Hebrew Bible Music Scores

Here are links to all the scores of the music (Hebrew Bible Music Resources on Google Drive) (or here Music Support Files on OneDrive) encoded in the Hebrew scriptures as interpreted according to the deciphering 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. There is a later collection of the chapters here.

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
To get the music, 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 sidebar for the complete text suitable for a base for an English setting or message me on Twitter for help @drmacdonald.

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.

You can verify my transcriptions against Haïk-Vantoura's originals (The Biblical Chant Library DVD ROM 3.0). All pdf's available related to her scores are linked individually here and here is a list of performances with linksIf individual links do not work - general access to the whole DVD should be available here.

Note: My transcriptions will differ in some places from Haïk-Vantoura's since I do not use the Letteris edition but the Leningrad codex, a text 900 years earlier. Transcriptions may also be tested against the Aleppo codex if available. The main issue with Letteris is that there are too many silluq signs within a verse. They have been added over the millennium as methegs, an aid to some vowel pronunciation. They do not belong in the music but will pull the melody back to the tonic in the wrong places. 

Other known issues with the automated transcription: some questions 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. All these should be corrected manually by the performer / arranger.

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.

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 will also give you access to all the performances that I have found available. (If individual links do not work - general access to the whole DVD should be available here.)


  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

    3. It may be that you are responsible for this video of Psalm 148 using this method. If so, thank you for doing this!


      I am interested in why the result is different from this video claiming to be based on Haik-Vantoura's work:


      My son has provided me with renderings of the Psalms using a Persian hammered dulcimer sound (santoor) that doesn't reflect an instrument used in ancient Israel, but we didn't have a kinnor VSTi and we hadn't yet found this text-to-voice option for Hebrew. I am sure that some of the more advanced and expensive music software could do some quite impressive things with it, but it will probably take a human being to chant or sing it in a way that sounds less mechanical.

      I look forward to continuing this conversation, and am especially interested on the differences between the few other Haik-Vantoura renderings on YouTube and those reflected in the MIDI files and pdfs here. It didn't seem like it is just the assumption of different modes or the mechanical character of automated rendering that were the only differences, and so want to find out more before spending a lot of time working on this, as I anticipate I probably will!

    4. I am glad to see these variants pursued. Why the result is different - SHV used a different mode in that arrangement from the one using the voice synthesizer (mode 2 major). Choosing the mode changes the tuning of the accompanying instrument. See this link for her original rendering. For some reason I did not use this mode for the psalm when I produced the support files with it's characteristic raised fourth. I can produce it with a button click and generate the pdf file from the xml, or with the XML file you could change the key signature and adjust the accidentals by hand to get the different mode.

    5. Thanks, Bob. It seems to me to be different in other ways than just the mode - rhythms/durations of notes and intervals also seem different from yours. I'm trying to figure out where differences might be due to mode not least because I wonder whether any of the obscure terms in the superscriptions might indicate a mode.

      I'm not sure whether you saw my blog post today - in it I was pondering the differences among some of the Psalms that, according to the usual interpretation of a detail they share in the superscriptions, they ought to have a melody in common.


      Thank you for all that you have made available - this is such an incredible resource! I am interested in the differences between your versions and Haik-Vantoura's largely so that, when he has time, I can get Alex my son to work on a program that might automate trying different modes and things like that. It would allow the ear to be the primary adjudicator, and it may be that certain superscription terms and certain modes align.

      As with many other things, this is a time when whole new avenues of research are now possible. I think that you and/or I should present on this at SBL in the Digital Humanities program unit.

    6. That would be terrific - we really need the music both to sharpen and to soften our approaches to the psalms. I did see your post and I am preparing a short response. We could meet virtually to discuss some of the issues and talk about helping Alex with the software. The logic embedded in my algorithms could be converted to whatever tools he is familiar with.

  5. I want to help explore the possibility of doing digital renditions. I have at least one person who might be able to offer renderings using virtual instrument sounds appropriate to the time, such as lyre. Setting it up for a vocal rendition would also be possible (the digital possibilities today are quite impressive) but that would take a lot more work, I think. But certainly keep me in the loop on the conversation, as I continue also looking into this on my own end.

    1. I have made no recent progress on this. I don't have a research department any more. We need a visi-sonor and a dedicated experimenter. I suspect an add-on to Musescore could be developed.

    2. I think I can have mp3s made with more authentic sounds than MuseScore provides, using the xml and/or midi files you've created. I will look into this and let you know.

      I've been working on my book on the Bible and Music, gearing up to teach my course this semester, and also started a series on this subject in my Sunday school class, and so I've been referring to your work lately and my thoughts returned to this.

  6. I love this! I'd love to follow the accents to the words but I don't speak Hebrew (yet - but I'd like to). It would be so helpful if you could upload the pdf docs/passages with an English translation as well. Thank you for moving this work forward!

    1. I have experimented with including my English translation - but the problem of doing it well is not easily solved. The best approach is to learn Hebrew and then to experiment further with the English section by section. It's good that there is no easy solution because we can't eat the whole meal at once. But we can go through an English translation section by section and appreciate the Hebrew construction using a translation meant as a draft underlay for the music. You will find examples - which can be taken in without giving you indigestion - all over my blog. And for learning Hebrew, use the music and get my SimHebrew Bible (see the about page). I use this all the time for analyzing other translations and for composition and for reading lessons. I am glad you love this - there is no doubt that that's what it's all about. And it's hard work too.