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Friday, 17 September 2021

Anon: (Poor) Tom of Bedlam

 A lively song about a sad case

I first heard this song last Sunday on BBC Radio 3. It was played on lute by Paula Chateauneuf with great brio, and it struck me as an ideal piece for the ukulele.

Bethlehem Hospital in London, the first English mental hospital, popularly known as "Bedlam"

Checking on the remarkable Sarge Gerbode'e website I found that he had transcribed three simple (phew!) arrangements for lute, which you can find here reduced to fit the uke.

Version 1 is the simplest: basically chord strum plus single note melody. Version 2 is in the chord-melody style. Version 3 is more complex, with some use of divisions and counterpoint. You may want to play  the three in sequence.

I always find it helps to play intabulations of a song if one knows the melody, so I have prefaced the tabs with the melody and the first verse of the song.

The first appearance of the song seems to have been 1620, which is contemporary with the MSS from which these pieces are taken.

There seem to be many versions of the words, and the tune was also used for other songs. The version here is taken from http://www.thehypertexts.com/Tom%20O'%20Bedlam's%20Song.htm.

You can download the arrangements for free here:

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Dowlandia news: more reviews and performances online

 A few months ago, with fellow ukulele enthusiast Hugh McElveen, I published Dowlandia, an ebook of 15 solos of pieces by John Dowland arranged for low-G ukulele. You can see the introductory blog post here, and buy the book via this page.

We have since received more kind reviews from luminaries of the ukulele world, and two players have published fine performances of some of the pieces on YouTube. Grateful thanks to them all!


James Hill (James' website)

Harry's arrangements are delicate, tuneful and very satisfying to play. Challenging? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. 
Dowlandia is beautifully presented and further strengthens the nascent bond between the uke and the lute. From the opening phrase of Tarleton's Riserrectione the ukulele comes alive in a new way, speaking in a strange but familiar voice. Give it a try; you might just fall in love with your ukulele all over again!

Daniel Ward (Daniel's website)

Beautiful music, finely arranged in a gorgeous package. 
This book is a welcome addition to the ukulele repertoire. Harry Thomas has done a magnificent job with the arrangements, and I think the book will stand as a valuable resource for a growing wave of practicing ukulele players. 

The addition of the chord sequences, all the full notes, backgrounds and explanations of the music itself (including how to use the book) makes this one of my favorite rabbit holes to jump right into. Understanding the lute and where this music comes from is a great gift as well.

The visual layout by Hugh McElveen and digitized "Fell types" have a way of making you feel as if you've discovered a brand new set of undiscovered Renaissance pieces just for your instrument... and indeed you have !! 

Bravo Harry and Hugh - I look forward to learning and teaching from this book for years to come.

Performances online

Paul Mansell

I mentioned in a previous post that you can hear Paul Mansell playing a wonderful version of "Mr Dowland's Midnight" on his Ukulele Sessions site HERE. Look for Episode 29.

Ekkehard Prepens

I am most grateful to guitar and ukulele player Ekkehard Prepens, who has been kind enough to make his fine performances of some of the arrangements available on YouTube. They are listed below. 

Lady Laytons Allemande (Alman) (P 48) https://youtu.be/dTk71nUb0FE

The Frog Galliard (P 23) https://youtu.be/dTk71nUb0FE

Mr Dowland's Midnight (P 99) https://youtu.be/DcsQ9NvwKTs

A Piece Without Title (P 78) https://youtu.be/ETuTj1IPk9Y

My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home (P 66a) https://youtu.be/wLFmWHJ1gOQ

Friday, 12 March 2021

Sanz: Jiga (Giga), al aíre Ingles

 A Sanz piece for low-G tuning

Now here's a jolly little tune, and not too much of a finger-twister.

Facsimile of the original engraving by Sanz himself, including a short Zarabanda.
The large upper case letters refer to chords in the Abecedario nomenclature of the period.
The strings are upside down compared with modern tablature.

The strange thing is that although the title translates (I surmise) as "Jig on an English air", it's about as English as a flamenco dancer eating tapas in a bodega. Good fun to play, though.

You can download my arrangement in PDF format for free  HERE.


I N S T R U C C I O N  D E  M U S I C A  S O B R E  L A  G V I T A R R A  E S P A Ñ O L A, Y METODO DE SVS PRIMEROS RVDIMENTOS, HASTA TAÑERLA CON DESTREZA. CON DOS LABERINTOS INGENIOSOS, VARIEDAD DE Sones, y danças de Rasgueado, y Punteado, al estilo Español, Italiano, Francès, y Inglès. (1674). Pub: Zaragoça, 1697. Tomo 1, Lamina 10

Transcription:  [Free-scores.com]_sanz-gaspar-livre-1-complet-introduction-a-la-musique-espagnole-a-crite-pour-la-guitare-64566.pdf, page 18 (http://www.free-scores.com/download-sheet-music.php?pdf=64566)

Facsimile: http://purl.pt/17285/4/m-871-p_PDF/m-871-p_PDF_24-C-R0150/m-871-p_0000_capa-capa_t24-C-R0150.pdf

You can hear a very lively version on Baroque guitar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj5TggTFLvs. The performer’s website is here: http://www.xavierdiazlatorre.com.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Sanz: Gallardas

  Another piece for re-entrant tuning! 

This is the first piece in re-entrant tuning that I transcribed some years ago, but I seem not to have posted it before. 

I have revised it, and made full use of the campanella effect. You may find alternative, more convenient fingerings to achieve this.

The piece really does have what Jelly Roll Morton referred to as "the Spanish tinge". 

Galliards are usually in triple time, so it is a surprise to find this one in common time. Is this unusual in 17th century Spanish music? If you know please tell me.

You can download the PDF file for free HERE.


  • Note stems are shown conventionally and do not denote voices.
  • in the score indicates the inevitable octave jumps inherent in re-entrant tuning. If you have an octave 4th course fitted, you might want to favour the lower string (bourdon) in these passages.
  • I have made a stab at representing the graces: you may want to ignore them or use your own.


L I B R O  S E G U N D O, DE CIFRAS SOBRE LA GVITARRA ESPAÑOLA, CON ARTE NUEVO PARA APRENDER A TAÑERLA Sin Maestro, con gran facilidad.  ENSEÑA TODOS LOS SONES DE PUNTEADO MAS PRINCIPALES que se tañen en España, con la disposicion siguiente (1675)

Tomo 2, Lamina 3

TRANSCRIPTION: http://www.free-scores.com/partitions_telecharger.php?partition=64567 (Page 3).

FACSIMILE: http://purl.pt/17285/4/m-871-p_PDF/m-871-p_PDF_24-C-R0150/m-871-p_0000_capa-capa_t24-C-R0150.pdf

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Gaspar Sanz: Marionas

    For a change: a piece that benefits from re-entrant tuning  

At the end of last year, Aragon P asked me if I had ever transcribed Sanz' "Marionas". 

I found that I had tried to arrange it for low-G uke, but was dissatisfied with it. I then tried with the re-entrant tuning, and it was much more successful.

So ... here it is in a FREE PDF file. Let me know if you want the TablEdit or MIDI versions.

Have fun!


L I B R O  S E G U N D O, DE CIFRAS SOBRE LA GVITARRA ESPAÑOLA, CON ARTE NUEVO PARA APRENDER A TAÑERLA Sin Maestro, con gran facilidad.  ENSEÑA TODOS LOS SONES DE PUNTEADO MAS PRINCIPALES que se tañen en España, con la disposicion siguiente (1675). Tomo 2, Lamina 7.

TRANSCRIPTION: http://www.free-scores.com/partitions_telecharger.php?partition=64567 (pp 14 – 15)

FACSIMILE: http://purl.pt/17285/4/m-871-p_PDF/m-871-p_PDF_24-C-R0150/m-871-p_0000_capa-capa_t24-C-R0150.pdf

Facsimile of the original plate, engraved by the composer.
The strings are represented upside down compared with modern tabs.
The large upper case B & D refer to the abecedario system of chord shapes.


The tuning of the Baroque lute as used by Sanz had the two lower courses of (paired) strings tuned an octave higher than they would be in linear tuning. (Other composers had these courses fitted with octave strings, and one or both could be struck perferentially.) This means that the lowest course is the third, as in most ukuleles. According to James Tyler, it may be that Sanz also used octave tuning on the third course, and could have struck only the high string in some of the passages. (I have tried this and have found it very difficult.) This would have avoided the octave jumps we hear when playing the tabs as written on an instrument without octaves. Here I have set notes on the 3rd course an octave higher where it think it gives a better sound. I leave it to your creativity to adjust your voicings accordingly.

The re-entrant tuning enables runs of notes to be played on alternate (in the British meaning of the word) courses, giving a bell-like sound of overlapping notes (campanelas). This is less of a challange on a re-entrant ukulele than in one tuned with a low 4th (G) string, as only the 5th course has to be accommodated on another string. In this re-entrant version I have included campanelas even where Sanz did not score them.

The close tuning often makes the discrimination of voices irrelevant, so most of this piece has been set as a aingle voice. In some passages, however, the style is more that of the lute or vihuela, or of a duet, and I have indicated two voices.

Down stroke symbols (⊓) indicate strums towards the floor with the backs of the first 3 fingers, and up stroke symbols (⋁) strums away from the floor with the index finger (Tyler).

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

"Dowlandia": A new e-book anthology of John Dowland's music

Here at last for the discerning ukulele player.

A compendium of 15 beautiful solos for low-G ukulele, based on John Dowland's lute solos.

Only $15 US per download, and all proceeds go to two wonderful charities.

Update 20 March 2021: total monies dispersed equally between the two charities is now £470 UK! 

Heartfelt thanks to our kind purchasers.                           


How to buy

Click HERE or on the "Buy Dowlandia" tab above.


All about Dowlandia

In this blog over the last few years I have been making arrangements of compositions of the late Renaissance so that they can be played on the low-4th ukulele and Renaissance guitar. 

They were originally made for my own use as a learning project. I have posted quite a few of them, in draft, here on this blog, both for the interest of other players and to seek helpful comments.

At the end of 2020 fellow uke enthusiast Hugh McElveen made me an offer I couldn't refuse – to use his book design skills to make an e-book of more polished arrangements, to be sold for charity. 

If you are familiar with this blog, you will not be surprised to learn that we settled on John Dowland's lute solos, in the fullest possible settings. 

And here it is ...

The contents page
You can see the first line of each piece HERE

We had two aims: to make the music more accessible to the ukulele player in a convenient format, and to benefit two charities close to our hearts:
  • Oxfam, the worldwide charity that needs no introduction, and
  • The Survivor Girl Ukulele Project, which helps girls rescued from distressing circumstances to recover through playing the ukulele. More info here: www.sgub.org

So, by buying and downloading this book (we hope to publish in a few days) you'll have 68 pages of fun, and help two great charities too. 

How to buy

Click HERE or on the "Buy Dowlandia" tab above.

This is a new adventure for me, so: fingers crossed!

You can hear Paul Mansell playing a wonderful version of one of the pieces on his Ukulele Sessions HERE. Look for Episode 29.

Paul Mansell

Here are some reviews of an earlier draft from gifted ukulele luminaries

Brandon Acker

" Although Dowland was one of the most famous lute virtuosos of his day, most music-enthusiasts are still woefully unaware of his wonderful and often melancholic music.  I think this is largely due to the fact that the lute itself, the instrument on which Dowland wrote, is still relatively obscure. That is why I'm thrilled to see this well-arranged compilation of some of Dowland's "hits" arranged for the ukulele, which has become increasingly popular over the last decade.  I hope this edition will bring this wonderful Renaissance music into many more homes so more may appreciate its charm!"

Rob MacKillop

"I have nothing but the highest praise for what you have achieved here! I am astonished at how much of the original scores you have retained. I have played all of these pieces on the lute, and they are mostly easier to play on the ukulele in your settings. No mean feat. I have been against using a Low 4th string, which often turns a good ukulele into a poor guitar, but here you make excellent use of it, placing this volume in the No.1 spot for Dowland ukulele arrangements. I am very happy to endorse it."

Paul Mansell

Dowlandia by Harry Thomas is an excellent addition to the now growing repertoire of Lute music arranged for the Ukulele.  It takes a wonderful mixture of Dowland's well known pieces (such as Tarleton's Resurrection and Mr Dowlands Midnight) and mixes them with less known pieces such as Coranto and Farwell Fantasie.  All of the pieces are cleverly arranged for Low G Ukulele, in such a way that they are playable and enjoyable, without veering too far from the originals. Harry clearly understands both the lute and ukulele, their limitations and their advantages, and has written a book that I am sure any ukulele player will enjoy."

Tony Mizen

"Harry has done a brilliant job in creating these clear, easy- to- follow arrangements. I enjoyed playing through them, knowing that they are not only making a valuable contribution to the ukulele repertoire but also directly improving the lives of others through two wonderful humanitarian charities."

Sam Muir

" The book is beautifully presented and packed full of music and information about the music. The arrangements are skilfully crafted to suit the ukulele while maintaining the essence of Dowland. While not easy to play this collection is sure to become an essential resource for classical ukulele players." 

More reviews here

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Robinson: Walking in a Country Towne

  A gentle stroll with a contemporary of John Dowland

Thomas Robinson (c 1560 – c 1610) was a lutenist who published a tutor for lute (The Schoole of Musicke) in 1603. This piece is the first of a number of his works that I have transcribed for low-G ukulele, and will be posting over the next few weeks.

The repeats in his music do not always work seamlessly, so you may want to make suitable modifications, which is presumably what his contemporaries would have done.

Available for free download in the following formats: