Psalm Tones for English – Learn to Sing Them in Half and Hour

Anyone can learn to sing the psalms Following a recent article about us singing Vespers at a local hospital, a number of people have been asking me about the music for the psalm tones that we use when we sing Vespers and Compline for the US Veterans at the VA hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire.

In response to this I have put all the tones we have on a newly published page on this blog ‘Psalm Tones’ (see above). Before I describe what you will find there, I would just like to describe the last time we went to the veteran’s hospitial in Manchester, NH. We arrived as usual and were greeted by Fr Boucher in the chapel. Nobody else was there. Fr Boucher thanked us warmly for coming and told us that several veterans had wanted to come but were too ill to go from ward to chapel, and two had died earlier that day. Fr Boucher wanted us to know how important therefore, our prayer was. So we sang Vespers and Compline just as intended and as beautifully as we could for those who could not hear us.

Coming back to the tones: these are so easy to pick up that even I can do it. Just to give you an idea, I am at the level of being able to pick out a tune on the piano with one finger reading notes from a treble clef (bass clef is beyond me).

There is an instructional video and sheet music for all the tones we have developed so far plus about a dozen examples of recorded psalms, most with scrolling score so you can see how the tone is applied to the text.

Because they are adaptable to any text, you don’t need to buy any books or expensive CDs. You can apply them to your psalter – the video tells you how to mark the text so that you can do it. This means also that if you know even just one tone, then you could sing the whole psalter. As you learn more tones you can apply those too to the same text without any changes, you use exactly the same marks for each tone.

If you want sheet music for the harmonised psalm tones that you hear, then contact me direct. If we find that lots of people want them, then we’ll put them up on the blog page too.

If you want  further information, sheet music or instructional CDs for the music of Paul Jernberg, including his Mass of St Philip Neri, contact Paul at [email protected]

Just to give you a feel for one, here is the English version of the Nunc Dimittis.

And here is a plane tone without harmonisation – Mode 5

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David is an Englishman living in New Hampshire, USA. He is an artist, teacher, published writer and broadcaster who holds a permanent post as Artist-in-Residence and Lecturer in Liberal Arts at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. The Way of Beauty program, which is offered at TMC, focuses on the link between Catholic culture, with a special emphasis on art, and the liturgy. David was received into the Church in London in 1993. Visit the Way of Beauty blog at

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