An Idiot’s Guide to Square Notes

By Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker

You can’t get too far into Catholic sacred music without running into “neumes,” those little square notes on four lines that look beautiful if oddly antiquated. Most people have no idea how to read them, and most trained musicians are as much at a loss as anyone else. They don’t teach reading neumes (pronounced “nyoomz”) in graduate school.
What to do?
There are two typical responses. An ambitious person scrambles to find the same chant in modern notation, and usually fails. Modern-note editions of chant are out there but they are difficult to find and the repertoire is limited. A less ambitious person assumes that he or she doesn’t need to know this old notation anyway, since it is too complicated and outmoded in any case.
Either response leads the person out of chant, and back into the status quo. Well, be not afraid. This is your time-saving, ten-minute, clip-n-save intro to chant.

Download PDF here.