Guido of Arezzo

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Guido d'Arezzo

Guido von Arezzo (also: Guido d'Arezzo the Elder , (Guido) Aretinus and Guido Monaco ; * around 992 in the Paris area ; † uncertain: May 17, 1050 in Avellana ) was a Benedictine monk , music theorist and teacher .


Statue of Guido of Arezzo in Florence

Before 1020, Guido of Arezzo went to the Abbey of Santa Maria in Pomposa near Ferrara , where he studied the tracts of Odo, Abbot of St. Maur. In 1023 or 1025 he left the monastery and became Camaldolese prior and teacher of the Cathedral School of Arezzo under Bishop Theobald of Arezzo (1023–36) .

In 1025 and 1026 Guido von Arezzo's main work on music theory, Micrologus de disciplina artis musicae , was written, in which he passed on the legend of Pythagoras in the forge in addition to the descriptions of intervals and church modes. Probably in 1028, Guido von Arezzo presented Pope John XIX. (1024–33) received a copy of his antiphonary, which was still written in Pomposa , in Rome at his invitation . In the foreword to the work, the musical notation invented by Guido von Arezzo, based on four lines spaced apart from thirds, is described for the first time. In the later work "Epistola Guidonis Michaeli monacho de ignoto cantu directa" he explained the technique known today as solmization , the tones of a hexachord with the initial syllables of the lines of the Johannes hymn Ut queant laxis (8th century, the melody of the hymn comes from possibly by Guido himself) - then ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la , today with the renamed ut to do expanded to the scale do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti- (do) .

Before Guido von Arezzo, signs ( neumes ) were used for musical notation , which did not allow any information about the exact length or height of the tone. The actual melody was passed on orally. Guido's innovation is said to have met with resistance in Pomposa Abbey, as the monks are said to have feared the exclusivity of their musical knowledge.

According to the testimony of Sigebert von Gembloux (around 1105 and 1110), the Guidonian hand , a memory aid in which each phalanx is assigned a tone, is traced back to Guido von Arezzo.

The main innovations of Guido of Arezzo

First stanza of the Johannes hymn Ut queant laxis . Diastematic representation with tone letters above the text and solmization syllables on the edge.
Statue of Guido of Arezzo in Arezzo .

Notation on four lines

Before Guido von Arezzo, the yellow C-line and the red F-line already existed. With the help of these lines, the singer knew where the semitones of the keys were. The innovation of Guido was that he inserted a black one between the two colored lines. Now there were staves with a third spacing as they are still used today.

If that wasn't enough, Guido recommended adding a fourth line above or below it. In this four-line form, Gregorian chant has survived for a millennium and can still be read today.

He also put in place of the colored lines clef one (C-keys and F-keys).

C-clef: KeyThe note C is on the line pointed to by the arrow

F-clef: FschluesselThe note F is on the line pointed to by the arrow

This system with staves in a third interval and clefs prevailed and is still used today.

Tone scale

The tone scale used by Guido von Arezzo at that time was called relative pitches and was developed with the monochord :

Γ ABCDEFG a ( ) cdefg aa ( ) cc dd

It is noticeable that b (as b molle ) and h (as b durum ) occur. These were never used in the same melody at the time, but were necessary to enable a mutation of the underlying hexachord of the respective melody, which is roughly comparable to the process of modulation within the "modern" Tartinian or Riemannian harmony system.

Hexachord system

Building on the above-mentioned tone scale, Guido von Arezzo developed six-step scales, the so-called hexachords . The special thing about these hexachords was that they only had one semitone step: between the third and fourth tone. If you now try to insert these hexachords into the above-mentioned tone scale, you will succeed three times:

From C - A: This hexachord was called hexachordum naturale .

From F - D (over the b; the h is omitted): This hexachord was called hexachordum molle .

From G - E (via the h; the b is omitted): This hexachord was called hexachordum durum .

There are now seven interlocking hexachords across the entire tone scale.


The solmization can also be traced back to Guido von Arezzo. He gave each tone of a hexachord a tone syllable. From the John's hymn (8th century) Ut queant laxis he took the first syllable of a half-verse: ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la. There was a semitone step between mi and fa.

As a singing teacher, Guido von Arezzo wanted to shorten the long learning period for Gregorian chant. At that time, it took a monk over ten years before he could sing all the chorals because the melodies had to be learned by heart. With the help of Guido von Arezzo's four-line system and his hexachords, which were sung according to tone syllables ( solmization ), the learning time for chorales was shortened from ten years to (according to Guido himself) "one year".


Difference Between Music Theorists and Singers

“Musicorum et cantorum magna est distantia.
Isti dicunt, illi sciunt, quae componit musica.
Nam qui facit, quod non sapit, definitely bestia. "

“The difference between music theorists and singers is big.
These only reproduce, those understand what the music is putting together.
Because someone who does something he doesn't know is called an animal. "

Justification of the diatonic grading system

The diatonic system was founded by the Greeks, but it was not until Guido von Arezzo that an essential point in the development of western music was marked, as Guido von Arezzo also documented the first approaches to polyphonic music. The Greek expressions that Guido used for intervals often contain the syllable "δια" (through / out): Diapason , Diapente , Diatessaron . Diaphonie or Organum were used for polyphony .

The characteristic of the diatonic is that it only consists of two whole tones and two semitones (tetrachord) plus one whole tone, whereas the other two genres (modes) the chromatics and the enhharmonics of ancient music theory are also made up of smaller intervals. The western diatonic has its roots in the Greek mode of diatonic .

The scale

Micrologus Guidonis de disciplina artis musicae di Guido's short treatise on the rules of musical art, translated and explained by Michael Hermesdorff […]. Trier, 1876. [...] "

In this work, Guido von Arezzo describes the structure of keys that are now called modes or church modes . These keys were used to sing Gregorian chant . Notes: At that time the b existed twice, either as b durum and as b molle . Both were never in the same key at the same time.

Heading: "Chapter III"

About the arrangement of the same on the monochorde.

  • After first having determined the letter Γ , divide the entire space below the string into nine parts and put the letter A at the boundary point of the first ninth , with which all the old theorists started. [ Whole tone Γ: A = 9: 8]
  • After separating a ninth in the same way from A to the end point , add the letter B as well . [ Whole tone A: B = 9: 8]
  • Then return to Γ and divide the room into four parts to the end; at the border points of the first part can be found C . [ Fourth Γ: C = 4: 3]
  • By dividing it into four, one finds, as one found from from C, so also from A to D , from B to E and from C to F in sequence . From D one finds G , from E the high a and from F the round . [ Fourths A: D = 4: 3, B: E = 4: 3, C: F = 4: 3, D: G = 4: 3, E: a = 4: 3, F: = 4: 3]
  • The now following letters are easily obtained one after the other by halving the space of the preceding similar ones, for example: from B to the end, put the other in the middle of the space . Similarly, C determines the other c , D the other d and E the other e , F the other f , G the other g, and a the other aa , the other , the other , c the other cc , and d the other dd . So one could progress up and down infinitely if the law of art did not forbid it. [ Octaves B: = 2: 1, C: c = 2: 1, D: d = 2: 1, E: e = 2: 1, F: f = 2: 1 G: g = 2: 1 a: aa = 2: 1, : = 2: 1 = = 2: 1, c: cc = 2: 1 d: dd = 2: 1 u. s. w.]

According to this rule we get the division of the monochord according to Guido von Arezzo:Diatonic arrezo.gif

In summary, the following table results (according to later tradition, in the German-speaking area H was written instead of B. This fluctuating designation is related to the fact that in the tradition of that time this tone, which was originally intoned as B , was raised by half a tone.

Spelling after Guido Γ A. B. C. D. E. F. G a c d e ...
today's spelling G A. H c d e f G a H c ' d ' e ' ...
distance Whole tone Whole tone halftone Whole tone Whole tone halftone Whole tone Whole tone Whole tone halftone Whole tone Whole tone

This is the Pythagorean tone sequence, in which the (Pythagorean) whole tone has the frequency ratio 9: 8 (204 cents ) and the semitone (fourth - 2 * pyth. Whole tone), also called Leimma , has the frequency ratio of 256: 243 ( 90 cents).

Every seven adjacent tones result in a church key (for example Doric: DEFG a c )

Guido von Arezzo laid the foundation for our staff. Two notes on adjacent staves include a major or minor third, depending on their position.

The note names AHCDEFG a ... and the staves imply that each octave (from A to a , from B to b etc.) comprises exactly five whole tones and two semitones . All of these scales are therefore heptatonic and diatonic .

In the writings of that time, however, the expression diatonic cannot be found directly.


The medieval, Latin hymn Laudes Organi (in German: Praise of the Organ ) is immortalized by Guido in the last verse:

Huius artis praeceptori secum deus det Guidoni vitam aeternalem.
( May God give eternal life to the teacher of this art, Guido. )

The composer Zoltán Kodály set this hymn of praise to the music in 1966 for organ and choir.

  • 1882 bronze medal, 49 mm, by Luigi Gori: Front: GUIDO <> MONACO --- Bearded bust in frock to the left, signed: LUIGI GORI INC. Reverse: IL SETTEMBRE MDCCCLXXXII / AREZZO --- Three shields on laurel and oak branches. Literature: Niggl 774.

See also

Works (selection)

  • Micrologus de disciplina artis musicae
  • Prologus in Antiphonarium
  • Regulae rhythmicae
  • Epistola ad Michaelem , see web links


Web links

Commons : Guido of Arezzo  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hugh Henry:  Ut Queant Laxis Resonare Fibris . In: Catholic Encyclopedia , Volume 15, Robert Appleton Company, New York 1912.
  2. a b In New Grove (1989) the following can be read about it: “Although the text of the hymn Ut queant laxis is found in an MS of c800 (I-Rvat Ottob. 532) and by an old tradition is ascribed to Paulus Diaconicus , the melody in question was unknown before Guido's time and never had any liturgical function. It is probable that Guido invented the melody as a mnemonic device or reworked an existing melody now lost. "
  3. The reproduction of the complete scale varies with the text characters used with regard to the notes b major and b minor , depending on the translator, the note b is represented with different characters.
  4. For a better understanding with emphasis and structure and indication of the associated interval and the associated proportion in square brackets.
  5. today's spelling for this B is H
  6. In the church key Jonisch (CDEFGAH (B) -C) the seventh tone was often raised as the leading tone to C. Pope John XXII reprimanded this "bad habit" in 1322, which is why B was often notated but B was intoned. (See Riemann, Ludwig, 1896, “Popular Representation of Acoustics in Relation to Music” p. 121.
  7. Michael Hermesdorff: Micrologus Guidonis de disciplina artis musicae, di Guido's short treatise on the rules of musical art. Grach, Trier 1876, p. 21 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive ). Quote: “From these length measures, the following relationships result for the intervals included in the tone series: Small seconds BC EF = 243: 256; Major seconds Γ-A, AB, etc. 8: 9; minor third AC, DF etc = 27:32; major third CE, Fa = 64:81; pure quart Γ-C, CF etc = 3: 4; perfect fifth Γ-D, CG etc = 2: 3; minor sixth EC = 81: 128; major sixth Γ-E, Ca etc = 16:27; minor seventh Γ-F = 9:16; major seventh C- = 128: 243; Octave Γ-G = 1: 2; large quart F- = 512: 729; small fifth (as the inversion of the tritone) = 729: 1024. "
  8. The tone Γ - an octave below G - was used to determine the fourth from Γ to C. This circumvented the construction of the practically impossible ratio c: A = 32:27 or even c: H = 256: 243.
  9. Zoltan Kodály: “Laudes organi”  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 479 kB), New Basel Chamber Choir program (2010)@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /