I am trained to sing with classical techniques with what some call the position of yawning. I even sing Gregorian melodies like that and it sounds very good for those melodies. I do not sing like a modern opera singer. That would be a very different thing.

But I often hear people sing Gregorian chant like in this example: https://spotify.link/mSAIEFbkZCb

It sounds like they are very classical in their techniques but are trying to refrain from singing with a fuller voice. That is what I hear.

If I were to sing like that I would have to manipulate my voice.

I think this technique is easier: https://spotify.link/L2GymvqmZCb He is not trying to hold back his real voice. he sounds like a tenor with some classical training. I like his voice.

I am aware that we have other kinds of tenors like those who sing early music. He doesn't sound like them. But I seem to aim for his sound.

What are they doing to sound like that when singing Gregorian chant?

So holding back and not using your real voice is the ideal in Gregorian chant?

  • Is there any chance what you’re hearing is just how different authentic voices sound? Sep 10, 2023 at 20:49
  • What? I don't understand. To me it sounds like the monks sing without having much vocal technique training. Sep 11, 2023 at 12:35
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    It sounds to me that they sing like Gregorian monks - the vocal technique is pretty much exactly as I expect. Can you describe what you are expecting to sing like?
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Sep 11, 2023 at 16:29
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    Is it possible that it sounds like the singers don't have much training because they don't actually have much training? Sep 11, 2023 at 21:24

3 Answers 3


This is somewhat left feld, but bear with me…

Sometimes, when trying to analyse a form you're not familiar with, you have to find an example of the "centre" of the genre, rather than random examples each of which might actually represent an extreme of style.
This is where good copyists come in handy. There's a German band called 'Gregorian' whose penchant is for modern pop & rock songs, done in the style of the EDM band Enigma, but with Gregorian chant vocals. Sure, that's an odd place to start, but what they've done with the vocals is made it sound like the dead centre of what people expect gregorian chant to sound like.

Here's an example - chosen simply because it was the first song of theirs I ever heard, some 15 years or so ago. They have about 15 albums of this stuff, some is great, some misses the point a bit.
It could be described as 'Marmite' [look it up] some people love it, some hate it. Either way, they do manage to sound 'exactly like' what people expect Gregorian chant to sound like.

  • I have never an experts say that we should sing like that. Sep 11, 2023 at 12:47
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    @harryjansson that doesn't matter. That is not what Tetsujin is saying. He is indicating what most people think Gregorian chants should sound like.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Sep 11, 2023 at 16:28
  • I see. I focus on the experts. Sep 12, 2023 at 14:15

What are they doing to sound like that when singing Gregorian chant?

In my studies of music history and in my researching for this answer, I have not be able to find anything about medieval European chant being sung with a specific technique. I only mean that I can't find anything that suggest chant is supposed to be sung with a specific character of voice.

It's not totally clear in your question who is the "they" that you're asking about (the singer in the first link or the second?), but either way it seems likely "they" are singing with either in a healthy way and and that's how their voice sounds when they sing that way, or they are singing in an unhealthy way and that's how their voice sounds. It doesn't seem like "they" are deliberately trying to make their voice sound "Gregorian", because there does not seem to be an accepted and discussed "Gregorian" sound.

So holding back and not using your real voice is the ideal in Gregorian chant?

As far as I can tell, no. I haven't found anything that suggests there is a quality of voice that one should specifically seek to sing chant that is different from desired vocal qualities in other eras or forms of Western European art music.

  • Holding back refers to not using a powerful solo voice. I have heard some people say that a powerful solo voice won't be good for Gregorian chant. Sep 12, 2023 at 14:13
  • @harryjansson Seems like something that wouldn't be only true for chant. Like we want to blend in all ensembles unless we're soloists. Sep 12, 2023 at 19:43

For early music and especially with chant, no vibrato is necessary, and certainly no forced vibrato that becomes popular with opera. Church spaces are set up acoustically to let voices carry and echo, so a little goes a long way. In both recordings you can hear the strong reverb of the space.

But let's analyze the two example recordings you supplied.

The Credo

When you listen to chant, keep in mind that in mass, Catholics are going to sing no matter what their voice sounds like. Allergies? Keep singing. Tightness in the throat? Keep singing. Dust and time affecting your voice? Never really got over that nasal thing from last year? Keep singing. Nobody here to hear you? Keep singing.

Now imagine it's 1995 and some one at the monastery in Luxumbourg borrowed some recording equipment. The chant has been around for eight hundred years, performed daily, reverently, by a constant stream of pious monks. So if it's Brother Maurice's turn to sing at mass and his voice is tight and stuffy that day, that's what going on the record, that's what going in the tourist gift shop.

Regina Caeli Chant

Now imagine it's 2006, the music industry is changed. The ipod has been out for five years and the iphone will be available in two. A music director at a very large church gets an opportunity to put together an album. She has access to musicians all over Chicagoland, including many that sing professionally, exclusively for the Catholic church.

The Chicago Archdiocese puts a big emphasis on providing beautiful music for masses. They're losing members and hemorrhaging money because they have too many buildings, and many of them are money pits. Traditional music, performed with some talent, is one of the few selling points they have.

Mary Gifford contracts Martin Pazdioch to sing for an album they can sell at a mark-up at the many religious shops around town. They want to compete with all the other spiritual/meditational music types that exist. Pazdioch will use the best of his talents to create music for meditation. His voice is clear and strong, with a little natural vibrato and subtle dynamics. Pazdioch is a music instructor. If his throat is tight or he's nose is backed-up, he's going to grab his flownase and do another take. Poor singing would be distracting to people who are used to modern music production, and they're not going to appreciate it on something that costs $29.99. The priests who manage the purses are suprisingly judgey.

so why are they different?

The Catholic church is presented in media in a variety of different ways, but the two big ones are

  • we come as we are, join us if you like

  • Our religion has given us talent and we're always this polished

Most music appreciators would prefer to hear the Regina Caeli, and say that this is authentic, accurate chant style. However, if you show up for almost any mass or service on a random Sunday, there's a good chance you'll hear something closer to the Credo, but it's not exactly on purpose. All over the globe, in places big and small, Pastors have to sing, in public, every week, no matter what. Some will be great, some will be just be good, but to judge them on their singing talent would be disrespectful. Their talent and goal is worship above all else.

This is a long winded way of saying that I don't think the Credo was sung in a style that's particularly different or special to chant. He's singing through his nose, which means he's in the process of getting some vocal training and hasn't reached the point yet where the singer integrates head and chest voice, or he's holding back a sneeze, or this is just how he sings. The recording is fuzzy, which means this was probably a recording of an actual service. If that's the case, then it was recorded to capture the real sound of the monks in service, allergies and all.

  • I actually hear vibrato in early music. It is mostly hear on longer notes. That is also true in my singing. Why did you say that they use no vibrato? Sep 12, 2023 at 12:23
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    I meant more that vibrato isn't necessary, and there's certainly no forced vibrato that you'd hear in opera. the 'Wobble' sound predates chant by a few centuries. Natural vibrato can sound great on solo chant perfomances! But in choir settings, less vibrato is more, especially with the church reverb.
    – LeLetter
    Sep 12, 2023 at 15:13
  • I see. What you mean by opera is probably not older operas. In older operas we find little vibrato. Sep 12, 2023 at 15:48
  • I'm thinking of the manipulated vibrato that's usually required in opera from 1750 onward, that requires a bit of training and control to achieve a big sound in carpet covered concert halls. That kind of vibrato will sound out-of-place in chant, and might not play well in a large stone cathedral space.
    – LeLetter
    Sep 12, 2023 at 16:07
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    Oh sorry, I misread your comment! Yes, in early opera, there's little vibrato. Big vibrato vibes don't show up until the Baroque period.
    – LeLetter
    Sep 12, 2023 at 16:12

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