How to Prepare Your Music

The most important thing about being a cantor is to make sure you are ALWAYS prepared.  This means learning your music before well before the Mass you will be cantoring.  Below is a basic process for preparing your music.  It assumes you have prepared your text as outlined in “Cantor Training: How to Prepare the Text”. 

Prepare the Rhythm

  • Take note of the time signature.  The form of the time signature is n/N, where n is the number of counts, and N is the note value being counted. For example, 4/4 means that there are 4 counts in the measure with the quarter-note (quarternote) receiving the count.
    • Common liturgical time signatures are:
      • 4/4
      • 3/4
      • 2/4
      • 3/2 – here the half-note (halfnote) gets the count
      • 6/8 –  here the eighth-note (eighthnote) gets the count
  • Write the counts for any rests before entrances, for any notes that will be held, and for any measures with abnormal/tricky or varying rhythms – you will add to this as you learn the rhythms for the piece
    • Common division of notes

Continue reading “How to Prepare Your Music”

How to Prepare the Text

The first step to preparing your music for Mass is to prepare your text.  The music for Mass should be related to the readings of the day, specifically the Gospel.  In fact, the creators of the Lectionary chose the Gospel readings for the various days first.  Next, they chose the first reading to correlate to the Gospel either as a thematic resemblance or contrast, Old Testament background information, or a prophetic foreshadowing.  The responsorial psalm was chose to bridge the first reading with the Gospel.  Therefore, since there is a direct link between the first reading, responsorial psalm, and Gospel, as well as an indirect link between the other music of the Mass, namely the hymn and song selections, there is a need to be very familiar with the texts of the readings for Mass and the texts of the hymns and songs. Continue reading “How to Prepare the Text”

What Is My Role in the Liturgy?

Why Cantor?

Why have you chose to serve as cantor?  A simple but important question.  Some chose to serve as cantor as a way to strengthen their spirituality.  Some choose to serve as cantor to share their gift of music with the parish. Others have chosen to serve as cantor because they were asked. So, why have YOU chose to serve as cantor?

History of the Cantor

The history of the cantor is an ancient one.  There are many references to singing in the Bible.  The most famous of these is “Then, after singing a hymn, they went out the Mount of Olives” – Matthew 26:30.  If Christ and the apostles sang a hymn at the last supper, it was most assuredly lead by one of the apostles.  Imagine leading Christ in the singing of a hymn! The oldest and most famous of biblical songs are the psalms.  The Hebrew Psalter, popularly attributed to King David, served as the early Jews hymnal.  Knowing that these were sung, it is very likely that someone in the community was designated to lead their singing.  In the Jewish tradition, the cantor not only lead the psalms, but also other prayers offered on behalf of the people of God.  As the backbone of Jewish worship, and therefore Christian worship, the psalms have played an important role in our liturgies. Continue reading “What Is My Role in the Liturgy?”

How to Lead the Congregation

You role as a song leader is perhaps the most difficult role you have as a cantor.  Knowing when to sing out or into the microphone and when to back off from singing is difficult to know, and will depend largely on the situation.  The crucial thing you must remember is that you are there to help the congregation sing, not to give them a concert.

Using the Microphone

When singing at St. Joseph Church you are almost always amplified by a microphone.  It is important to know a few things about microphones.  First, we use unidirectional microphone, which means that they are designed amplify sound sources that are in a direct line with the microphone.  This means that when you are cantoring you will need to make sure that the microphone is pointed directly at your mouth.  Furthermore, since the microphones are set to a fixed gain (level of amplification) you should maintain a comfortable distance of approximately 4-6 inches from the head of the microphone.  If you find that you are too loud, increase the distance between you and the microphone.  If you are too soft, first experiment with singing louder.  If that fails, then decrease your distance from the microphone.  Please remember that the closer to the microphone you are, the more plosive consonants, e.i. p, b, f, k, and g, will cause the microphone to “pop”.  When singing these consonants you should position your mouth either to the side of the microphone or above it.  If you maintain a proper distance, though, this will not be a problem.  Here is a diagram of how to position your microphone. Continue reading “How to Lead the Congregation”

The Mass


The Mass serves as the center of all Catholic life.  Not only is it the center of our day with daily Mass or the center of our week with Sunday Mass, it is the very center of our worship practices.  All services whether they be a wedding or funeral follow the same sequences of events as the regular Mass.  Even special occasions like Confirmation, the Easter Vigil or Good Friday, ALL have the same parts, an Introductory Rite, the Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist or Communion Distribution, and a Concluding Rite.  It is essential for the Cantor to know these parts of the Mass, what comprises each part, and what the role of the Cantor is in each one. Continue reading “The Mass”