I stumbled across an article by Josh Horowitz about Klezmer modes. The article gives tantalizing hints about the Klezmer modes and sub-modes but fails to fully articulate them.

  • Ahava Rabboh (Freygish)
    • in D: (B C) D Eb F# G A Bb C D
  • Mi Sheberach
  • Adonoy Moloch
  • Mogen Ovos

The modes are non-heptatonic.

What are the last three modes and are there other resources on Klezmer musical theory?


1 Answer 1


The below definitions are scale-form equivalents between Klezmer modes and Western scales. The critical distinction is that Klezmer modes, while using those pitches, also admit additional pitches and are associated with specific motifs and moods. In this way, they are similar to Indian classical raags.

The primary resource for this post is Jewish Music Analysis, which also includes details on how these modes are used in practice.

Ahavah Rabboh (Freygish): D Eb F# G A Bb C

The definition in the OP comports with the one given in Jewish Music Analysis, which also mentions that "[it] is commonly referred to as the mode of supplication" and "is believed [to have been] adopted from the Tartars."

Mi Sheberach: D E F G# A B C

The Mi Sheberach mode is described on Wikipedia (and corroborated by Jewish Music Analysis) as part of the entry for Ukranian Dorian scale, and a variant beginning on Db (Db E F G# A B C) is also given (transposed for comparison: D E# F# Gx A# B# C# = D F Gb A Bb C Db. Note the two augmented seconds).

Also referred to as Misheberach, Av horachamon, Mi Shebeyrekh, and Misheberak.

Adonoy Moloch: D E F# G A B C

Jewish Music Analysis gives the above notation for Adonoy Moloch, which is identical to the diatonic Mixolydian mode, with the exception that the seventh degree of the Klezmer mode may be raised.

Mogen Ovos: D E F G A Bb C

Jewish Music Analysis identifies Mogen Ovos as identical to the diatonic natural minor, with a variant equivalent to harmonic minor


To begin with the end of my searches, it seems that the most frequently recommended book covering Klezmer theory (among other Klezmer topics) is "The Compleat Klezmer", by Henry Sapoznik.

Here is the blurb from Amazon:

(Tara Books). This book is the definitive anthology by the world's foremost authority on klezmer music. Features an in-depth musical analysis, discography, 33 annotated melodies, historical background, annotations, resources, bibliography and extensive instruction on klezmer music. A MUST for Klezmer fans.

But some interesting resources also came up along the way.

As a starting point, Wikipedia has an article on Klezmer with a section on the Melodic Modes. That section points to another Wikipedia article on Jewish Prayer Modes, which are indicated as the source of the Klezmer modes. That section, in turn, relies primarily on Baruch Joseph Cohon's "The Structure of Synagogue Prayer Chant" (Journal of the American Musicological Society 3, no. 1, 17–32, 1950).

Cohon's primary citations are A. Z. Idelson's Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, volumes VII and VIII. Here is the description of the Thesaurus from the Jewish Music Research Centre:

The most important anthology of Jewish music. The first five volumes contain music of Oriental Jewish communities which Idelsohn heard in Jerusalem during the years 1907-1921. The other five volumes contain music of Ashkenazi communities which Idelsohn collected from different sources. Volumes VI and VII are based on the manuscripts of the Birnbaum Collection at the Library of the Hebrew Union College Cincinnati.

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