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The Weekly Guitar Session

Week Number Thirty Eight -- Updated June 30, 2005

Understanding Lute Tablature &Transcription Basics

Part Two

The day will come when you will hear a piece of music performed on the lute and won't be able to find a guitar transcription. Or maybe you'll realize that what you thought was a good scholarly transcription is actually full of interpretive errors and not in the style of the period the original was written in. Whatever the reason, you will want to take a look at the original lute score. So you schlep down to the music library and find the piece. What? What is this gobbledy gook? It's lute tab and unless you're familiar with at least three different methods of intabulation, you are sunk.

Onwards and Upwards Spanish, Italian and French Tab :

 

Spanish and Italian Tablature

Spanish Intabulation

In both methods of intabulation, six horizontal lines represent the six courses of the lute. (Courses one through six on instruments with a greater number of courses.) Arabic numbers are used to indicate the fret at which the courses are intended to be stopped. 0 indicates an open or unstopped course, 1 indicates first fret, 2 indicates second fret, and so forth. The numbers are written on the line. For example:

 

Rhythm is notated above the staff, each note, or group of notes in vertical alignment representing a chord, receiving a symbol.

This ...................................................................Transcribes to this.

Sustained pitches in voices occurring simultaneously with a voice or voices containing pitches of shorter duration cannot be notated leading to a certain ambiguity.

Scholars have concluded that the standard tuning for the vihuela and lute in Spain was the ‘g' tuning previously described. We do not know whether the 16th century g was the same pitch as g in modern concert pitch. We do know that intervalically the strings were arranged Perfect fourth, Perfect fourth, Major third, Perfect fourth, Perfect fourth. (G, c, f, a, d', g')

From these open courses, we can generate the following table by “going by the numbers”!

COURSE: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


I g' g'# a' a'# b' c” c”# d” d”#

II d” d”# e' f' f'# g' g' g'# a'

III a a# b c” c”# d” d”# e' f'

IV f f'# g' g' g'# a' a'# b' c”

V c c# d d# e f f# g g#

VI g g# a a# b c c# d d#

Italian Intabulation

Italian tablatures differ from Spanish works in that the horizontal lines graphically representing the courses are meant to be interpreted in reverse compared to the Spanish. The line representing the highest pitched course (the first) is the bottom line of the tablature staff. Willi Apell in The Notation of Polyphonic Music writes “The lutenist playing from such a book [Italian tablature] consequently connects the signs written on the top line with the highest string of his instrument which, in sound, is the lowest.” Rhythmic considerations are arranged similarly to Spanish tab.

French Intabulation

Probably the earliest example of French lute tablature we now possess, Tres breve et familiere introduction pour entendre et apprendre par soy mesme a iouer toutes chansons reduictes en la tabulature du Lutz avec la maniere daccorder dict Lutz... published in Paris, 1529, appears to have been designed as a self—instruction manual for the lute. It contains highly detailed explanations of the features of this intabulation system. Another book, Dixhuit basse dances garnies de hecoupes et Tordions..., le tout reduyt en la tabulature du Lutz was also published in 1529 by Attaignant in Paris.

These two books give us a wealth of information on both tablature and typical repertoire for the instrument during the seventeenth century in France.

In the French intabulation system, the fingerboard's eight frets, touches in French, are marked as o for first, c for second, d for third, e for fourth, f for fifth, g for sixth, h for seventh and i for eighth. The letter ‘a' marks an open course. This is identical with English intabulation. The courses of the lute, orders in French, were tuned G, c, f, a, d', g', lowest to highest. The first single string course was called the chanterelle. The 1529 books contain works for the six course lute. As the instrument gained more courses, the notation required no alterations except the addition of lines below the staff resembling the ledger lines of standard notation to indicate the additional courses.

The French system uses the same metric symbols as the English, written above the staff. Metric symbols written on the staff indicate rests of corresponding value. This system of intabulation described in the previous paragraphs was known as Vieil Ton after circa 1640, when Denis Gaultier (1600 — 1672) made popular a new tuning, called Nouveau Ton (a literal translation of New Tuning). This tuning yielded a broad d minor chord across the open courses.— A, d, f, a, d', f'. All symbols remained the same, although some earlier tablature used capital letters while Gaultier used lower case. This system, with some slight modifications, each composer having his own favorite “tricks” and quirks, remained in use until the eighteenth century. Nouveau Ton used many other tunings, known as Scordatura , in certain pieces to facilitate their performance, or to add an unusual effect. Tunings varying from the norm are indicated at the start of the piece of a notation such as the following:

 

 

 

 

 

This indicates that the eighth course is tuned one octave below the pitch made when the fourth course is stopped or fretted at the first fret, and the eleventh course is tuned one octave below the pitch made when the sixth course is stopped at the fourth fret.

 

The possible bass courses in Nouveau ton are notated as follows:

 

 

 

Returning to the first six courses in Nouveau ton, we can construct the following chart of produced pitches:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuning was not the only difference between Nouveau ton and the older Vieil ton. In Gaultier' s works we find the following symbols for the indication of pitch duration:

 

 

 

 

 

In the seventeenth century, a book of lute music was published in England. The tablature contained therein possessed in certain instances a diagonal line drawn underneath (or above) groups of intabulated notes. As Thomas Mace explains in this book, Musick's Monument (London, 1676): “ it is also necessarie to give thee to understande, to what purpose the barres that be drawen bias, under letters or passages doe serve for, and for thy better understandying, I have here drawen thee an example at large, and very familier, in whiche thou shalt not finde one example, trimmed or measured, that thou shalte neede to remove any of thy fingers, from the said measure: the knowledge of the said oarre is so necessarie, that havying founde out, and exercised the same, thou shalte not neede to remove but those fingers whiche thou shalte be forced, whiche we call close or couert plai.” (This passage is as quoted in WilIi Apell's The Notation of Polyphonic Music .)

Example:

 

 

 

 

The diagonal bars indicated sustained tones or chords, a technique called “close” or “covered” play. In this way, sustained bass notes, as in the previous example, can b indicated.

 

Between 1620 and 1650, there was much experimentation with tunings and number of bass courses. we have touched slightly upon this fact already. The following is a list of some of the composers one will most likely encounter when researching music of this period, and their peculiar methods of notating bass courses.

Primo Libro d'intavolatura di liuto — Michelangelo Galilei (Munich 1620), in descending order of courses, a, 8, 9, X.

Tablatures of Fridevici — 7, 8, 9, 10.

Tablatures of Dusiacki (Padua 1620) — composed for seven additional

bass courses, a, 8, 9, X, XI, XII, XIII.

Lute book of ~Virginia Renata von Gehema —

This may seem to be more information than the guitarist really wants or needs, but as there is probably more music available in lute tablature than in standard notation, to not read lute tab virtually cuts the guitarist off from a vast unmined musical resource.

The following pieces were originally written for the Vihuela and intabulated in the Spanish system of intabulation. Volumes more exist – volumes not performed by modern guitarists. Research these volumes available in most college and university music libraries. Your transcriptions build the instrument's repertoire.

 

 

Back to Part One

 

Next time, the last common method of intabulation. Once we've gotten a handle on how the stuff is notated, we'll begin transcribing some pieces for the guitar. Okay?

Feel free to contact us at information@pellegrinlowend.com

Hey, the new album is out! That's right, finally a follow-up to the reissue of my old album from the late 1980's.

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Click the image to the left to learn more, hear a few tracks --even get ordering info if you want it!

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LOW END What's new with the book that came out over a year ago? After being on back-order at Amazon.com for what seemed like a century, it is my understanding that copies are once again shipping. Barnes and Noble's website is on-again-off-again, but PAB (on Amazon as an authorized vendor) has LOW END in stock and it comes with a CD!

DEEP END, the exciting sequel, is being shopped by my literary agent even as we speak.

The Guitar Sessions:Weekly tech tips and exercises to help the guitarist improve. This feature has really taken off. Each week a new page is posted with either an exercises to get the left and right hands moving more efficiently and effectively or an interesting piece from the standard repertoire , demonstrating a necessary technical ability. Judging by the hits these pages receive, you guitar players love this feature!

The page is updated every Thursday. Visit the 2004 Archive as well!

 

My Mission, My Policy

In my opinion, the murder mystery genre reached its zenith in the 1930's and 1940's. The novels penned in those decades were taut, no-nonsense stories of people in life and death crises, people who did not flinch when confronted with overwhelming odds or overwhelming emotion. Some of these tales could be hard-edged and hard-boiled, but the heroes invariably had a soft side as well.

I believe that over the years, in an attempt to mimic real life, the writers of murder mysteries--and most other literature, for that matter--have lowered the standards of excellence set by such authors as the gritty Raymond Chandler and the sophisticated Dorothy Sayers. Many authors misinterpret smut for romance and brutality for strength.

My novels aspire to the standards set by the 1940's mystery writers. My tales are as real and grimey as the mean streets that spawned them. Even so, and though they deal with modern issues, you will not find gratuitous sex in my characters' relationships. Sex may be alluded to, but it is never allowed out from behind closed doors. You will find that my books are entertaining to a broad audience--I have had positive comments from teens to grandmothers. One reader was surprised when I told him that there were no obscenities in the book he'd just finished. He hadn't missed them! A good story doesn't need such unnecessary 'embellishment.'

I have conducted book signings at churches, country clubs, libraries and even a street corner (don't ask!) and I've never been called to task for, or ashamed of, my work. Pick up a copy of my latest novel and see if it isn't a good read!

Harry Pellegrin

 

As a native New Yorker and an American, I am still angered by the cowardly attacks of 9/11. Unless we restore New York City's skyline to its condition prior to September 11th, 2001, the miserable scum who attacked us will have won! Visit www.makeNYNYagain.com and rebuild America!

 

 

About My Site:

This site is a way for me to commemorate and celebrate a life and lifestyle that is now extinct. Why extinct? Is it that Thomas Wolfe " You-can't-go-home-again " thing? Is it because life is so much different now that what we experienced in the Bronx in the 60's and 70's is no longer relevant? Yes. No. Yes and no? Definintely maybe ! Why do I always start these little essays with questions?

At first, the main thrust of this site was to promote my book. It is a worthy goal; the book tells a good tale and eveyone who has read it finds it entertaining and thought-provoking. With that sole goal, I went live with this site back in August of 2003. What happened next is what makes this site truly valuable.

There are people I grew up with, attended school and with whom I played in bands -- neighbors, friends, good family -- who I hadn't seen since I moved from the Bronx in 1986. Divorce had forced me into exile, time and distance conspired to seemingly turn this into a life sentence. Thank the muses for the internet! This site wasn't live for more than two months before I was reunited with Paul Silvestro , a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in seventeen years. His brother Larry , the guy who had turned me on to playing guitar and taught me the things about music that matter the most, now with him I had no contact since 1983. Twenty years! Too long. I felt as if a part of my soul had been restored -- a part that had been missing for ages and had long ago been written off. But more was to come.

Anthony Pernice, Art Clement , Mike Moretti -- all reunited to me.

The 1960's weren't good to a number of us -- many of us had our personal demons to exorcise, be it substance abuse or the insidious hedoniosm of the times. but through it all, we were instilled with a vibe, cast in an artistic mold--call it what you will--but uinless these same environmental stimuli are exactly reproduced, there will never be another crop of people quite the same.

This page delves into what we experienced and how we incorporated these experiences into art, music, literature and life . I've paid tribute to my neighborhood, the Wakefiled section of the Bronx. The Discords -- Larry Silvestro and Artie Clemente's first band in the early mid-sixties-- they're here with their matching outfits, Fender, Hagstrom and Gretsch guitars plus those impeccably precise five part harmonies.

Of course, there is an homage to Leo Fender and his magnificent designs, the Telecaster © and the Stratocaster ©. I officially declare C.L. Fender an honorary Bronxite. Thse instruments have literally changed my life and the way we all hear music. Check out this page on my site.

Rory Gallagher , whom I saw play in 1973 and who has influenced me ever since--he has a page here as well. He has gone on now, but the impact he made is still rippling outwards, changing how we interpret the blues.

Untermeyer Park in Yonkers and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx are included on this site. We were kids interested in a good ghost story and both these places were terrific for providing a few innocent and fun goosebumps.

...and of course, my book!

Please enjoy this site. Nose around. Anyone can find something here to read and get a chuckle.

Thanks!

 

 

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