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We develop a model to study coupled cavity waveguides (CCWs) in photonic crystals, composed of linear chains of coupled cavities. By extending previous work on single mode cavities, we have developed a model applicable to any finite number of quasi-degenerate cavity modes. Our model, which uses a multimode tight-binding approach, allows us to study the interaction between the cavity modes as well as the coupling between the CCW bands. In contrast to previous work the coupling parameters are calculated ab initio from the single cavity field profile. The calculated dispersion relations are shown to be in good agreement with those obtained from the plane wave expansion method. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.