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Level III: The Gregorian Modes NEW!

The ancient modes of Gregorian chant sound foreign to the modern ear. You will be eased into the principles of Gregorian modality step by step, with examples and practical exercises for reinforcement every class. Learn to analyze a chant via the modes, and enjoy sight singing with greater ease, increased musicality, more productive schola rehearsals, and a whole new lens through which further to explore and appreciate this singular genre of music.

A small class size assures you will receive the personal attention you deserve, with opportunity for discussion and questions among other high caliber students. Access to a Student Chant Resources page with hundreds of practice exercises, articles, videos, and other links of interest will be given for the duration of the quadrimester.

This course is taught by Angela Rocchio, and is delivered live, via Zoom.

Seats limited to 5 students.

Fall 2024 | 8 group classes: Tuesdays, Sept. 10 - Oct. 29

USA Central Time 3 pm - 4:30 pm (GMT - 5)

British Summer Time 9 pm - 10:30 pm (GMT + 1) except Oct 29 (GMT 0)

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"Angela's approach to chant is so elegant and simple, inviting the student to understand and better proclaim the word of God in plainsong. I especially enjoyed a deeper analysis of each of the varying Gregorian modes, as well as practical tips for approaching advanced works. I highly recommend Angela's programs at ICA as well as her private instruction."​

~ Rebecca de la Torre

The Modern Psalmist / El Salmista Moderna

Pro Singers

Mark has excellent sight reading skills, and is comfortable with movable DO and solfège on the four line staff. Usually he has no issues learning new music.  When singing through a piece of Gregorian chant, however, he often finds himself questioning if he actually sang it correctly. Why does this keep happening?

Choir/Schola Directors

Elise has limited rehearsal time and some challenging chants to teach to the choir. Not all of the singers rehearse at home, and most of them can’t read music very well anyway. Surely there is a better way to teach them this music — musically — than via rote repetition during their precious rehearsal time?

* scroll to bottom of page for full requirements

Lifelong Learners

Mary has been teaching music and directing choirs at the college level more than two decades, and is secretly feeling burnt out. She sang a bit of Gregorian chant in an early music ensemble years ago, and knows it is at the foundation of western music. Is there opportunity to feed her mind and spirit while putting new skills in her teacher/choir director's toolbox? 

Studied Amateurs

Ignatius has been singing in a schola since age 14, and is a Sunday Vespers cantor. His dream is to start a schola of his own someday, and a favorite pastime is watching Graduale Project videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, his singing sounds choppy and he needs lots of breaths. Can he learn to phrase his singing better and nerd out about Gregorian Chant at the same time?

Who would benefit from this course?*


Class 1 | Word & Song, Cantillation, and the Archaic Modes

Origins of Gregorian chant. Examination of the cantus obscurior, or innate word-melody. Cantillation and the Archaic Modes, single-pole modes which underpin the development of Gregorian chant. 

Applications: delivery of the text as a principle of shaping music; association of different experiences (strong, weak, balanced) with the finalis (home pitch) of a chant.

Class 2 | The True Modes

Addition of a new pole to the single-pole chants creates a new kind of modality. Far less determinate than the eight mode system, Daniel Saulnier (author of the most definitive work to date on the Gregorian Modes) calls these bipolar modes the "true modes".

Applications: hierarchy of more important and less important pitches in a given chant is established, allowing singers to seek key stepping stones in complex phrases rather than treating every pitch with equal weight; sight reading chant made easier via relationship of pitches to new structural poles; modal framework for chants of the Office is established.

Class 3 | Oral Tradition and the role of memory

Even after the invention of musical notation, Gregorian chant was transmitted to subsequent generations primarily by memorization. This Oral Tradition included far more than what was written on the page: insertion of unwritten, standard melodic formulae, and improvisation were both normal parts of liturgical chant. Incipits, melody-types, centonization, neuma, tonaries, etc.

Applications: Gregorian chant is a living tradition; context and function of Gregorian chant in the Liturgy is identified; presence of formulaic melodies, useful for long term rehearsal planning, is established.

Class 4 | Principles of the Gregorian Octoechos (8 mode system)

Four finals, authentic and plagal ranges, tenors/reciting tones

Applications: be able to determine the mode of a chant without reference to its existing classification; recognize when a chant changes mode; certain modes favor particular scale degrees more than others; correctly assign psalm tones to corresponding antiphons.


Class 5 | Ethos of the Eight Modes

Modern-day music is built on two scales: major and minor, overly generalized as happy and sad. Each of the eight Gregorian modes, likewise, has its own ethos. Certain textual themes are likely to be characterized in certain modes, and inversely, a mode brings out certain aspects of a text.

Applications: chant is relatable and deeply human; further nuances regarding modal shifts in free compositions are identified.

Class 6 | Usefulness of the Octoechos

Applications: incipit/first incise of a chant sets up the melody which follows; use familiar chants to set one's ear up for more challenging chants of the same mode; modal sight singing exercises; rehearsal exercises to ease one's singers into the mode.

Class 7 | Limitations of the Octoechos, and alternative approaches

Chants composed after the invention of the Octoechos fit well within the system. Chants preceding the system often defy it in all sorts of unusual ways. Chants of the Office, restored reciting tones for Modes III, IV, and VIII, modally ambiguous chants, transposed chants, chants which change mode, etc.

Applications: analyze a variety of chants according to different principles of composition as studied up to this point in Level III.

Class 8 | Structural Pitches: a melody beneath the melody

​This last examination is helpful regardless whether a chant fits within certain modal criteria.

​Applications: improve phrasing through determination of structural/stepping stone pitches; first impart bare-bones melodic structure to choir, teaching them to lean into the important pitches before learning the full chant.


  • Ability to sing and stay on pitch.

  • Sight read pitch and neumes on the four line staff, such as chants here, here, and herewith ease.

  • Commitment to reading articles, doing practice exercises, and analyzing music as assigned (approx. 15-30 minutes per day).

  • Highly recommended: sight singing/ear training skills developed in Level I or ICA Private Chant Study. Experience singing in solfege with movable DO. 


You will receive private access to an exclusive Student Chant Resources page with dozens of practice exercises, listening links, recommended apps, and articles for further study. You may be asked to print select materials from this page from time to time.

Student may wish to purchase a copy of The Gregorian Modes by Daniel Saulnier (not required). This book may be ordered via Paraclete Press in the United States.

Technical Requirements

A desktop computer, laptop, or tablet (the larger the screen the better) equipped with videocamera and microphone (no cell phones, please). Reliable access to high-speed internet is a must. Student is responsible for working technology. 



$450 USD (optional: add $75 USD for a one hour private lesson)

5 seats per course.

Due to limited seating, please note that the ICA is unable to reserve your seat without reception of full tuition payment.

Ask your parish whether funding is available for continuing education.

Tuition may also be tax deductible for professional (compensated) musicians.

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