Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dowland: Melancholy Galliard

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' (P73)

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!