Saturday, 25 February 2017

Luis de Narváez: Diferencias sobre "Guárdame las Vacas"

Woodcut of a vihuela player
Vihuela player

Last week I posted variations by Alonso Mudarra (Romanesca) on the same piece, namely Guardame_las_vacas. The present variations (Diferencias) were written for vihuela* by Narváez in the second quarter of the 16th century. The variations are built on the 8-chord sequence:

| III | VII | i | V | III | VII | i,V | i |,

whilst Romanesca adds an extra 2 bars (| IV | i |) at the end.

This is a popular piece, and there are loads of versions on YouTube. The indefatigable Luthval has loaded a performance on vihuela here.

It looks like being a good exercise for enthusiasts of arpeggios and scales. I transcribed it from a notational transcription of the vihuela original, published by Bernd Goldau here. Where there was an open 6th string (E) in the original, I have substituted low G# in the uke version.

At first sight I thought that this would be a nice easy one, but keeping a smooth line at speed is a  challenge. I have tried to finger the scales so that if there is a change in position there is an open string between positions to give me a chance to jump there. You may well have your own preferred way of moving around the fingerboard.

The piece does involve the full range of the uke (well, up to fret 15 on the 1st string), and can sound a bit plinky on the top notes. One has the option of dropping an octave in some places, but it could then sound disjointed. My main stumbling block is the pair of chords in the second half of bar 35: my best way of dealing with this is: to form a second barré; finger the frets 3-5-4-2; play strings 1, 2, 4; finger off string 1; play strings 1, 2, 3. If you find any difficulties, it's always possible to simplify – I try to make the arrangements as full as possible so that you (or I) can do just that.

Most performances seem to be about 130 – 140 bpm (otherwise the final bars of each section seem too long), but I have set the MIDI version at 120 bpm, which is minimally less scary. Even so, it remains an aspiration.

It's available in these formats: pdf (preview), pdf auto download,  TablEdit and MIDI.

* The vihuela was essentially a guitar strung and fretted like a lute – I hope this description doesn't offend any vihuelistas.


  1. Hello,

    Thank you so much for this great blog. The transcriptions are very good and accurate, perhaps the best free renaissance tabs for uke on the web. Hope you will someday include some baroque guitar repertoire which sometimes lends itself very well to the low g uke (especially robert de visée and françois campion).
    Greetings and regards,
    Gilles T.

  2. Thank you, Gilles. I'm flattered, and so pleased that you enjoy the arrangements. I will certainly look at the composers you suggest - I have seen their names, but never explored their work. Best wishes, Harry.


I hope you enjoy these arrangements. I would welcome your views, and comments on possible errors or improvements.