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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.”
— Blessed John XXIII (22 February 1962)

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What They Didn't Tell You About Psalm Tone VIII
published 11 December 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

578 Tone 8 Psalm Tone Mode Eight OMEONE who explains to a young driver the meaning of the green and red traffic lights but says nothing about the yellow light is guilty of a serious omission. The same is true when it comes to explaining the Gregorian psalm tones. Many manuals, even the front of the Liber Usualis, leave out critical information.

Eventually, I will explain all eight psalm tones, but today I treat Mode 8 “simple” psalm tone.

Those alive during the 1990s remember The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Do you know why that sentence was used to display fonts? It’s because every letter of the alphabet is used. Similarly, these Latin sentences use every possibility:

PSALM 138 • Et vide, si via iniquitátis in me est: * et deduc me in via aetérna.

PSALM 115 • Crédidi, propter quod locútus sum: * ego autem humiliátus sum nimis.

PSALM 129 • Quia apud te propitiátio est: * et propter legem tuam sustínui te Dómine.

PSALM 110 • Memóriam fecit mirabílium suórum, † miséricors et miserátor Dóminus: * escam dedit timéntibus se.

The significance & importance of these will become clear below.

97% of Latin words end with a Trochee or Dactyl:

A Trochee (e.g. Déus) has the accent on the penult—that is, the second-last syllable.

A Dactyl (e.g. Dóminus) has the accent on the antepenult—that is, the third-last syllable.

When setting texts to a Mode 8 psalm tone, you can follow the Rules For Psalm Tones without any issues 97% of the time. Hundreds of fully notated psalms (Psalmi in Notis) are available at the Lalande Library.

Setting Mode 8 is easy when each line ends with a Trochee or Dactyl:

      * *  PDF Sample Page: Solesmes Psalmi in Notis (1908)

Now let’s examine the difficult cases.

Psalm 138 has a mediant that ends with three (3) monosyllables:

PSALM 138 • Et vide, si via iniquitátis in me est: * et deduc me in via aetérna.

The more common way would be:

577 Mode 8 First


However, the 1912 Vatican decree also allows:

576 Mode 8 Second

Psalm 115 has a Trochee followed by a monosyllable:

PSALM 115 • Crédidi, propter quod locútus sum: * ego autem humiliátus sum nimis.

The more common way makes this into a “false” Dactyl:

575 Mode 8 Third


But the 1912 Vatican decree also allows:

574 Mode 8 Fourth

Psalm 129 has a Dactyl followed by a monosyllable:

PSALM 129 • Quia apud te propitiátio est: * et propter legem tuam sustínui te Dómine.

This would normally be treated:

573 Tone 8 Fifth


But the 1912 decree gives permission for:

572 Mode 8 Sixth

Finally, what should be done with Psalm 110, whose ending consists of a Dactyl plus a monosyllable?

PSALM 110 • Memóriam fecit mirabílium suórum, †
miséricors et miserátor Dóminus: * escam dedit timéntibus se.

Here’s what you do:

571 Mode 8 SEVENTH


If you don’t believe me, you can see proof in Psalmi in Notis.

Speaking of endings with a Dactyl plus a monosyllable, the same is true for this example:

661 corripias me


The same is true of this example (“refíciam vos”):

179 reficiam