Considering this answer which cites a halacha that Cohanim must duchen together, I'm curious as to why so many shuls that I have attended throughout many years seem to have a group of Cohanim that don't coordinate the duchenin. The Cohanim are not all singing the same tune, they're not in the same tempo, and there are one or two Cohanim that say the last word of each verse a bit after the rest of the group so it sounds like there's an echo. I know that the Levi'im had a choir in the Bet Hamikdash, and they had a conductor. I assume that they had some type of rehearsal, or even if not, they were better coordinated. At least there's a precedence for nice music during tefillah. I would think that Cohanim would care to sound coordinated, at least, if not on tune, as well.

Is there some reason as to why it is this way? Is it a lack of knowing the halacha or carelessness? Why does this happen consistently?

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    Most likely it's carelessness. – ezra Jul 6 '18 at 19:34
  • Clearly they tone deaf – robev Jul 6 '18 at 20:49
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    But in all seriousness it's the same with Kaddish. People saying things out loud often can hear others and are off tune/out of sync with everyone else. – robev Jul 6 '18 at 20:50
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    In most Ashkenazi communities outside of Israel, this only happens rarely (on yamim tovim), and on days on which there are often large numbers of guests. This likely contributes to the general lack of advanced prep. – magicker72 Jul 7 '18 at 1:39
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    What's duchen? can you please use more clear phrasing. – Al Berko Jul 7 '18 at 19:03

This is part of the normal tonality expected in Askenazic communities. They don't mind a slight dissonance as part of their communal melodies. They don't see great importance in perfection of tone unity as an integral part of Serving Hashem.

  • I don't think this is done on purpose in Ashkenazi communities. – Aaron Jul 8 '18 at 17:54
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    @Aaron Do you think this is done on purpose in Yemenite communities ?? – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jul 9 '18 at 6:59
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore I see that my comment has been erased. But, yes, I noticed that the only difference between your answer and Aaron's is regarding the specific community. I'm not convinced that this is the reason. There's a difference between tempo and tune. Not everyone can sing on the same pitch or tune. (I've been in several choirs myself to know that.) But, I can't see it being too difficult to maintain the same tempo. – DanF Jul 9 '18 at 14:05
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore It's definitely done on purpose in Yemenite communities. Look up Aharon Amram's recording of Yigdal Elohim Hai. If you have an android phone you can download the Aharon Amram app – Aaron Jul 10 '18 at 1:24
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore Here's not the clearest example. There's slight reverb, but the certain crunchy otherwordly sound is not some sound effect, it's the sound of the Yemenites being perfectly just out of tune. youtube.com/watch?v=nAUiXPSNa5U – Aaron Jul 10 '18 at 1:33

This happens in communities where the mesorah has been lost. This loss is especially prevalent in Ashkenazi communities where the education of the children is expected to be handed off to a school or organization.

In communities where the father is still expected to (and does) educate their own children religiously, you don't have the situation you just described. Because it's typically considered the job of the Kohein to pass on his blessing and melody to his children. For example, here is a recording from a Yemenite community : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO-_kCmoFz8 In this community, all of the Kohanim have the exact same melody and they move through the blessing together as a unit.

Note: It may sound like the Kohanim are a tiny bit out of tune, but this is part of the normal tonality expected in Yemenite communities. They will often sing together in fifths apart, and be just slightly out of tune on those fifths to give it an otherworldly sound. But if you listen to them, they are moving in the same time.


I agree with @Aaron.

We should expect tuneful singing in Duchenen. But the kohanim have to learn the tunes.

The German-Jewish (Yekke) congregations have special tunes for each Yom Tov.

Here are two poor quality recordings of the tunes for Shovuos. IMHO the beauty of the first tune is still discernible.

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