To better understand variations in spectra of brain tumors, 122 in vivo proton spectra of brain tumors in 82 patients were analyzed. The changes in relative metabolite concentrations compared with those in normal spectra and the presence of any new metabolite were assessed. To evaluate the clinical usefulness of in vivo hydrogen-1 magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy in brain tumors, the authors looked for specific spectral changes on the basis of tumor grade. All tumor spectra showed differences from normal reference spectra. The differential diagnosis of the spectra was limited because intraindividual differences between spectra of one tumor at different locations were often larger than differences between spectra of tumors with different histologic characteristics. However, the variations in metabolite concentrations, and especially the presence or absence of aliphatic signals, were proved to be indicators of the histologic grade of tumor. The observed spectral patterns conformed to a four-compartment model, described herein, which is proposed to improve the interpretation of brain spectra.