Thursday, 30 March 2017

Dowland: Melancholy Galliard (P 25)

This is perhaps my favourite Dowland lute piece to play on the ukulele – possibly because one can take ones time over it. It's not half so difficult as the lute version which has some chords that seem to me to be physically impossible, as well as having all those extra strings to play.

The first few bars of a contemporary copy by Matthew Holmes, to give you an impression of the original lute MS. (The label covers the end of a previous piece, as the pieces are contiguous, presumably to save paper.)
The first two strings of the lute translate directly to the uke, so you can compare it with my translation below. The lute symbols are: a = open string, b = 1st fret, c (looks like r) = 2nd fret, d (looks like j without a dot) = 3rd fret, and so on. In the indication of note length, they used one more tail or beam than we do.
You can see a full facsimile of the original here.

Dowland Melancholy Galliard Tabs for ukulele
An image of the tabs for the first section of the piece. The full version can be downloaded by clicking on the links below.

As usual, reducing the lute version has entailed great simplification, but I have tried to retain the several voices, and the sweet transient dissonances, where I can. I find it is not always possible to hold the bass notes for as long as I might want. The tabs give a reasonable impression of the music, but the notation shows the note lengths and voices more clearly.

The structure is a simple one: a, a', b, b', c, c', with the primes indicating a slightly more decorated variation.

It's available in pdf (preview), pdf auto downloadMIDI and TablEdit formats. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I do.


  1. Dear Harry,

    thank you for this timeless gem. Double luck for me today, because my new 8 string tenor had just arrived and "melancholy galliard" fits it perfectly well, the chiming sound of the octave courses adding a haunting mood to Dowland's magick... Just out of curiosity, have you tried transcribing "lachrimae pavan" as well?

  2. Belated thanks, Gilles. It's an old warhorse, and I'm glad you like it.
    Your new tenor sounds great - I am now suffering from ukulele envy.
    I have avoided Lachrimae Pavan as it looks v difficult, and certainly sounds it in Nigel North's performance. But ... I went back to Sarge Gerbode's site, and he has posted an alternative simpler version 15a (in A), so last night I made a rough transcription. It's playable, but I have to organize the bass line (replacing roots with fifths, etc.) When I know it better I'll post it.
    Btw, the inexhaustible Ukeval (alias Luthval) has posted a soprano uke version here:


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