Free vocal / instrumental music

In Libro III (book 3) of Tres libros de musica en cifras para vihuela (1546), Alonso Mudarra (ca 1510 – 1580) presents a series of pieces with separate but aligned vocal and vihuela parts. To celebrate my experience with reading Mensural notation (see more detail in “Music with vocal and instrumental parts”), I am making two of the versos and two of the psalms available for free.  The scores are available here.

A verso is simply a verse set to music.

“Regia qui mesto” is a lament for the death of Princess Mary Manuela of Portugal. View/listen to it on YouTube. In this recording, a clarinet is chosen to represent the vocal line and the vocal/instrumental phrasing matches the text in the first verse only (the phrasing should be changed based on the text in the next two verses).

“Beatus ille” is my favorite verso. It’s marked in his book to be played/sung at a moderate tempo. However, that sounded too much like a dirge so I listened to some recordings and found one at at quite a fast pace. Here it is at 200 bbm, more than twice as fast as Mudarra intended. I like it as the rhythms really stand out and are kind of off-kilter (i.e. short notes when you expect long notes, lots of notes on the off beats). A clarinet simulates playing the vocal part. Have fun listening to it on YouTube. Sorry, this one is not free and you’ll have to wait until I publish the book “Mudarra Favorites on the Ukulele (Books 4 and 5)” in about 10 days time.

“Dulces exuviae” is a setting of Dido’s final monologue from Book IV of Virgil’s Aeneid. View/listen to it on YouTube. In this recording, a clarinet is chosen to represent the vocal line and the vocal/instrumental phrasing is the arranger’s interpretation (the phrasing should be changed based on the text). NOTE that this verse has been set to music by many composers, including Josquin des Prez, so when searching for other performances, make sure to include “Mudarra” in your search criteria, otherwise all the results will be the music of Josquin.

The Mudarra psalms are the first instrumental fabordones, or for voice and instrument. A fabordone or fauxbourdon is a musical technique of harmonization, or chant, used in the music of the end of the Moyen Age and the debut of the Renaissance. The monotony of parallel cords favors the understanding of the text in Latin.

“Nisi Dominus” is a setting of Psalm 126. View/listen to it on YouTube. A clarinet is used to simulate the vocal part.

“Exurge, quare obdormis” is a setting of Psalm 43, verses 23-24. View/listen to it on YouTube. A clarinet is used to simulate the vocal part.

Music with vocal / instrumental parts

Libro III of “Tres libros de musica en cifras para vihuela” (1546) by Alonso Mudarra has a series of pieces for voice with vihuela accompaniment. In most other books, the vocal part is written in the same tabulature as the instrumental part with either a different colour or other marking to separate the parts (in fact, two of the pieces are written this way). Mudarra presents this differently with separate systems for each part. The vihuela lines use standard Italian tabulature (i.e. the highest sounding string is on the lowest line of music) using vihuela tuning. The voice is presented using Mensural notation (which I am learning how to read; good explanation in Wikipedia) but with a twist – there are bar lines in the music and it is aligned with the vihuela bar lines. The illustration attached of a Motet shows this as well as my arrangement for ukulele and voice/instrument (i.e. the voice line need not be sung, it can be played using any instrument such as a flute or oboe). I am looking up the words, in Latin in this case, and translations to ensure that I get them right as the original folio does not show the words, only the syllables – in my arrangement, the syllables are joined with dashes to form words. It’s a bit of a mind bender but it’s actually satisfying to hear the software play the music with ukulele and recorder.



Clamabat autem mulier channanea ad Dominum Jesum, dicens: Domine Jesu Christe, fili David, adiuva me; filia mea male a demonio vexatur.
Respondens ei Dominus dixit: Non sum missus nisi ad oves quae perierunt domus Israel.
At illa venit et adoravit eum dicens: Domine, adiuva me.
Respondens Jesus ait illi: Mulier, magna est fides tua, fiat tibi sicut vis.


A woman of Canaan cried to the Lord Jesus, saying: Lord Jesus Christ, son of David,
help me; my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil.
And he answering, said: I was not sent but to the sheep, that are lost of the house of Israel.
But she came and adored him, saying: Lord, help me.
Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt.

Subsequently, in April 2022, several versos and psalmos were made available for free and, in May 2022, two books of vocal/instrumental music by Mudarra were published.