Chanting the Psalms is a practice that goes back thousands of years, to the time of ancient Israel. Speaking the Psalms is actually an anomaly, because Psalms are meant for singing. For some worshippers, however, singing the Psalms is a strange and daunting practice. 

The Rev. Dr. William Bradley Roberts, Professor of Church Music, talks about psalm singing here.

Recently we gathered together some singers to demonstrate four different ways of singing psalms – Simplified Anglican Chant, Anglican Chant, Plainsong, and Lutheran Tones.  On each video you will see the music of the chant, the psalm verses pointed (or marked) appropriately, and hear the psalms chanted.  We are grateful to Rachel Barham, Lisa Koehler, Lawrence Reppert, and James Rogers for serving as our choir; to the Rev. Dr. William Bradley Roberts for conducting them; and to Christian Basel for filming and editing the videos.  

Simplified Anglican Chant

Simplified Anglican Chant provides an easy way to introduce congregations to psalm singing. The psalms are intoned on a single note which changes at the last accented syllable before the asterisk. The reciting note changes after the asterisk and the remainder of the verse is intoned until the last accented syllable. 

It is important that the psalms be “pointed” or marked where the change of pitch occurs so that it is easy for the congregation to catch on. 

To listen to Simplified Anglican Chant click here

Anglican Chant

Anglican Chant comprises ten chords (for a single chant) – a reciting chord followed by a cadence of three chords, and a second reciting chord followed by a final cadence of five chords.  The first part of the psalm verse is sung to the first half of the chant.  The second reciting chord and final cadence have the remainder of the psalm verse following the asterisk.  For a double chant there are twenty chords and use two psalm verses for the chant.  

When teaching Anglican Chant it is helpful to teach the music first using nonsense syllables, numbers, or silly sentences.  For more performance notes please see  The Anglican Chant Psalter, available from Church Publishing, Inc.

To listen to Anglican Chant click here


Plainsong (or Plainchant) is a single melody and has five parts – an intonation which is only sung at the very beginning of the psalm verse; the first reciting note which contains most of the first half of the verse; a cadence which is sung before the asterisk, and, depending on which Gregorian Tone is used, can use two or three syllables or can use more.  For the portion of the verse following the asterisk a second reciting note is sung up until the final cadence.  For more performance notes please see The Plainsong Psalter, available from Church Publishing, Inc.

To listen to Plainsong click here

Lutheran Tones

Lutheran Tones are a way of simplifying Plainchant. Each verse is divided into two parts. Each part has a point (/) within it. The point indicates when the singer moves from the reciting note and continues with the rest of the melody. As it states in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, “it is important to remember that the melody is a vehicle for the natural expression of the words. The words should be sung with natural accents, as they would be if spoken.”  For more performance notes please see Evangelical Lutheran Worship, available from Augsburg Fortress.

To listen to Lutheran Tones click here

Bill Roberts and Ellen Johnston talk about adding psalm singing to your worship life here


There are many resources for singing Psalms.  For the type of psalms sung in these videos here is a list.

The Hymnal 1982Simplified Anglican Chant (S408 – S416)
Anglican Chant (S417 – S445)
Plainsong (S446)
St. James Music Press
Chant available by subscription
Simplified Anglican Chant, Anglican
Anglican Chant Psalter
Church Publishing, Inc.
Plainsong Psalter
Church Publishing, Inc.
Anglican Chant
Plainsong Chant
Evangelical Lutheran Worship
The Lutheran Book of Worship 
Augsburg Fortress
Lutheran Tones