth between the text and the music, so I try to keep a finger on the Psalm tone so I won't lose my place. But I'm easily distracted, and I often lose my place anyway. It's not uncommon for me to resume singing the same Psalm from an entirely different Psalm tone!
So I printed each Psalm tone on its own separate index card so I won't get lost, and it seems to work. Maybe you are the same way, and these may help you as well.
You also can punch a hole in the corner or to the side and put these cards on a string or ribbon so you can flip through them without dropping any. And it looks like a bookmark which you can tuck in your Psalter or Bible.
There are four cards per PDF sheet. As with the other cards listed above, I've included notes in the margins for your reference. After you print and trim the cards, you can throw the marginal notes away.
To make these index cards easier to handle, and more card-like, I recommend gluing the printed paper to a second sheet sheet of paper and then cutting them out together. A glue stick works best because it won't make the paper so wet and wrinkly. If you have a box cutter knife and metal ruler (with cutting mat to protect your table) these will make the job easier and much neater.
I also recommend a fun tool you probably haven't heard of before: a round corner punch (the blue and white thing on the right side of the photo). They are easy to use and make the cards look professional, and you won't have to deal with damaged dog-eared corners anymore. I used the large 10mm size for these cards. I also have the small 5mm size which I use on smaller cards.