Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Carcassi: Andante in B♭

And now to move forward by more than two centuries to the Romantic period.

Matteo Carcassi (1792 – 1853) was an acclaimed Florentine guitarist and composer, who lived and performed in France, Germany and England.

Matteo Carcassi

I adapted this piece this from Alonso Medio's: Spanish Guitar Tutor, p 41 (Pub: Clifford Essex). The tutor describes it as “a fine study for the development of a cantabile legato melody width a subordinated accompaniment”. I haven’t shown the legatos in the score, as they are all the same, being 7 beats long and separated by a 1-beat rest.

The Andante is characterised by gradual harmonic movement between chords using suspensions. I have inserted the chord names to illustrate this.

The piece was relatively easy to reduce to 4 strings, as that is where most of the original sits. Many of Carcassi's pieces make much use of the bass strings, but I shall browse his oeuvre to see if there are any more suitable for adapting.

Available to download in the following formats:

Friday, 2 November 2018

Bacheler: 'To plead my faith': new arrangement for ukulele

Renaissance guitar player.
The renaissance guitar was tuned in the same intervals as the low-G tenor ukulele,
but was double strung, apart often from the 1st course.
The scale length was 5 – 10 cm longer than on the tenor.
Note the thumb-under right-hand technique.
As far as I can tell she's fingering the chord of G major (2 4 5 4).

Published in a blog by Michael Fink here

The wonderful galliards on To plead my faith written by Bacheler himself and by John Dowland [which I posted recently here and here] are only loosely loosely based on the melody, and the structures vary. So, I thought: "what would they have done if they had ukuleles, and wanted to represent the whole song?". (For "ukulele" you can read "Renaissance guitar".)

This simple arrangement for low-G ukulele is an attempt to answer the question. As I wrote it, it became clear that one reason they modified the range of the upper voice is that it goes up to the 10th fret, which on the lute is not feasible for chordal work as the frets are glued to the soundboard and used just for the occasional note on the top few strings.

The uke arrangement includes the whole song and preserves the melody as the upper voice. It draws in part from the accompaniment written by Bacheler, but much is original (whilst attempting consistent with the musical practice of the period). It also incorporates some ideas and motifs from Bacheler’s and Dowland’s galliards.

The first expositions of the four strains are fairly plain and built on block chords, whilst the repetitions are rather more lively. For a simple playing piece, just repeat the first statements and ignore the divisions (fancy repetitions). For a strumming piece you could fill in the chords of the chordal treatments, and spank your plank.

Anyway, you can download the arrangement files using the links below and see what you think:

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Devereux & Bacheler: To plead my faith (song and ukulele accompaniment)

My previous posts dealt with two galliards (by Bacheler and Dowland) based on this song, so I thought it might be a good idea to examine the original in more detail.

It is in four sections, each consisting of repeated 8-bar strains. Fortunately the lute accompaniment  still exists, and is not too challenging, so I have transcribed it for ukulele.

Robert Devereux in a portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Image from Wikipedia

Robert Devereux (1565 – 1601), second Earl of Essex, was a distant relation of Elizabeth I, a brave soldier and a poet. He became a favourite of the queen, but lost his head on a charge of treason.

Daniel Bacheler (1572 – 1619) was a lutenist and composer, who at one time worked for Devereux, and later held office in the court of the wife of James I / VI. His style of playing was at the time considered complex and difficult, but this accompaniment isn't too hard.

The piece was published in Robert Dowland's A musicall banquet. I can't find a facsimile online, but you can see a transcription here.

I have provided links to the arrangement below. There is also a MIDI file of the melody – played on an oboe, which is the least horrible synthesised melody instrument on my computer.


P.S. As the galliards by Bacheler and Dowland diverged so far from the original air, I am making a plain and simple arrangement for ukulele, sticking to the melody. I will post it in a few days.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

How to be kept informed of new posts

Temporary note


Lots of this
None of this
Images from Wikipedia
A correspondent asked me how to subscribe to this blog, and I thought what a good idea it was. So, I've had a go at adding a "Follow by email" option (right-hand column, below the "Contact me" option).

I post on average less than once a week, so it won't overload your inbox.

I don't know if it will work, so if you try to use it and it doesn't work, please send me a short note.

Many thanks!

Friday, 19 October 2018

John Dowland: Galliard on a galliard by Daniel Bacheler (P 28)

Well, if you thought that Bacheler's original galliard in my previous post was difficult, this one made on it is really testing!

Dowland wrote this galliard presumably as a compliment to his younger contemporary. It is described in the MS (British Library Add. 38539) as “A gallyard upon the gallyard before”, which was entitled “A gallyard by Mr Dan: Bacheler” and which, in turn, was based on Bacheler’s own song “To plead my faith”.

The subscription (end title) of Bacheler's original galliard.

The subscription of Dowland's version.
Note the penultimate note, which assumes a fourth diapaison course!
Facsimilies of British Library Ms Add. 38539 from Sarge Gerbodes website here.

I would have found making the arrangement well-nigh impossible if I had not relied completely on the transcription by Poulton & Lam. How any lute player managed to play the piece from the lute tabs, especially in manuscript, beggars belief. I am full of awe.

Dowland’s first bar is very similar to Bacheler’s, and then deviates more and more. As in the original, there are three strains, each with a variation, but Dowland has lengthened the first two from 8 to 9 bars.

The whole piece is full of invention, and surprisingly playful. In her biography of Dowland, Diana Poulton writes: “The repeat of the second strain is of exceptional interest” because bars 33 and 34 (the repeat of bars 24 and 25) are “not a division at all, but a free variation, since at this point he completely destroys the original harmonic framework”. These bars in particular have a wonderful galloping feel.

If you fancy a challenge, you can download the arrangements in various formats using the links below. Incidentally, I had given up posting Midi files as I thought it was a bit patronising, but this piece is so challenging in the timekeeping, I thought I'd include one this time.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Daniel Bacheler: Galliard to 'To plead my faith'

Daniel Bacheler (1572 – 1619) was about 9 years younger than John Dowland, but as regards status more successful, in being appointed to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and gaining a coat of arms. He was apparently admired by Dowland, who wrote an arrangement (P 28) of this piece, which I intend to arrange for ukulele soon.

The galliard is adapted for ukulele from a tablature transcription of the lute original (BL Add MS 38539 p 15v/1) by Sarge Gerbode here. I subsequently referred to a transcription for guitar by Eric Crouch here.

Daniel Bacheler (on horseback) from an engraving by Thomas Lant 
of the funeral procession of Sir Philip Sidney in 1586.
I don't think you'd recognise him in a police line-up without the horse.

Image taken from Wikipedia.

According to Diana Poulton, this piece is based on Bacheler’s own song melody “To plead my faith”, but apart from the first four bars (and their repeat) it deviates widely. There are three themes of eight bars, each followed by a variation.

Much of the activity in the lute original is thankfully on the top four strings, but as usual I have tried to fit in some bass notes. The durations shown are as in the original, but it may not be possible to maintain them on the ukulele as they have to be fingered, whereas on the lute they are often on open strings.

The piece is quite syncopated and, to make the timing clearer where a note crosses the beat, I have notated with ligatures rather than dots. In some places, especially where there are three voices, it would be a good idea to take the timing from the notation as the tabs are stretched to the limit.

The first two lines of the galliard from the Sturt Lute Book (British Library).
The grace symbols are clearly visible.
Timing is indicated by the (now conventional) note symbols, but in short-hand form.
Full facsimile on Sarge Gerbode's website here.

The image above shows that the original is decorated with indications of graces (#, × and +). I have omitted them as: (1) there seems no clear consensus of what they mean, and (2) I find the piece difficult enough already. As players of the day seem to have been rather like jazz musicians in their ability to improvise, I think it’s consistent for to us to add mordents, slurs and so on to the longer notes as we see fit (or are able to perform). Or, you might want to download Gerbode's transcript and work out for yourself what is feasible; if you do, let me know.

As with much music of this period, the voices are integral to the piece, and I have found it unrealistic to simplify for performance by, say, just playing the top voice. So ... it's not easy to play, but I have enjoyed trying. Perhaps I'll have a go at making a simple arrangement of the original song.

You can download the galliard in the following formats:

... and also the words and music of the song:

Thursday, 11 October 2018

John Johnson: The Old Medley (Brogyntyn)

After the previous short piece by Johnson, here is a longer one, also from the Brogyntyn Lute Book. I considered adapting a transcription by Sarge Gerbode of another version of this piece from the Marsh Lute Book in Dublin, but it is so full of fast divisions I feel it is out of the scope of this amateur blog.

The first 3 lines from Johnson's The Old Medley. 
Facsimile from
It's a nice clean MS, carefully written, with only one small error that I can detect.

On the whole, it's quite an easy piece, with a few tricky bits. The harmonies are mostly quite simple, with some quick chord changes and patches of syncopation to cope with.

There are eight themes, each followed by an often minor variation. These are indicated in Roman numerals by I, I’, II, II’ and so on. The first three themes are set in in common time annd are 8 bars long; the fourth fits most comfortably into 3/4 and is 4 bars long; and the rest are in 6/8 time and 4 bars long. This ukulele version has been set at 4 bars per line, to make the structure clearer.
The themes are presumably arrangements of old songs and dances, whose identities remain unknown to me.

The abundance of block chords in this 4-string version give a possibly misleading impression that they would have been strummed, but checking the lute originals shows most chords include unplayed internal strings; but, there's no reason that we can't strum them (anachronistically) in the fashion of Gaspar Sanz et al. if we want to.

In chords such as E and F which do not have a root note available on a lower string, I have often added B and A respectively on the 4th string, mainly where a fuller chord is indicated in the MS.
To help in interpretation, I have tried to identify voices by stem direction, but this was not always possible.

Available to download in the following formats: