Hebrew Bible Music Scores

Here are links to all the scores of the music (or here) encoded in the Hebrew scriptures as interpreted according to the key of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura (SHV). PDFs, Music XML, and MID files are also available through the resource page for the published e-books here. These scores have been generated from the text itself by a computer program.

My transcriptions are not perfect but having them sure beats transcribing your first draft by hand. Learn and make the right choices. Known bugs: some issues with a repeated divine name, some divergence over whether an ornament needs to return to the reciting note or not, and a problem with Hallelujah, which comes out as 3 rather than 4 syllables. It is an issue with a closed syllable followed by a schwa. You can verify my transcriptions against Haïk-Vantoura's originals.

There are several other interpretive systems referenced in the blog, Jacobson, Burns, and traditional Tiberian Pronunciation.

Feel free to perform or arrange this music composed millennia ago. When exactly, no one knows. For some ideas on composition using the music as a cantus firmus, see this post.

A paper on this subject presented at the regional SBL conference in Moscow, May 2016, is here. The presentation slides are here. See here for a recording of the presentation.

Go to the shared drive, then click on the book you are interested in.

The files in the shared location are in Music XML and PDF. You need a music program to read the XML such as Musescore. This is a free program that installs easily and quickly on your computer.

If you are a composer, please let the harmonic and modal implications inspire you to set the words. In Hebrew or in English. Please see the volumes linked on the side bar for the complete text suitable for a base for an English setting.

For the Psalms I have used the modes as suggested by SHV in her work. All other chapters (with a few exceptions) have been completed in the default mode. If you want to see a particular mode for a chapter, let me know and I will run the program with the mode you desire. It takes only a few minutes to do any one chapter since all the steps are automated. Note that the default mode is only one of several and a differing mode may be important as a choice for a particular passage.

For a comprehensive review of the accents, and an introduction to the Bible from the point of view of the music, see my book. Contents are here. You can order here.

This is the foreword.

You have in your hands a readable music book. Reading a book with music between the paragraphs is a little different from reading a scholarly tome or a novel. It is not an exercise in speed. The eye allows us to see quickly, but the ear demands presence and time to hear the musical phrases in their sequence. The sweetness of the music makes this book a little like a layered cookie.

Chapters 1 and 7 and the Appendices are somewhat technical. You need to read them and come back to them but you don’t need to read them first. They are the crunchy part of the cookie. They describe the struggle to interpret the signs. Chapters 2 through 6 scan the canonical history in five stages: Creation, Escape, Home, Exile, Restoration. They are the sweet inner part of the cookie, that many I know would rather eat first. They summarize the story of the God of Israel and the people of Israel with many musical examples. Their music is an integral part of the narrative of the book. All the examples are in line and meant to be read and the performance imagined by non-musician or musician in the normal sequential act of reading a book.

Chapter 1, Languages, introduces the problem, a puzzle with over 300,000 pieces set for us by our ancestors. The puzzle is still in the box. We have only in the past 40 years begun to see how to unpack it. Many people have tried in the last 1000 years, but their attempts have been piecemeal and have not been widely known. So chapter 1 gives us a language for describing the pieces. We can see how each piece is shaped and we learn how to fit them together given their shapes. The primary language is musical. There is also some technical language and some polemical language as we encounter both the perceived difficulty of the puzzle and some resistance to a musical solution.

Chapter 2 is Creation. Creation is approached through the opening act of Genesis 1 combined with the character of Leviathan in the epic poem of the book of Job. It is the music that invites the comparison.

Chapter 3 is Escape. Escape from the house of servitude is approached from the call of Moses to the building of the sanctuary. Atonement and Oneness are introduced and the desire of Yahweh to find a home and the escaped to make such a home. The chapter ends with the commandment.

Chapter 4 is Home. Home begins with the integrity of Samuel and continues to the character and memory of the monarchy and the building of the temple. The chapter ends with riddle and parable.

Chapter 5 is Exile. Exile begins with the protest language of the prophets and the honesty of the lament. It ends with the character of the acts of a servant.

Chapter 6 is Restoration. Restoration begins with trust and return and continues with consolation and redemption. The five middle chapters conclude with praise.

Chapter 7 is an introduction to the deciphering key that allows this elegant musical solution to the puzzle. It contains some suggestions on performance practice.

Within the middle chapters are many single verses of music and a few larger sections that can be performed. Appendix 1 contains four full sections of the lectionary that have been performed in the context of a service. Appendix 2 compares other suggested solutions to the puzzle. Appendix 3 shows how statistics confirm the capacity and clarity of the suggested solution.

Once you begin to hear the music of these accents, there is no need for much further explanation. An expressive musician can tell the story by singing the song. And what possibilities there are for performance. The music gives a dramatic new feel to familiar stories, instruction, and poetry from the Old Testament.

The folders here should give you access to all the performances that I have found available.


  1. Bob, has anyone done a Hebrew TTS (text-to-sing) code using SHV's method? You mention your code used to produce the XML files, which is part way there. Since I learned of Suzanne's work several years ago, I often wonder what a verse sounds like as I read it, and envision anyone being able to click on a verse interactively, and hear it. Marvin (matakosa@hush.ai)

  2. I do not have information on direct text to sing software. Musescore can read the XML and play a synthesizer version. It cannot do justice to recitation or even the nuance of the human voice with words in regular rhythm. Too wooden. What software do you know of?

  3. Bob, I found the following open source TTS (text-to-speech)for modern Hebrew: https://sourceforge.net/p/hebtts/news/ With some modification, it might pronounce Biblical Hebrew. I have not verified that yet. Trying to contact the author of the code to see if he could be encouraged or hired to update it.
    I agree that to do justice (as an artist) to the intonation and nuance of the human voice is a high goal...and may not be technically feasible at this point, but my exposure to this technology is dated, and more may be feasible than I realize.
    In a first step, the T-T-speech code would be modified to sound a musical tone with each syllable (or only when the note changes) so we could hear the melody. I think this step could be done with minimal effort.
    The second step would be to modify the spoken syllable so its tone was higher or lower to match the desired note. The author of the code later obtained a patent on a method of raising the tone for a spoken word so TTS would sound more realistic and could express a question's intonation, for example. I suspect this step would be much harder, and unless another method is found, could be expensive.
    To have a brother in Christ as yourself as a consultant for this project would be a huge help, would you consider it?
    Marvin (matakosa@hush.ai)

  4. Also, the speech synthesis software that the Qaryan TTS code uses (MBROLA) is now open source software code(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MBROLA). This might help if modifications were needed to support Biblical Hebrew. Only having 1 year of Hebrew in 1982 at Seminary, with not as much exegetical practice since as I had hoped, I do not have the depth required to judge the results of this effort. Marvin

    1. Somewhere on this blog in the last 10 years, someone did a human voice simulation with the music, but I can't find it. I would be happy to consult on such a project. If there were a music XML language for the synthesizer output, I could even modify my own program to include it. It could be that I should define the output instrument as voice in any case. If you have muse score, load one of the XML files into the program, right click on the staff and change the instrument to a voice (also or soprano). Then play it. It is not reading the syllables, but it does play the sound woodenly.

    2. Thank You! When I get to the point where there is something to check, I will let you know. Would you send an email to me (matakosa@hush.ai), so I can send you things more directly?
      The other major piece I still need is a good electronic file source for the Hebrew text with the accents. I have found images of the Aleppo Codex, but that is incomplete with respect to the complete Canon, and not digitized (or I did not find that yet). I found YouTube of someone who was involved in digitizing whole Hebrew Bible in Israel, but don't know if the accents were included in that, or if suitable for this. What source did you use, or did you digitize the Hebrew yourself?
      Yes, I have muse score. Have only used with a collaborator who did not have Finale. Since Muse Score is "free", it may help this function have wider use. Marvin