Posts listed by hardness

As this blog has grown, it has become more and more difficult to navigate, to see what is on offer. You can access the transcriptions, arranged in alphabetical order, using Quick links to transcriptions  towards the bottom of the right-hand column.

  However, a number of correspondents have asked me to give some idea of difficulty of the pieces that I post – as I know, it can be off-putting download a piece and then find that it is apparently impossible. So, I have played the pieces through and ranked them on a scale of hardness, from
1 = very easy, as in a simple melody, to
10 = so hard, I doubt that I will ever be able to play it.
It's all very personal, but it will give you a rough idea.

  A scale of 10 points may seem excessively precise, but I found on attempting a simpler scale I needed half points. And, of course, it's only an impression, and depends on how fast you play - the slower, the easier.

  I have graded the pieces according to the hardness of the whole arrangement, but it is worth bearing in mind that this is determined by later variations on the theme which are always more complex; the theme itself will be several grades easier, and well worth playing on its own, so don't be put off.

Veneto: Woman playing a lute.
Note the naughty wrap-around left thumb.

  Why are some of the arrangements so difficult? Well, I decided that I would try to make the adaptations from the lute originals as complete as possible, so the fault (if fault it be) really lies with the composers. It's always easier for you, the player, to further reduce the arrangements than it is to add missing bits. As I get more experienced in transcription, I will attempt the more difficult task of simplifying further to make versions that are more accessible. Sometimes, even changing the key makes an appreciable difference, but if I take that too far every piece will end up in the key of G.

I have indicated the upper and lower voices in the music by stems that point up or down respectively. For a quick and easy(?) play-through, you might want to keep to the top voice only.

  (If you wonder why I use the term 'hardness' rather than 'difficulty' it's because the former seems more appropriate to 16th century English, as earlier dictionaries were sold as lists of 'hard words'. Also, there's a certain resonance with the scale used by geologists.)

Just click on the title below to go to the blog post for the tabs. Don't forget: even the hard ones start much easier, so will be worth a try.

  (There may be a few inactive entries of pieces yet to be loaded.)

Hardness = 1

Hardness = 2

Hardness = 3

Hardness = 4

Hardness = 5

Dowland: Earl of Essex galliard

Hardness = 6

Hardness = 7

Hardness = 8

Hardness = 9

Hardness = 10


  1. Hello there, what a nice discovery. I’m having trouble opening the link to Dido’s Lament. Any chance you can make it available or send to me? Kind regards. ANNE

    1. Hi Anne

      Thank you for your kind comment.

      Yes, I did an oops! I made the link to the editable version of the post, not to the public version. Thank you for letting me know. I've corrected the link, so it should work now.

      I hope you enjoy playing it. Any problems, just ask.

      Best wishes

  2. The blogg is great, only thing that i would have wanted was tabs in orthodox notation. The system where you put the number below the line is very confusing, especially when most other tabs are arranged so that the number is on the line. On average, I spend twice as long time learning pieces with this system.

  3. Hi Marius
    I'm glad that you like the blog. You raise a good point about on-the-lines (otl) or between-the-lines (btl) tabs. I agonized over this, but I went for btl because that is how the French Renaissance lute and guitar format tabs of Dowland, Le Roy etc were written (though admittedly with letters rather than numerals).
    A possible solution: If you open the tef files with the free Tabledit reader, you can format them as you like and print them.
    Best wishes


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