For theoretical evaluation of the response of a structure under random acoustic excitation a complete understanding is required of the various modes of vibration and the modal damping associated with each mode. In order to evaluate these parameters for plates with unconstrained layer damping treatment, some of the theoretical approaches applicable are used. Experimentally observed modal frequencies and associated loss factors are compared with those estimated by different theories for all edges simply supported and all edges clamped boundaries, after accounting for the damping at supports. The modes of vibration used in the theoretical analysis for these boundaries are compared with those observed in the experiments. These results are made use of in Part II for the evaluation of response under random acoustic excitation. © 1980.