Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dowland: Mr Dowland's midnight (P 99) [low 3rd]

(thanks to an unknown source for this image)

I have already posted a version of this piece here, but transposed to a higher key to fit more of the music in. It is one of Dowland's easiest pieces, but the transposition made it a little more difficult in execution. I have therefore produced the present version using as far as possible the native lute fingering.

One minor annoyance in making uke versions of lute music is that the note A3 (alias a) on the lute becomes B3 (= b) on the uke, which means that it has to be played on the 4th string, which is then not be available for a lower voice. In this arrangement, I have assumed that the 3rd string is tuned to B3, so you will have to lower it by a semitone to play the piece.

In previous posts I have refrained from asking you to retune your instrument, in case it puts you off playing the pieces; but then I noticed that guitar adaptations of lute music often specify "3rd to F#", so I thought "if guitarists can do it, so can we".

You can find the transcriptions here:
You will probably want to add your own graces or other ornaments on the repeats to add a little variety – there is plenty of space to spare.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Dowland: Mrs Vauxes Gigge, preceded by A Coy Joy (P 57, P 80)

Will Kemp dancing a jig (gigge) from Norwich to London, 1600
(From Wikipedia)

Well, my last four postings were pretty hard to play, so I thought I'd go for a few Dowland pieces that were more accessible. When I played through the lute tabs of the first, Mrs Vauxes Gigge (on an old uke with the 3rd string lowered a semitone to match the intervals on a lute) it all seemed rather familiar. Looking back through my transcripts, I found that it was an elaboration of A Coy Joy, aka A Coy Toy, which I had posted here earlier.

So, what I have done is to combine the two pieces to make it clear how Mr D developed a simple piece by adding new divisions (runs of short notes) and by varying the harmonies. I have made a stab at indicating the main chord names above the tabs, which may be anachronistic but does help analysis of the harmonic structure.

There are two main themes:
a, a 4-bar theme, set in Dm,
b, a 4-bar theme, set mainly in the relative major (F), and
c, a 6-bar theme mostly in F but ending in D.
In A Coy Joy we have sections a1, b1 and c1
In Mrs Vauxes Gigge we have sections a2, a2', b2, b2', c2, c2'.
(The primes indicate variations.)
In the score I have indicated section names above the notation.

Please don't let this analysis put you off. The Joy is pretty easy, and the Gigge not too bad as one knows where it comes from. As usual, one has to work finding the most efficient fingerings, which are not always obvious. I haven't indicated them here as we all have different preferences, and I must admit that I find it hard enough to take in the notes without looking at all those extra little numbers in the score.

You can find the transcriptions here:

I hope you have fun playing them.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Dowland: Fantasie (P 6)

Facsimile of the first four lines of P 6 in the Matthew Holmes Lute Book in Cambridge University Library.
Not an easy read: all respect to the transcribers own whose work I have drawn.

Well, there seems to be quite a theme developing in recent posts: transcribing fantasies by Dowland that are not amongst the easiest to play. This is the last fantasie that I'll do for a while: in future I'll search Mr D's oeuvre for pieces that are less challenging and more fun (?).

If you are at all familiar with Dowland's work, you will notice a motif that he used in many pieces transcribed here in bars 5/6, 7/8, 14 and 40.

The first 22 bars fitted well onto the ukulele, but in later sections I had to do some jiggery pokery. So, in bar 23 I had to end with a rising scale so that I could then start the 2-octave descending scale in bars 24 and 25 an octave higher than the lute version and fit the full run on the uke. Then, in arranging bars 30 – 35 I had to mess around with the octaves and swap the voices, and I must admit that I'm not too enamoured of the result.

As in the previous fantasie we have a section (pp 37 – 39) of arpeggios (or partial ones), although they do not always lend themselves to being played by just holding down a chord. In bar 44 I am very tempted to leave out the second voice, as the piece concludes with a sort of cadenza all on the top string, before ending on an A-major chord.

Available free in the following formats:
  • pdf (quick preview.)
  • pdf (instant download)
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI (very unsubtle, but don't let this spoil your appreciation of Dowland's composing.)
Good luck!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Dowland: Fantasie (P 5)

The last 4 lines of the beautifully clear calligraphy in the Cosens Lute Book in Cambridge University Library.

Having essayed JD's challenging chromatic fantasies in the previous two posts, with mixed success, I thought I'd have a go at transcribing this diatonic fantasy, which has less surprising harmonies. It is quite short, just 35 bars. The original was set in Dm/D, but as I have maintained the original fingerings as much as possible it is in Em/E in this transcription.

The first theme consists of 2 bars of descending scale, 2 bars ascending and then 2 bars descending again. The rest of the piece includes, according to Poulton, of "fragments of the scale in decorative patterns". In some places (bars 18 – 20) the notes are doubled, which does help us in the execution. In bars 21 – 23 we have arpeggios which can be played (almost) by holding chord shapes. In bars 26 – 28 the rhythm changes to 12/8 time - this is not very obvious in the tabs. Bars 33 & 34 are good fun to play.

Transcribing the piece was not excessively challenging as much of the upper two voices fitted on to the top four strings, although I did have to do some octave jumping to fit in the lower notes when the arrangement seemed thin.

I had made a resolution to make simpler versions of the arrangements, but found that with the fantasies in particular there is not the familiar pattern of:
   (a) a plain statement of each theme and accompaniment, followed by
   (b) a more elaborate development on the theme, often with rapidly-played divisions;
   (c) and sometimes further themes following the same pattern.
In pieces in other formats (dances, songs, etc.) this allows me to transcribe the main statements, sometimes in simplified form and omit all the twiddly bits. The looser structure of the fantasies (or fancies) does not really lend itself to such treatment.

In trying to simplify this piece, I found myself merely deleting the second voice, and then it occurred to me that (with few exceptions) for a simple version one merely has to play only those notes with stems pointing up. Indeed, this is what I do to familiarise myself with a piece, and sometimes as far as I can get with difficult pieces. However, I think that if not played too fast this fantasy should be possible with enough practice and patience.

Available free in the following formats:
  • pdf (quick preview.)
  • pdf (instant download)
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI (very unsubtle, but don't let this spoil your appreciation of Dowland's writing.)

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Dowland: Forlorn hope (P 2)

John Dowland wrote two extraordinary pieces that are unusual in being based on fragments of the chromatic scale. My previous post included a transcription of Farwell (fantasie), in which the notes ascended. The present transcription is of Forlorn hope (fancye), in which the movement of the chromatic scale is downwards.

The first few bars are not too difficult. But, bars 28 – 35 are very challenging (in the lute transcription each bar takes up a whole line), so I have done some simplification by eliminating what appeared to be the least significant notes,  although all the notes shown are Dowland's own and in the right order. I have appended a fuller version after bar 36.

Played on the lute, this piece really lives up to its name. It starts with a wistful melancholy, which progresses to a frantic despair, the bass notes and discordant harmonies going straight to ones guts.

The arrangement for ukulele, try as I may, fails: I publish it here as a curiosity.

I think that the problem is that Forlorn hope depends much more on the resonance of the bass strings than does Farwell, and the harmonies really need the full voicings of the lute version to be appreciated. Also, the discordant wide intervals, so moving on the lute, sound awful when compressed to make them fit on the ukulele.

Well, you can't win them all!

Matchlock Musketeer: Elizabethan infantry, 1588-1603, Stephen Walsh

By the way, in Dowland's period (according to http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/forlorn-hope.html) the phrase "forlorn hope" meant
"... a robust and gung-ho band of soldiers. 
Each troop in the British Army had a hand-picked group of men, chosen for their ferocity and indifference to risk (and occasionally by using that tried and tested military method of "I want three volunteers. You, you and you."). They were the army's 'attack dogs' who risked all in reckless death or glory raids on the enemy."
(Come to think of it, perhaps I was reckless in trying to transcribe this piece.)

So, which interpretation do we go with: the literal or the military?

If you're still curious you can find the piece in the following formats:

  • pdf (quick preview.)
  • pdf (instant download)
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI (the intentional discords sound very harsh, but don't let this spoil your appreciation of Dowland's writing.)

As time goes by, and I get more familiar with the piece, I may well tweak the tabs further.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Dowland: Farwell (fantasie) (P 3)

Image of Matthew Holmes' MS of the lute original of Dowland's Farwell
The last two lines of Matthew Holmes' neatly written manuscript of John Dowland's piece for lute Farwell.
At the bottom is a rare example of Dowland's signature, presumably indicating his approval.
They must have been wonderful players to give a performance from such a compressed and enigmatic tablature.
John Dowland wrote two extraordinary pieces that are unusual in being based on fragments of the chromatic scale. In Farwell (his spelling), set for the lute in G, he chose the 6 notes ascending from A to D. In this ukulele version I have maintained his fingering on the top 4 strings as closely as possible, so the scale goes from B to E on the 1st string. This fragment is used throughout the piece: Diana Poulton (in John Dowland, 1982, Faber & Faber, p 115) counted 14 instances.

Transcription for the ukulele presented more than the usual problems in reducing from 8 courses on the lute (unusually, JD specified fingerings on the 7th and 8th courses) to 4 strings. Fortunately, Sarge Gerbode has published a fair copy online, but there were so many unexpected notes and harmonies that I also referred to facsimilies of the the MS in the Matthew Holmes Lute Book in Cambridge, and there the notes really were. (The oddest note is the D at the end of bar 30, but the task of harmonizing the chromatic figures leads to interesting voicings throughout.)

I transferred all the notes I could into TablEdit, moving the lower notes an octave higher where I could fit them in. Once they were in the right position on the "timeline", I then had to decide on lengths. (I have mentioned elsewhere that lute tabs at this time showed where to put your fingers, and when to pluck, but not when to take your fingers off.) The next decision was to sort out the 4 voices and reduce them in number to something fingerable on the ukulele. Fortunately, I then found a transcription made by the English composer Peter Warlock in the last century, and this helped a lot.

Finally, I listened to Nigel North's performance repeatedly, and then removed as many less important notes as I could, to help distinguish the voices with the most melodic lines that carry the piece. Thus, what we now have is basically a two-voice arrangement, with bass notes added to emphasise the rhythm and enrich the harmonies. It just needed minor adjustments to make the score reasonably playable, but I still find it very challenging.  Poulton does say that the lutenist requires "superb technique" to play this piece, so I wonder if I will ever be able to do it justice.

I have also suggested fingerings where they're not immediately obvious, but it's all a matter of personal preference.

By the way, you may think that a tempo of 36 bpm is very slow at the beginning of the piece, but just wait until you get to the meaty bits!

You can find the piece in the following formats:
pdf (quick preview.)
pdf (instant download, tabs only, 4 pp.)
pdf (tabs and notation; this file is longer, but having the notation makes it easier to get a feel for what the music is doing, 9 pp.)
MIDI (the intentional discords sound very harsh, but don't let this spoil your appreciation of the writing.)

As time goes by, and I get more familiar with the piece, I may well tweak the tabs further.

Have fun!

Friday, 28 July 2017

Ammerbach: Passamezzo Antico

A woodcut illustration from the book in which this organ piece was published.
The organist looks very laid back with his stockinged leg and uncomfortably long sword.

I transcribed this piece for low-G ukulele from an arrangement by Paul-Gustav Feller for organ, from the original in Orgel oder Instrumant Tablatur, Pub. Leipzig 1571. I believe that the original was written in a kind of tablature.

Elias Nikolaus Ammerbach (c 1530–1597), according to the brief article in Wikepedia, was a German organist and arranger who worked in Leipzig.

This arrangement contains:
(a) two simple versions of the passamezzo (4/4 time);
(b) a rather more difficult but fuller passamezzo;
(c) a reprisa, which is mostly simple block chords;
(d) a saltarella (3/4 time)

According to my musical dictionary, a passamezzo ('half-step') was a fairly lively dance in duple time, popular in the late 16th century. The bass line (in Gm) of passamezzo antiqua was: G | F | G | D | G | F | G:D | G , and passamezzo moderna was similar but with F replaced by C. So, the first section in this piece looks more moderna than antiqua – or am I showing my ignorance here?

The saltarello or saltarella was a kind of after dance played following a passamezzo, in triple time, with a jerky, syncopated feel, so perhaps the dancers had to do a bit of jumping (saltere = to jump). Some regard it as a kind of galliard.

The arrangement is available in various formats here:
pdf (quick preview)
pdf (download)
MIDI (rather slow and expressionless)

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dowland: Suzannah galliard (P 91)

Albrecht Durer (1555): Susanna surprised by the elders.
I doubt that she is the subject of the galliard but I can't resist the incongruity and humour of Durer's engraving.
This must be a companion to his picture of men at the bath house of about the same period.

This is a lovely little galliard, and not too difficult to play. I particularly enjoy the sweet harmonies.

I have inserted the chord names on the tabs, although I realise that such an approach is as anachronistic as the illustration above. Nevertheless, I reckon that there are 13 chords in this short piece.

I have made the arrangement so that it can be played as much as possible by holding the chord shapes, and moving the appropriate finger. If you are a used to strumming this should be a help. In bar 13, the last (split) beat can be played by forming a 1-3-4-3 chord (a sort of unrooted C7, though that's not how John Dowland would have seen it).

Anyway, I hope you like it as much as I do.

Available for download in these formats:

Friday, 21 July 2017

Posts listed by hardness – a new page

 Image from John Davis: The seaman's secrets, 1607
(complete with misprint)

  As this blog has grown, it has become more and more difficult to navigate, to see what is on offer.

  Now, you can access the tab files, in various formats and in alphabetical order, using the "Quick links" box towards the bottom of the right-hand column.

  However, a number of correspondents have asked me to give some idea of difficulty of the pieces, so I have classified each post, from easy to hard, on a scale of 1 – 10. Just click on the "Posts listed by hardness" tab in the navigation bar above

I wonder if you will agree with my evaluations.

Trad (Anon & Cutting): Greensleeves in Dm

Well, it had to happen: I thought that it was about time that I had a go making a simple and accessible arrangement of Greensleeves, although there are already plenty available.
  The main theme (bars 1 – 16) of this one is really easy, taken from The Lute Society's Fifty very easy pieces for lute, which is a transcription of an MS at Trinity College Dublin.

Anon: Green Sleues for lute. MS, Trinity College Dublin

  The rest of the piece is an adaptation of a version by Francis Cutting (1550 – 96) in the British Library, transcribed by Sarge Gerbode. After a couple of tries, it's quite easy, too. Such a relief after Loth to depart.
Greensleeves by Maister Cutting. British Library, London

  I am currently making a fuller arrangement in Gm, which has more of interest (and so is a bit more difficult), and I will post it soon.
  You can hear the same pieces played together on the lute by the indefatigable Luthval – well worth a listen.

History of Greensleeves
Loads of myths have accumulated around this tune, and I can do no better than to direct you to an impressive history and analysis published by Early Music Muse here.

Available to download here:
pdf (preview)
pdf (download)
TablEdit (download)
MIDI (download)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Purcell: Festival Rondeau from 'Abdelazer'

Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695)

One of my occasional excursions into the Baroque. After all the 16th century pieces, it's fascinating to see how music had evolved into a more familiar style.

I heard this piece on a BBC TV programme about British Composers of the Baroque Period, and couldn't resist having a go at transcribing it for the uke. It's such a stirring tune and has a clear chordal structure.

The first 8 bars are a simple version of the main theme, and the following bars are a fuller version of the theme and variations. The whole piece is not too difficult, and in some places you just have to hold the chords and play. The Gm in bar 11 and elsewhere is a bit of a stretch, but works well once you get used to it. I like to play it on my 8-string tenor, as the double strings make it sound a bit more orchestral.

It's available in the following formats for you to download:


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Dowland: Loth to depart (P 69)

Edward Matthew Ward: Sir Thomas Moore says goodbye to his daughter
(I admit that this image is anachronistic – the event took place about 75 yrs before Loth to Depart was written.)

A bit sooner than I promised in my previous post, here is a ukulele version of Dowland’s lute composition Loth to Depart, P 69 (in Gm). It is possibly the most difficult that I have arranged –Diana Poulton refers to it as a graduation piece for lutenists. I have maintained the native fingering as much as possible, so this ukulele version is set in Am.

Structure: the piece consists of a 16-bar theme followed by 6 variations, each deviating further from the original.

Harmony: the piece makes much use of the Emajor chord (in this version) but, as we don’t have a low E available, the voicings I have used are necessarily unrooted, using either G# or B in the bass. You may find a few discords elsewhere, but I have checked back and they seem to have been intended by Mr D.

I have mostly omitted LH fingerings (information overload!), but there are a few indicated where it is more efficient to deviate from the ‘defaults’.

Where there are overlapping runs of notes (divisions) I have tried to distinguish them in the notation, but this is not always feasible in the tabs; nevertheless, I have tried to make the tabs as full as possible, so that they can be used independently.

Some notes may be shown longer than it is possible to play (especially where an open string on the lute is represented by a fingered note on the uke), so just regard them as something to aspire to.

Bars 65 and 67: the divisions were distressingly fast, so I have used simplified versions in the main score, and added more complete versions at the end. Good luck!

Available to download in the following formats:
pdf (notation + tabs), 8pp
pdf (tabs only), 5pp
MIDI (60 bpm - sounds slow at first, but just wait...)

I wish you joy.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Dowland: Lothe to departe (P 31)

Facsimile of Lothe to departe in the Matthew Holmes Lute Book
Can be seen on the Cambridge University Library Website here.
Well, at last a reasonably accessible piece from John Dowland. As usual, Sarge Gerbode has made a fair copy, which I used for this arrangement. It is set in G minor (kind of).

Dowland made at least two arrangements of the air: this is the easy one, with 5 variations of the 8-bar main theme. There is another version (P69) of 112 bars, in which successive variations diverge further and further from the main melody. Transcribing it for uke will be a job for the long winter nights.

I have attached the original air to the end of the score. (The words are, sadly, lost.) It consists of 16 bars in A A' structure. A' varies from A only in the last 2 bars, and this is where I came across the term Picardy Third: the practice of ending a minor or modal piece in the major mode (i.e. with a major third in the final chord). Practically all the Renaissance pieces in a minor key that I have transcribed do this in the final bar, and usually at the end of each section as well. Either that or they omit the third of the chord altogether (as in the 'power chord' of rock musicians).

Dowland's version of Lothe does this, of course, but the original air (also shown) emphasises the change of mode by sharpening the B-flats to B-natural in the final 2 bars of the melody line – which sounds to my ears rather desolate. (It's very reminiscent of the Coventry Carol.) You can replicate this effect in the uke arrangement by changing the mode in the last 2 bars, and ending on a G-major chord voiced with B-natural on the first string.

Available in the following formats:
pdf (preview)
pdf (automatic download)

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Anon: The Duke of Milan's Dump

Philip II of Spain, Duke of Milan when Holmes' Lute Book was written
Painting by Titian

I was browsing the facsimile of Matthew Holmes' Lute Book in Cambridge (you can see it here) when I noticed this intriguingly titled piece. Fortunately, the ever industrious Sarge Gerbode had made a transcript of it, which I used to make the arrangement for low-G ukulele.

The normally rather dry and dusty Oxford Companion to Music (10th edition) has this charming definition:

DUMP, DUMPE. An old dance of which nobody now knows anything, except that the word is generally used in a way that suggests a melancholy cast of expression ... There is a Triste Dumpe in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, and it is not particularly doleful – but then it is Irish.
Meanwhile Collins' Dictionary of Music says:
dump, 16th and 17th century musical term, probably indicating an elegy or lament. The original meaning of 'dump' is a fit of melancholy or depression, [hence] 'to be down in the dumps'... All [dumps] are instrumental and most are constructed on a simple ground bass.
Well, hard as I try I cannot think that this piece is particularly melancholy. Dumps were often written in remembrance of a deceased personage, so perhaps whoever wrote this piece wasn't particularly sad about the demise of the duke. The Lute Book was written in England c. 1588–95, and the incumbent Duke of Milan was the Hapsburg Philip II of Spain who reigned 1540 to 1598 and married Mary I of England. Spain was not that popular at the time, and one wonders if there was a message here in the cheeriness of the lament. Or, have I read too much Hilary Mantel and CJ Sansom? (I am always open to correction from the cognoscenti.)

Anyway, it's a simple jaunty little tune, with a lot of ground bass on the open 4th string. On the lute, this is played on the 7th (F diapason) course, so we uke players have to do our best. My main liberties with the original have been:

  • Moving the ground bass to the 3rd string in § D, so it's not a bass any more.
  • Moving the melody up an octave in § D' (which is not in the original) to leave room for the bass. This means that bars 21–25 have to be played with a 2 barré on the top 2 strings.

You can download this piece in the following formats:
pdf (preview)
pdf (automatic download)

Monday, 5 June 2017

Dowland's first galliard (p 22)

Final bars of Dowland's first galliard from the Matthew Holmes Lute Books
Final bars of Dowland's First Galliard from the Matthew Holmes Lute Books
Facsimile published online here by Cambridge University Library
Well, if this really was Dowland's first galliard, he really hit the ground running. It's full of memorable passages.

The image above shows the end of the piece in Holmes' MS (in this period they seem to have put the title at the end, so we have the six first bars of the next piece too.) The top of the page is really worn, and I take my hat off to Sarge Gerbode for transcribing it. You can read more about the MS by clicking on the link in the caption above.

The 'catch' in §A is the melody line in bar 6 echoed by the bass line in bar 7 (and centuries later echoed in turn by the theme tune to the film Deliverance).  Similarly, in §B there are repeated catchy motifs in bars 23 and 24.

§§C and C' are the easiest bits, especially as I have necessarily simplified the tabs. It consists of repeated motifs in the following basic harmonic sequence (on the uke):

A  | A  | C  | C  | D  | D  | E  | E  | A  | A  |

with a passing 4th note in each chord.

The pattern in §C' reminds me of the folk banjo picking style known as double thumbing – there's nothing new under the sun.

In these final sections I have taken the liberty of shortening the final chord in most of the bars, following Nigel North's performance on the lute. You may prefer to allow these notes to ring out to the end of the bar, or use both versions if you repeat the piece. It's all to play for.

Available to download in the following formats:
pdf (preview)
pdf automatic download

Dowland: Lacrime (from Barley's lute tutor)

William Barley Lute Tutor

I was browsing this old lute tutor by William Barley (published by Early Music Online) when I noticed a version of John Dowland's Lachrimae. Out of curiosity I decided to transcribe it for the ukulele, correcting a few instances of what appeared to my inexpert eye to be typographical errors – in particular a strange harmony in bar 23 (I have appended a literal transcription of the bar at the end of the piece).

The three undecorated sections (A, B, C) are quite spare, whilst sections A', B' and C' consist of similarly spare bars interspersed with 1 or 2 bars of divisions. To be honest, I prefer the transcription I uploaded a few posts back, so I'm including this version for the sake of completeness.

Versions available to download:
pdf (preview)
pdf automatic download

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Dowland: Queen Elizabeth's Galliard (P 41)

Miniature of Queen Elizabeth playing the lute
Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I playing the lute.
(Thumb under or thumb over?)

This is a rather more challenging piece than The Queen's Galliard, which I posted a few days ago.

Not only was Queen Elizabeth I a player of the lute, but she was also an enthusiastic dancer - one way for her to exercise. I like to think of her dancing vigorously to this galliard, and the other dancers being very careful.

Knowing little of Renaissance dancing (except from watching Wolf Hall) I have done a little background reading. The galliard was a frisky dance in triple time, with 5 steps to 6 beats (or 2 bars); the missing step is a jump on beat 5, in the middle of bar 2. The most familiar tune in galliard form is, at least to the British, God save the Queen, presumably with the jump on the second syllable of 'gracious'.

The first 16 bars of Queen Elizabeth's Galliard are in 3/4 time. It took me a little while to divine that the rest of the piece is in 9/8 time (I hope), which must have made the dancing interesting. As it's quite quick (I have heard performances of 80 – 100 bpm – how on earth do they do that?), it involves a lot of fast chord changes at the beginning, and the divisions in bars 9–16 are, to be honest, terrifying. Perhaps one day ...

Anyway, do have a look:
pdf preview
pdf automatic download
 Good luck!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Dowland: The Queen's Galliard (P 97)

Dancing a galliard

This is a simpler piece (Poulton 97) than the more famous (and more difficult) Queen Elizabeth's Galliard, an arrangement of which I will publish soon. I must admit that I was first attracted to it because in the original for lute most of the activity was on the top 4 strings, and there were no notes on the open 3rd string (which on the uke you have to play on the 4th string, which I would rather use for bass notes).

It's a lively little tune, and a good exercise in quick chord changes and in syncopation in 3/4 time.

I hope you enjoy playing it. Here are the files for download:

pdf (preview), pdf (auto download),  TablEdit, MIDI.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Dowland: Lachrimae Pavane (P 15 & 15a)

This haunting and melancholy piece is perhaps Dowland's most famous, and was performed in Europe as well as in England. You can read an article about its influence here (which is also where I pinched the images from).

Facsimile: Contemporary printed version of lute tablature for Lachrimae
Contemporary printed version of lute tablature for Lachrimae
(The inclined # symbols indicate graces, but ... what graces?)

In the past I have avoided transcribing it because the variations are not the easiest, but after my previous post it was suggested by Gilles T that I have a go. So, here it is.

Fortunately Sarge Gerbode has published transcriptions of two MSS of this piece for lute, and I have taken the easiest versions of the 3 sections and interleaved them. The arrangement is not all that difficult to play, but it did take me a while to get to grips with the syncopated parts in §B. I leave the difficult variations to more cunning hands then mine. It fills one with admiration for lutenists who can actually play the whole thing off lute tabs.

I have fiddled with my transcription for several weeks, off and on, because it is impossible to perform the various lines on the 4 strings of the ukulele. I have made the fullest version feasible, but there are many simplifications. Where relevant I have modified the fingerings so that notes can be played in position (here, 2B and 4B) rather than using open strings; but if you prefer the other way, it's easy enough to change.

As always, I have used the directions of the note stems to indicate melody (up), bass (down) and harmony (mostly down, except where obviously running in parallel with the melody).

Dowland's signature
Anyway, why not have a look and see what you think. Available to download in these formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadTablEdit (tef) and MIDI.

PS: Gilles T has directed me to this page: http://www.verseandsong.com/song/renaissance-guitar/, which includes an arrangement for Renaissance guitar of Lachrymae, amongst many other pieces. These have been made by Stephen Wentworth Arndt from Jacob van Eyck, Der Fluyten Lust-Hof , so I imagine that they are original arrangements made from versions written for flute. Very impressive! They can be played directly on the ukulele if you are comfortable with the French-format tablature for guitar and lute used in the Renaissance.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dowland: Melancholy Galliard (P 25)

This is perhaps my favourite Dowland lute piece to play on the ukulele – possibly because one can take ones time over it. It's not half so difficult as the lute version which has some chords that seem to me to be physically impossible, as well as having all those extra strings to play.

The first few bars of a contemporary copy by Matthew Holmes, to give you an impression of the original lute MS. (The label covers the end of a previous piece, as the pieces are contiguous, presumably to save paper.)
The first two strings of the lute translate directly to the uke, so you can compare it with my translation below. The lute symbols are: a = open string, b = 1st fret, c (looks like r) = 2nd fret, d (looks like j without a dot) = 3rd fret, and so on. In the indication of note length, they used one more tail or beam than we do.
You can see a full facsimile of the original here.

Dowland Melancholy Galliard Tabs for ukulele
An image of the tabs for the first section of the piece. The full version can be downloaded by clicking on the links below.

As usual, reducing the lute version has entailed great simplification, but I have tried to retain the several voices, and the sweet transient dissonances, where I can. I find it is not always possible to hold the bass notes for as long as I might want. The tabs give a reasonable impression of the music, but the notation shows the note lengths and voices more clearly.

The structure is a simple one: a, a', b, b', c, c', with the primes indicating a slightly more decorated variation.

It's available in pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadMIDI and TablEdit formats. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I do.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Dowland: Extract from 'A Fancy' (P 73)

When I am looking for lute pieces to transcribe I do a sort of mental triage on them:

1. No too difficult to play, or
2. Playable with a lot of practice (should I survive that long), or
3. Never in a month of Sundays.

Most of this piece falls in the third category. Just look at bar 37 in the image below, or better listen to some of the excellent renditions on YouTube, to see why. But .... I was reading Diana Poulton's biog of John Dowland and she wrote that A Fancy (P73) was based on All in a garden green. It just so happened that I had posted a home-made pseudo-Renaissance version of the song a few days before. So, I was tempted.

One bar of Dowland's Fancy on which this transcription is based
A single bar of Dowland's A Fancy
From a transcription for lute by Sarge Gerbode

Mr D's Fancy seems to be in 3 sections of 19 (sic) bars, and as the first section wasn't impossibly  challenging I have burnt the midnight oil to produce something playable (I hope) on the Ukulele. It wasn't always easy, as my inexperience made it difficult to decide which notes were the lead, which the harmony and which the bass (the 'melody' was sometimes on the lower strings of the lute.) This all meant that fitting 8 courses on the ukulele was more than usually hard. I was helped by a Guitar-pro arrangement for guitar (3rd to F#) here (which is readable with TablEdit) when I encountered problems, particularly in interpretation of note lengths.

I have followed as far as possible the native fingering of the lute in the arrangements, so the uke piece is in A rather than G. (I tried lowering it to G, but it's not so pleasing.) In places I have used the directions of the stems of the notes to discriminate between overlapping runs of notes. This may or may not be conventional, but it helps one to see what is happening. Also, I've added an final bar (chord of A) to round off the previous 19 bars.

There are two versions here. The first (simple) one mainly picks out the 'melody' part, with a few bass notes to fill in echoing gaps. The second is as full a representation of Mr D's original as I can make, and it doesn't sound too bad when played back on MIDI.

You will notice that I am more than usually diffident about this piece, so if you are a specialist in the field do let me know of any errors and misinterpretations, and I will amend and acknowledge appropriately.

Downloadable in these formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download,  TablEdit and MIDI.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Traditional (Playford): All in a garden green

All in a garden green arranged for ukulele low-G

All in a garden green was probably at least a century old when the melody was included in this famous dance manual. It was drawn to my attention by 'Ukatee' on the Ukulele Underground forum, who also sent me this link to a performance on lute by the wonderful Luthval.

I couldn't find a version for lute or guitar online, so I thought I'd have a go at making my own ersatz  Renaissance-style arrangement for low-G ukulele. The first section is simple, and the base line  alternates the root with (where relevant) any convenient 3rd or 5th, so it has a see-saw feel, I think. (Imagine the lovers on a swing.) I especially enjoy the ascending melody motifs (riffs) in bars 13 – 16. You can play much of this section just holding down the chords. I have added the words of the first verse, as it helps me to keep track of the tune. It's much more demure than Watkins Ale, which I uploaded a few weeks ago.

I have not included the chords in the score as it is getting a bit full up. Here are the harmonies I used:

G    |G      |C Am |D    |C    |G    |Am  D  |G    |,
D    |C D G /|G Em |Am C |G    |Am   |Bm  G  |C    |Am D |G   ||

In other words: I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, which I hope are consistent with Renaissance usage.

The second section has more divisions (twiddly bits), but I wrote them with the uke on my lap so the notes mostly fall easily under the fingers (well, when I play them slowly). The third section has the melody almost unaltered in the bass (to be played louder), and ornaments on the top (quieter). John Dowland has kindly provided some turns of phrase, and also the whole of the penultimate bar (a motif that occurs in many of his pieces, such as Solus cum Sola).

If you've got the time and inclination, have a look and see what you think: available to download as pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadTablEdit and MIDI. (The MIDI tempo is a bit on the slow side, but this makes the divisions easier to hear.)

As usual I urge you to feel free to modify the arrangements as you wish and, above all, to have fun.

PS I have just read in Diana Poulton's biog of John Dowland that his piece 73: A Fancy (1600) strongly resembles this tune, so I have downloaded it from Sarge Gerbode's site and will try to transcribe it.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

De Visee: Three pieces, from Suite en La mineur

Image of low-G ukulele tablature of Bourree by De Visee
A tabs-only version of one of the pieces, to give you a feel for the music.
You can download full versions (tabs plus dots) following the links below.

The three guitar pieces transcribed here are two gavottes and a bourée, published in 1682 as part of Suite en La mineur (i.e. Am – although the ukulele tabs are in Dm).

Robert de Visée was, according to Wikipedia:

   a lutenistguitaristtheorbist and viol player at the court of the French kings Louis XIV and Louis XV, as well as a singer and composer for lute, theorbo and guitar.

I admit to a level of deceit as the music is about a century later than the Renaissance (i.e. Baroque), but a correspondent on the previous post suggested I look at his work, so I did. The first transcriptions I lighted on (here) rarely used a string lower than the 4th, so I couldn't resist transcribing three of the easier ones for the low-G ukulele. This was easier than usual as the transcriptions were very clear, and all I had to do was imagine that the uke was a guitar, and enter the fingerings.

These pieces feel to me more chordal (and therefore familiar) than the Renaissance pieces I have earlier transcribed, and I observe that a new chord form, the dominant 7th has crept in (e.g. Gavotte 1, bar 8).

Thanks to Gilles T for suggesting the composer, and to the transcriber of these pieces for doing all the hard work.

Available in the following formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI.

Happy playing!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Luis de Narváez: Diferencias sobre "Guárdame las Vacas"

Woodcut of a vihuela player
Vihuela player

Last week I posted variations by Alonso Mudarra (Romanesca) on the same piece, namely Guardame_las_vacas. The present variations (Diferencias) were written for vihuela* by Narváez in the second quarter of the 16th century. The variations are built on the 8-chord sequence:

| III | VII | i | V | III | VII | i,V | i |,

whilst Romanesca adds an extra 2 bars (| IV | i |) at the end.

This is a popular piece, and there are loads of versions on YouTube. The indefatigable Luthval has loaded a performance on vihuela here.

It looks like being a good exercise for enthusiasts of arpeggios and scales. I transcribed it from a notational transcription of the vihuela original, published by Bernd Goldau here. Where there was an open 6th string (E) in the original, I have substituted low G# in the uke version.

At first sight I thought that this would be a nice easy one, but keeping a smooth line at speed is a  challenge. I have tried to finger the scales so that if there is a change in position there is an open string between positions to give me a chance to jump there. You may well have your own preferred way of moving around the fingerboard.

The piece does involve the full range of the uke (well, up to fret 15 on the 1st string), and can sound a bit plinky on the top notes. One has the option of dropping an octave in some places, but it could then sound disjointed. My main stumbling block is the pair of chords in the second half of bar 35: my best way of dealing with this is: to form a second barré; finger the frets 3-5-4-2; play strings 1, 2, 4; finger off string 1; play strings 1, 2, 3. If you find any difficulties, it's always possible to simplify – I try to make the arrangements as full as possible so that you (or I) can do just that.

Most performances seem to be about 130 – 140 bpm (otherwise the final bars of each section seem too long), but I have set the MIDI version at 120 bpm, which is minimally less scary. Even so, it remains an aspiration.

It's available in these formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download,  TablEdit and MIDI.

* The vihuela was essentially a guitar strung and fretted like a lute – I hope this description doesn't offend any vihuelistas.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Trad: Watkins Ale

Wood cut: couple expecting Watkins Ale
A delivery of Watkins Ale is expected.
And now a song for low-G ukulele with a strong, bouncy melody line. I noticed this piece (taken from the Weld MS, c 1600) in Diana Poulton's Lute Tutor, and thought it should be easily playable on the ukulele, with fewer than the usual number of compromises in transcription. To put the arrangement in context, I have included the bawdy song on which it was based; all the words (taken from here) are at the end of the file. Looking at the image above and reading the first verse will give you the general thrust of the piece, and a good guess at the metaphorical meaning of 'Watkins ale'.

    The structure of the song is a a b b c c, and of the arrangement a a' b b' c c', where the primes indicate more elaborate variations. As a beginner, I found comparing a with a', etc. to be a useful introduction to the construction of divisions (decorative short runs) in the late 16th century.

    The melody of the lute version is not identical to the song (it's rather less interesting), so I've done a bit of tweaking, particularly to the 1st and 3rd bars of sections b and b' of the arrangement. The basic harmonies are quite simple, and there are a few trivial chord substitutions.

   This piece was used by Poulton as an exercise in ornaments (mordents, appogiaturas, shakes, slides, etc), although no-one is certain exactly what the symbols in the original MS meant. Rather than prescribe any kind of treatment I have used the mordent symbol (a short zig-zag) to indicate the position of an ornament (to be applied to the top note), and leave it to your skill, dexterity and judgment to add the twiddly bits as you wish. After all, we're only in this for the fun.

   All in all, this is an easy piece (which I at least find reassuring), but as with everything I post it's just a starting point for your own simplifications or elaborations.

   As usual available to download in these formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI. Before you print the pdf file, you might like to know that on pp 1–2 is the song, pp 3–4 the arrangement, p 5 the words (they just about fit); p 6 is a phantom blank page.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Alonso Mudarra: Fantasia facil

Image of title page of Mudarra in Tres libros de musica en cifras para vihuela, Libro I, Folio VII. Sevilla, 1546
The title page of Mudarra's Tres libros, including a jolly little graffito
From Wikipedia
If you want to know why I chose this particular fantasia, just look at the title. Some of Mudarra's fantasias I've watched on YouTube are really quite challenging. It was published in Tres libros de musica en cifras para vihuela, Libro I, Folio VII. Sevilla, 1546.

I derived this version from a transcription for guitar by Thomas Könings available here. As far as possible I have followed TK's formatting – so much easier than working out note lengths, ligatures and stem directions for oneself. There have been the usual compromises in going from 6 to 4 strings, but it still sounds OK, I think.

This being a fantasia, there is no rigid structure such as in a song or dance, and therefore no repeated chordal pattern. I have therefore abstained from inserting modern chord names into the score, as they don’t really help in understanding how the music works. Also, this being polyphonic music, the chords made by the overlapping lines often merge into eachother. Consider bars 2 and 3: there is a chord change from Dm to A(major), where the note of D carries over from the second half of bar 2 to the first half of bar 3, giving us a chord of 'A add 4' (ugh!), resolving to A in the second half of the bar. Again, there is a lovely dissonance in bars 52 and 53, where an insistent F natural is sounded against a chord of Amajor, which gives us something like A+, but doesn’t sound like it.  I don’t find that knowing the chord names in such a context helps me – they just clutter up the score. Something else I've learned.

Available to download in the following formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Alonso Mudarra: Pavana de Alexandre

Another (shorter) piece from Mudarra, arranged for low-G ukulele, derived from an arrangement for guitar by an anonymous setter here.  About half of the piece can be played in second position with whole or partial barrés. It is just about possible to sustain the longer notes whilst playing the runs, and I have indicated the fingerings that I find most comfortable – you may prefer your own.

image: 2 dancers dancing the pavane

The pavane was a slow, stately, processional dance; this means one can take ones time playing it.

Here are the links to versions in these formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI.

Have fun!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Alonso Mudarra: Romanesca, o guárdarme las vacas

Image of Alonso Mudarra, from http://citharaworld.blogspot.co.uk/2013_02_01_archive.htm

Alonso Mudarra

from http://citharaworld.blogspot.co.uk/2013_02_01_archive.html
Alonso Mudarra (c 1510 – 1580) was apparently the first man to set down guitar music on paper. The Spanish are justifiably proud of him – he has an extensive web presence, should you want to learn more.

This version is made for the low-4th ukulele from a transcription for lute published by Wayne Cripps here.

Available in the following formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI – just click the links.

About the piece

The title translates as Look after the cows for me.

There are 5 variations. Most of the lute work is on the upper 4 strings, which made for easy transcription, but bars 35 to 39 involved runs on strings 4, 5 & 6, so I have had to take greater liberties to maintain the lines. The most efficient fingerings are not always the most obvious, but I found that including them the score made it cluttered and difficult to read, so I leave the choice to the player.

Some years ago, Michael Parmenter made a transcription for low-G uke of Mudarra’s original version for Renaissance guitar, available here. It is in the same key as this one (though in 6/2 time) so one version might well be played after the other.

There is a fine uke version played by the fretted instrument performer Jocko MacNelly here.

The format

Romanesca, also known as "Guárdame las Vacas", is a form of song that was very popular in the Spanish Renaissance on which many composers made different versions and series of "differences" (variations).’ [Quoted from this blog] There is more information and an image of the composer here.

According to Wikipedia: ‘Romanesca was a melodic-harmonic formula popular from the mid 16th to early 17th centuries’, following this 8-bar sequence:  III–VII–i–V–III–VII–i-V–i'. The present version is, however a 10-bar sequence:
III – VII – i – V – V – III – VII – I-V – i – IV – i,
with sometimes ♭VI substituted for i in bar 3, III for V in bar 4, and I for i in the final bar of the piece.

The words

Guárdame las vacas,
carillejo, y besarte he;
si no, bésame tú a mí
que yo te las guardaré.

Keep my cows for me,
darling boy, and I will kiss you:
or else, you may kiss me
and I will keep the cows for you.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Le Roy: Fantasie, des Grues

This fantasy is the first in Adrian le Roy's volume of Renaissance guitar music: Quart livre de tablature, 1553. Transcribing it for ukulele appealed to me for two reasons. First, I managed to play much of it (admittedly badly) directly off the facsimile, though I do have trouble with the B♭ chord in bar 16 [see footnote]. Second, I checked the definition of 'grues' in a modern French dictionary: it currently means either 'cranes' or 'ladies of the night'. Either way, it gives one an image to ponder whilst playing the music.
Facsimile: First 5 lines of the tablature by Le Roy: Fantasie, des Grues
Facsimile: First 5 lines of the tablature by Le Roy: Fantasie, des Grues

    My music dictionary tells me that, in the 16th century, 'fantasia' applied to compositions of very contrapuntal nature: the combination of two or more parts or voices to form a harmonic whole. It evolved into the fugue. The form was freer than a dance or song, and for purists an instrumental fantasia had to be extemporised and not written down.

   The present piece consists of overlapping lines, punctuated or accompanied by chords. As usual, my problem has been to determine which note falls into which category, because the tablature shows only when to pluck the note, but not how long it is to be. The convention I have used is to have the stems of bass and harmonising notes pointing down, the stems of the top line pointing up, and where other lines overlap to direct the stems in the least confusing direction. It's easier to see the structure in the notation than in the tabs. Apologies if I have transgressed any norms of music setting, but I'm learning this as I go along.

   At first sight this looks undemanding, but I found maintaining the line(s) and keeping the long notes ringing a bit of a challenge. Part of the trouble is that with a percussive instrument like the uke, the notes don't last all that long. The Renaissance guitar was double strung, and I wonder if it had more sustain than the uke. If you can, try changing the MIDI instrument to 'recorder' or 'string ensemble' to hear the lines more clearly.

The arrangement is available to download in pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI formats. Have fun!

Footnote added later. I was having trouble fingering the notes around the Bflat chord (I have converging middle and ring fingers) so I have simplified bars 14 – 18 (see below). You'd hardly hear the difference. The brilliant Luteval has loaded here on YouTube his performance of this piece (with variations) on Renaissance guitar, in which he plays this section with misleading ease whilst holding a 3rd barré, so it is possible! Many thanks to 'Ukatee" for the link.

music Les Grues bars 14 - 18