Voices & Instruments

| July 15-20, 2019

De instrumentis medii aevi
Performing with Strings, Winds, and Percussion

Dr. Mauricio Molina, Cristina Alís Raurich, Claire Piganiol, Raúl Lacilla, Alejandro Hernández, Martí Beltrán, Octavio Beltrán

medieval musicians

Musical instruments played a major role in the performance of medieval music. They were used to accompany songs, and to play purely instrumental compositions. And although there is little information in the music itself about how this was all done, information about this practice can be still extrapolated from literary works, art, and musical treatises.

To the problem of reconstructing instrumenatal practice we have to add the fact that very little instrumental music has survived. Nonetheless, when comparing extant instrumental pieces to the vocal repertoire we discover that some vocal music showcases features that we can in fact call instrumental.  This suggests that there could be in fact a “hidden” instrumental repertoire that can be discovered from the study of vocal sources.

In 2019 the Voices & Instruments course will focus on:

  • The study of musical instruments (playing techniques) such as the vielle, the harp, the citole, the psaltery, the portative organ, the bagpipe, the lute, the pipe and tabor, and different types of percussion instruments.
  • The performance of extant instrumental music 
  • The instrumental accompaniment of vocal music (monophonic songs)
  • The expansion of instrumental repertoire following vocal models
  • The tuning of instruments and voices within the Pythagorean tuning system
  • Development of ensemble playing techniques



If you are a singer:

The course is also open to singers interested in submerging themselves more fully into the idea of becoming well-rounded performers of medieval music. In this instrumental course singers will:

  • Learn to play a medieval instrument to accompany themselves and others (this is a skill highly sought by directors of medieval music ensembles).
  • Learn to sing to the accompaniment of different musical instruments. This will allow singers to understand how to deal with issues of tuning, text and melodic articulation, rhythm, projection, and sound color when singing supported by an instrument.
  • Learn how to adjust their vocal production when dealing with medieval instruments. 


Dates: July 15-20, 2019

Duration: 30 hours divided in 6 days


  • Group classes: English and Spanish
  • Individual classes: language agreed with the teacher

Price: 435€

Deposit (Required to save the place – non-refundable): 250€

Open to: Instrumentalists and Singers (with or without experience playing medieval musical instruments).

View schedule »    Register »


The course is composed of the following classes:


Optional class:

Class Descriptions

Theory Class: Reconstruction of Instrumental Repertoires from Vocal Pieces

Dr. Mauricio Molina
Group class in English
1 1/2 hours per day (Monday-Thursday)

The instrumental repertoire composed before the 14th century that has survived to our days consists only of some 16 pieces. Nonetheless, the study of specific features of the extant instrumental pieces and their comparison with those of vocal compositions suggests that there could be in fact a “hidden” instrumental repertoire that can be recovered from the analysis of vocal sources. We just need to be able to recognize it and arrange it in order to expand the instrumental music that has survived to our days.

In this class students will:

  • Analyze the particular features of extant instrumental music (13th century)
  • Identify similar features in vocal compositions
  • Understand how instrumental features such as tuning of strings in the vielle can guide us to recognize instrumental elements in vocal music
  • Learn to transform appropriate vocal repertoire into instrumental compositions (ex: a troubadour piece can be re-constructed as an instrumental ductia; a secular sequence into an estampie, a group of rondeaus or virelais into a suite of dances)

Reconstructing the Medieval Ear: Pythagorean Tuning Class for All Students

Cristina Alís Raurich
Group class
2 hours – Monday, 15 July

Throughout the Middle Ages music theoreticians taught and recommended a system known as Pythagorean Tuning. This form of tuning has been proven to be the most adequate for the monophonic and polyphonic music composed at least before the fifteenth century. In this class all students will be introduced to Pythagorean tuning and will have the chance to practice it through musical exercises and the performance of some of the music that will be used during the course.

Medieval Ensemble

Dr. Mauricio Molina/ Cristina Alís Raurich (Group Vocal Technique: Jasmina Črnčič)
Group class

2 hours per day (Tuesday-Saturday)

Performance of selected repertoire by all students and work on vocal technique for instrumentalists. One hour performance at the end of the course.

Repertoire for 2019: Extant and reconstructed instrumental pieces. 

Chamber Music Sessions - Performance of Selected Repertoire in Small Ensembles

Mauricio Molina / Medieval Besalu Faculty
to 7 people per group
5 hours per ensemble (Tuesday-Saturday)

Work in detail with small groups of students (mixed voice and instruments) organized by level. The focus will be on phrasing, ornamentation, tuning, style, and ensemble communication. The chamber music session has an additional cost of 65€ over the cost of the Voices & Instruments Program.


Instrument Lessons

One-on-one or in small groups
5 sessions of 50 minutes per class (Monday-Friday)


Alejandro Tonatiuth Hernández

  • Study of the first two tunings of the vielle given by Jerome of Moravia (13th century)
  • Development of appropriate playing techniques and their application to different repertoires.
  • Development of ornamentation, melodic and rhythmic accompaniment, and the elaboration of different types of drones, preludes, and postludes.
  • Reconstruction and study of “solo” pieces based on vocal repertoire.
  • Introduction to the practice of self-accompaniment for singers who want to accompany themselves with the vielle while singing.

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)

Citole / Guittern / Lutes

Martí Beltrán

  • Study of different plectrum techniques.
  • Creation of an accompaniment combining melodic, “intervallic,” and rhythmic elements.
  • Study of solo pieces with the application of ornaments developed from medieval data, and the use of improvisation for the creation of preludes and postludes.
  • Study of the difference between the tuning, ornamentation, and playing techniques of the Oriental and Western Medieval lutes.

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)


Martí Beltrán

  • Study of tuning and plectrum techniques.
  • Creation of an accompaniment combining melodic, “intervallic,” and rhythmic elements.
  • Study of solo pieces.

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)


Raúl Lacilla

  • Technical matters such as air-pressure control, fingering, reed setting and tuning by ear according to Pythagorean system either by manipulating the reeds or using wax.
  • Articulation and ornamentation according to the treatises; study of the notation, repercussive ornaments, fifthting, substitution, etc.
  • Preluding and postluding in the most common modes.
  • Use of the drones, key principles of organum.
  • Singing while playing; key pronunciation of medieval languages.

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)

Pipe and Tabor

Raúl Lacilla

  • Blowing technique and air support
  • Fingering and overblowing
  • Pythagorean tuning
  • Basic drum accompaniment
  • Modal-rhythm drum ornamentation
  • Fifthing over a given melody
  • Stylistic articulation and ornamentation according to the treatises

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)


Claire Piganiol

  • Work based on the study of extant sources about medieval harps (iconography, repertoire, treatises, literary sources).
  • Instrumental repertoire, improvisation and ornamentation techniques.
  • Study of fingerings in melodic and polyphonic playing.
  • Development of several tuning systems and possibilities for producing ficta.
  • Techniques for the accompaniment of monophonic music.

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)

Portative Organ

Cristina Alís Raurich

  • Finger technique, bellow control and tuning.
  • Tuning with other instruments.
  • Instrumental repertoire, improvisation and ornamentation techniques.
  • Techniques for the accompaniment of monophonic music.

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)

Medieval Frame Drums and Percussion

Mauricio Molina / Octavio Beltrán

  • Tambourine, square frame drum, tariya.
  • Reconstruction of performance techniques based on both the study of medieval sources.
  • Development of a rhythmic accompaniment following rhythmic theories of the period (Christian and Arabic treatises).
  • Reconstruction of the sound aesthetic based on the physical and functional context of medieval percussion.

Instruments available for loan 

Frestel (Medieval Panpipe) / Albogue (hornpipe)

Raúl Lacilla

  • Proper way of holding the instrument and blowing technique: how to angle the instrument and introduce the right amount of air to achieve the appropriate tuning.
  • Circular breathing for hornpipes
  • Reconstruction of performance techniques based on both the study of medieval musical sources and treatises.

Instruments available for rent (consult availability and pricing)



All instruments offered in the course are available for rental (based on availability)