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-Gth 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 (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.