The Tone 3 Troparion Melody

This prostopinije melody is used to sing troparia in tone 3. (Kontakia in Tone 3 have their own melody.) This article will show you how to sing hymns to the Tone 3 troparion melody.

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

The Sunday troparion

Here is the troparion of the Resurrection in tone 3, which is sung every eighth Sunday throughout the year as part of the cycle of eight tones. It can be found at the bottom of page 135 in our Divine Liturgies book. This troparion should be memorized (but first read the explanation below for help in singing it).

Tone 1 Sunday troparion

listen

In looking at this hymn, you may notice a few things that set it apart from the troparion melodies in Tone 1 and Tone 2:

  1. It has a lot of accidentals (sharps and flat).
  2. It doesn't have any obvious reciting tones (constant pitches on which a variable amount of text is sung).

This can give cantors pause, but it is actually not that difficult to sing.

The form of the melody

The Tone 3 troparion melody consists of a single repeating phrase:

Tone 3 troparion A phrase

and a concluding phase:

Tone 3 troparion F phrase

The entire hymn begins on la, and ends a half step lower. But first we need to make sense of the sharps and flats, or "accidentals."

Understanding the accidentals

This melody uses the melodic minor scale to achieve its sound. Recall that the natural minor scale is the one we get from starting with the ordinary major scale, but beginning at la instead of do:

Melodic minor (la)

listen

But the Western musical tradition is very attached to the sound of sol - la - ti - do leading to the starting pitch, and we can get this by raising fa a half step (to fi), and sol a half stop (to si), like so:

Tone 3 melodic minor (la)

listen

This is the ascending melodic minor scale. It sounds exactly like the major scale with a flattened third degree for the "minor" sound:

Tone 3 melodic minor (do)

The problem with writing it this way is that we need to memorize separate key signatures for major and minor. In writing and teaching prostopinije, we keep the same key signatures and just used accidentals. The Tone 3 troparion and samohlasen melodies are the only ones where this is very noticeable.

Singing the repeating phrase

This phrase is easiest to learn if we break it up into three parts, one with accidentals and two without. Here is the first part of the phrase:

Now the minor solfege syllables make this look more confusing than it is, since it sounds exactly like this:

Practice this a few times:

and repeat until it feels very natural. The next part is a "spacer" that serves the place of a reciting tone; it is just a very easy la - ti - do - ti - la:

and may be omitted if it is not needed. And the last part is ti - do - ti:

Now let's put it all together:

Practice these phrases until they flow smoothly from each part of the phrase to the next.

Moving on

The repeating phrase ends on the unstable pitch ti. If we are going to use the repeating phrase again, we step down to la; if we are beginning the final or concluding phrase, we step up to do. Either way, the progression from one phase to the next is easy, and when the congregation hears a phrase that starts with do, they know they are coming to the end of the troparion.

Here is the final (F) phrase:

Now go back and sing the Sunday troparion in Tone 3.

Other troparia in Tone 3

There are only two other Tone 3 troparia in the Divine Liturgies book: the troparion of a single apostle (DL 368), in which the "spacer" part is repeated, so that you can fit various apostles' names into the troparion:

and the troparion of several apostles (DL 370):


Concentrate on singing the first four notes correctly (la - si - la - mi, or do - ti - do - sol) and you should have not trouble with these hymns, or any troparia in the Menaion that use Tone 3.

When several troparia are sung - the lesser doxology

When a series of troparia or kontakia are sung (for example, at the end of Vespers, or at the Small Entrance of the Divine Liturgy), the liturgical books direct us to sing the lesser doxology:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.

before the final troparion or kontakion. If there are two final hymns, "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" is sung before the first one, and " now and ever and forever. Amen." is sung before the second one. The rule is that these are always sung to the melody of the troparion that comes next - and for troparia and kontakia, they are sung to a shortened form of the very same melody.

Because the Divine Liturgies book only includes Glory, now and ever for singing with kontakia, and Tone 3 kontakia use a different melody, you have will normally sing these melodies only at Vespers or Matins. They are found in the MCI Cantor Verses book, in the Tone 3 section under "Resurrection Tone." Before a single ending troparion in Tone 3, we would sing:

example

If the next-to-last troparion is in Tone 3, then immediately before it we sing:

example

If there are two final troparia and the last one is in Tone 3, we sing:

example

Hint: you can always look at the start of the troparion or kontakion to help you remember how the Glory... or Now and ever... starts.

Other uses of the melody

At Matins, "The Lord is God" is always sung to the melody of the troparion that follows it. Here it is in tone 3 (Sunday Matins book, page 99):

example

Learning the melody