Monday, 30 January 2017

Thomas Dallis: Passamezzi

I am grateful to The Lute Society for publishing their 58 Very Easy Pieces for the Renaissance Lute, from which these two pieces were adapted - first by them, and now simplified by me for uke. It is taken from a MS in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, and images of the original can be seen on their website here.  I reproduce one of the clearer pages here, to show you what the editors, all credit to them, have to work with.

Lute tablature: Thomas Dallis Lute book, Trinity College Dublin, MS 410/1
An example page from the Dallis MS (but not showing the pieces adapted here)

Thomas Dallis (fl 1580–1600) taught music in Cambridge and Dublin, and this MS is believed to have been written by his student(s) about then.

These two similar pieces (in D) are entitled Passamezzo d'Italie and Passamezzo, and sound well played in sequence. They are jaunty little tunes, and show you just what our ancestors could to with what we call the "three-chord trick" – D, G and A. The fast bits (divisions) aren't too difficult if played reasonably slowly, and I hope to build up to full speed one day. I've had to make the usual compromises too fit the bass lines to the lute, particularly where the lutenist has the luxury of allowing open bass strings to sustain through several beats, whereas we have to finger and hold them, which can lead to a shortage of available digits for the other notes – good luck!

As usual, they are available in pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI formats.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Campion & Dowland: What if a day

Painting of Thomas Campion playing a lute
Thomas Campion (seen here with a rather wonky lute) was a poet, musician and physician.

It is fascinating to see how this air by Thomas Campion (1567–1620) was turned by John Dowland (1563–1626) into a solo piece for lute. To this end, I have made a simple arrangement of What if a day for low-G ukulele, complete with words, and with a very clear melody line. The verse structure is: a a' b c c' c" (bars 1–26).

The subsequent bars are a transcription, as full as I can manage, made from Dowland's lute version. He modified the structure to: A A' B B' C C'. The first of each pair is close to the original air (and not coincidentally to the simple arrangement), the repeats (A' etc) are far more decorated. By comparing A with A' etc, one can see how Dowland did it.

The arrangements are available here in pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadTablEdit and MIDI formats.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Henry VIII: Pastyme with good companye (3 versions)

Henry VIII Pasytme with good companye
Image of the Cantus (melody) part of the original MS of Pastyme ...

I was watching the BBC programme Music and Monarchy when I heard this air being played, and it occurred to me that I had made an adaptation in an earlier foray into this music. Michael Parmenter on Ukeclassicaltabs had made a jolly version for re-entrant tuning, so I had a go at adapting it for low 4th uke, from various sources.

More recently I found a facsimile and a transcription of the original MS on Wikipedia (where else!) and so I  transcribed the three voices into uke tabs. This sounded a bit modal and discordant in places (see note below), so I made another adaptation based on the transcription by Allen Garvin, which seems more comfortable on the ears.

The block chord effect can be a bit heavy, so when playing I must admit to omitting some of the non-melody notes on un-accented beats; this makes it lighter (and easier to play). See how you get on.

There are more details in the comments at the end of the transcriptions. I admit that my confusion may be due to my inexperience in this field.

You can download the files in the following formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI.
Note added later: A very helpful correspondent ("Ukatee" on Ukulele Underground) explains it this way:

Accidentals in early music like this are a whole can of worms - try googling "musica ficta" and you will see what I mean! Basically these old manuscripts didn't add them as they were already implied by the rules and conventions of the time.

For example, an E natural against an Bb was strictly forbidden - "diabolus in musica" - and the singers would flatten the E. Their method of thinking in hexachords (a precursor of modern sol-fa) would make them do this automatically. In modern transcriptions the editor will indicate these 'extra' accidentals by either writing them above the note, or making them smaller than original ones. 

So, the first version of Pastyme provided here is more or less what was written, but not what was played.  I leave it here for the record, where it may help other beginners in the field. The second version, based on the Garvin transcription (which uses the convention just described for accidentals) is nearer the mark.

"Ukatee" has also pointed out that my comments about note length are incorrect: I said that they were as in the MS but in fact they are halved; they are however twice as long as in some published transcriptions. I must edit the files soon. So much to learn ...

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Le Roy: Three Dances

Title page of Le Roy: Renaissance guitar tablature
An image of the title page of the book from which I have transcribed these three dances. The first two are bransles, or branles or brawls. The Oxford Companion to Music describes bransles as originally round dances which became popular in the French Royal Court around the period of these tablatures, the rhythm usually being two-in-a-bar, although those from Poitou (Poictou) were three-in-a-bar.

In transcribing Bransle de Champagne, I dithered between 2/4 and 4/4 time, but the latter looked more readable, so that I what I chose. You can decide by downloading the tabs in these formats pdf (preview), pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI.

Bransle de Poictou caused no problems of time signature (3/4). Download the tabs in these formats pdf, pdf auto downloadTablEdit and MIDI.

I chose Pimontoyse to transcribe because the name intrigued me. It's in 3/4 time, and the first bar is reminiscent of Twelfth Street Rag, a popular jazz-tinged record of my youth. I imagine that the name is an early version of 'Piedmontaise', but I'm open to correction. Anyway, here it is in pdf, pdf auto download, TablEdit and MIDI formats. [Note added later: I am grateful to "ukatee", a contributor to the Ukulele Underground Forum for many helpful suggestions for improving  this transcription; the linked files have been updated accordingly.]

The tabs look pretty simple, but the sounds and rhythm are intriguing. I found some of the harmonies in Champagne and Pimontoyse a little weird, but I have double-checked the transcriptions and they look OK. As I'm doing these transcriptions, in part, to help me understand the music of the period, I've added chord symbols to help my analysis. So much to learn ...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Dowland: Tarleton's Resurrection (in D and C)

Richard Tarleton, or Tarlton, (d 1588) was what we would today call an all-round entertainer in the Elizabethan theatre – stand-up comic, impromptu rhymester, actor and dancer. This dance was arranged for lute by Dowland in his memory.

Portrait of Richard Tarleton
Richard Tarleton. [Wikipedia]

I've included arrangements for low-G ukulele in 2 keys: D major, which retains as far as possible the original lute fingerings, and C major, which I find falls more easily under the fingers. There is a quick peek at the tabs below, and here are links to full downloadable versions in png, pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadTablEdit and MIDI formats.

On one of his CDs, Nigel North plays this piece first at a slow funereal pace, and the repeat as a fast jig – reminiscent of Jelly-Roll Morton's Dead Man Blues, which represents a  New Orleans funeral.

Music tablature low-G ukulele Dowland's Tarleton's Resurrection

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Traditional: Trenchmore

A bouncy little tune, from the later 16th Century. Trenchmore is described as "a kind of boisterous English country dance" in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. There is an extensive article on the possibly Irish origins of the name and dance here.

Adapted from The Lute Society's excellent but rather optimistically titled publication 58 Very Easy Pieces for the Lute, No 16.

The fingering is mostly simple, the timing not so straightforward – plenty of syncopation. I must admit to using the MIDI files to get it clear in my head.

The bass-line is mostly alternating tonic / dominant. Fortunately the 6th and 5th strings on the lute are tuned G & C, an octave lower than the 4th and 3rd strings of the ukulele.

There's a full printout below, and you can download the arrangement in pdf (preview), pdf auto download, png, TablEdit and MIDI formats.

Music tablature tabs Ukulele Low-G transcription Trenchmore

Monday, 9 January 2017

Polonais: Courante

 Jacques Polonois (Jakub Polak) was a Polish lutenist who moved to Paris in 1574. He lived 1545 – c 1605, so was John Dowland’s senior by about 18 years)
    This arrangement is from a transcription in the tutor by Diana Poulton. She points out the importance of keeping the voices alive in this polyphonic music, pointing out that “several books of instruction … say that no [left-hand] finger should be lifted … until it is needed for another note”.

  The original lute piece makes use of the diapaisons – the 7th and 8th courses on the lute, which neither the ukulele nor the guitar possess.

   In the 2 versions of the last 6 bars I have (a) moved the main voice up an octave to make room for a base line, or (b) maintained the main voice in position and raised the diapaisons several octaves to sit above the main voice. See what you think.

  There's a quick peek below, and you can download the arrangement here in pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadTablEdit and MIDI formats.

Music Tablature Jacques Polonois Courante

Music Tablature Jacques Polonois Courante

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Traditional: Willsons wilde (in G)

As promised in my previous post, here is a version raised in pitch from C to G to fit in some more base notes (the lute original used the tonic, dominant and subdominant).

In the first 41 bars you have to run up and down the first string rather a lot, so as an experiment the repeat (bar 42 ...) has a lot of 5th position playing, which falls easier under the fingers. Which do you prefer?

Available in pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadpng (p1), png (p2) and TablEdit formats.

Music Tablature of Willsons wilde for Low G Ukulele

Music Tablature of Willsons wilde for Low G Ukulele

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Traditional: Willson's Wilde (in C)

Here is a real old warhorse, of which there appear to be quite a few versions. This one is based on Lesson 4 in A Tutor for the Renaissance Lute by Diana Poulton. It's really easy.

I have kept as far as possible to the native fingerings of the original, even though the key of D in the uke can be a bit ploddy – but I think that's quite appropriate here. The original was arranged so that the open 4th, 5th and 6th strings on the lute provided the bass line (easier to play), a luxury we don't have, so I've had to make some compromises. I might have a go at transposing it up to G soon, with better bass but more awkward fingering.

The twiddly bits (e.g. 2-0-2 in the tabs) are indicated by # marks in the original, but there seems to be some dispute about what # actually meant in those days. I have opted for mordents and inverted mordents, based on a little reading, much ignorance, and personal preference. They can be left out, or played only on repeat.

As usual, there's a quick look below, and you can access fuller versions here in png pdf (preview), pdf auto download, and TablEdit formats. (Both tabs and notation are shown in pdf and TablEdit formats.)

Tablature and music notation for ukulele of Willsons wilde from the lute version
Tabs for Willsons wilde for low G ukulele

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Dowland: My Lord Willoughby's welcome home

This was the first transcription of Renaissance music that I made. I was made aware if its existence by the arrangement for re-entrant tuning in Tony Mizen's book (see 'Resources and links' page).

The version here, for low G ukulele, is after the tablature for lute published by Wayne Cripps.

Below you can see a preview of the tabs. Use these links to download the files: png (p1), png(p2), pdf  (preview), pdf auto download, and TablEdit formats.

It's not particularly difficult, though you might need slightly unusual fingering of some chords to keep the base notes ringing whilst you play the melody.

Tablature for low G ukulele of My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home page 1
Dowland: My Lord Willoughby, p1

Tablature for low G ukulele of My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home page 2
Dowland: My Lord Willoughby p 2