The Tone 3 Samohlasen Melody

This is the common melody for singing stichera in tone 3. It consists of two parts, one for the psalm verse and one for the sticheron itself

Please note: This article assumes that you are familiar with the material taught in an MCI Online course, Introduction to Church Singing. If you have difficulty reading the music notation, please review the MCI website articles on musicianship.

Two Sunday stichera in Tone 3

At Vespers on Saturday evening, while the church is incensed and the lamps are lit, we sing a number of hymns called stichera in honor of the Resurrection; these are inserted after the last few verses of Psalms 129 and 116, and are sung in the Tone of the Week.

Here is one of the Sunday stichera in Tone 3:


This is the samohlasen sticheron melody in Tone 3. It is used for singing any sticheron in Tone 3 that is not marked with a special melody (podoben)

The melody consists of four parts, which we call A, B, C, and F (meaning final). For a longer sticheron, we repeat the A, B, and C phrases in order, as many times as necessary:



The sticheron melody

The samohlasen sticheron melody in Tone 3 consists of three phrases, repeated in a regular order, and followed by a concluding phrase. Like the Tone 2 samohlasen melody, this is a step up in complexity from the troparion and kontakion melodies, which have either one repeating phrase, or two alternating phrases. When a melody has more than two repeating phrases, you have to get used to the entire cycle of repeating melodies, each of which leads into the next.

The A phrase:

is followed by a B phrase

which is followed by a C phrase

After any of these, we can go to the final (F) phrase, which is sung as follows:

The "falling" notes at the end are a memorable characteristic of this melody.

What about all those accidentals?

The prostopinije melodies in Tone 3 tend to be slightly more "modal" than the other tones; this means that they don't stay as close to our usual major and minor scales. So accidentals (sharps, flats, or natural signs) need to be added to those in the key signature.

This particular melody uses the melodic minor scale, which raises fa by a half-step (to fi) and so by a half-step (to si). We will point these out below.

By the way: in writing music, we normally assume that the effect of an accidental (raising or lowering a pitch by a half step) continues until the next bar line. But for convenience, an accidental is sometimes repeated as an aid to memory; this is called a "courtesy accidental."

Singing the A phrase

The phrases of this melody use the same basic components as other prostopinije melodies: an intonation which begins the phrase; a reciting tone which is used to sing a variable amount of text; a preparatory note to signal the approach of the cadence; and the cadence itself which ends the phrase. But all four parts do not necessarily appear in every phrase.

Here is the A phrase, with its parts marked:

The opening notes here are the most important. Try this exercise:

As usual, all text sung on the reciting pitch is in normal speech rhythm, and the two preparatory notes may be slurred together. The half notes of the cadence may also be slurred together, or the first half note divided into quarter notes, to fit the text.

The entire phrase ends on the unstable note ti, indicating that we are moving on.

Singing the B phrase

The first two notes of the B phrase repeat the last two notes of the A phrase:

If the text is very short, we may omit the intonation entirely:

Compare this to the earlier line of music to convince yourself that they are the same!

Singing the C phrase

The C phrase has no intonation at all. Make sure you can find the reciting note so from the end of the B phrase:

Again, the preparatory note is just a half-step down, signalling the start of the cadence.

Singing the final (F) phrase

Like the C phrase, the final phase has no intonation, and begins immediately on la. This note can be easily reached from any of the repeating phrases. (From A, keep going down the scale; from B, jump up a perfect fourth; from C, stay on the same note.)

The reciting pitch plus the notes of the cadence (la - si - fi - si - la - ti - la - mi) sound exactly like do - ti - la - ti - do - re - do - so, so they are actually easy to sing. Try it!

The verse melody

Here is the samohlasen verse melody in Tone 3; it closely resembles the F phrase of the sticheron melody, with a few notes added in the middle:

Here is two examples, from the Lamplighting Psalms of Vespers:


Putting the two parts together - the Sunday dogmatikon in Tone 3

The last sticheron at the Lamplighting Psalms on an ordinary Saturday evening is called a dogmatikon, because it highlights the dogma or teaching of the Incarnation. Here is the tone 3 dogmatikon, set to the Tone 3 samohlasen melody. The verse is given, followed by the sticheron. Notice how each phrase flows into the next.



Learning the melody

To learn the melody, practice singing the material on the examples page.