Came across a reference today to Simon Ives, La Cloche, as recorded by Ghielmi. It’s in both the Manchester Gamba Book and in Martha Bishop’s, Tablature for One (p.131). Turns out it’s in harpe-sette-sharpe which is strings tuned to G and D.

I notice that YouTube performances of lyra pieces on viol often used a seven-string instrument to create the additional resonance and body in the chords.

Check out YouTube for the very bouncy Duke of Holstones Almayne by Hume, from his Musical Humors (viol-way tuning).

Simon Ives, La Cloche. Two eight-bar sections in triple meter. No chords and only a few double-stops, with lovely bell-like descending note.

Thomas Bates, Sarabande. Two eight-bar sections in triple meter, not dissimilar to Wm Kinglake’s A Sarabande with its wide leaps and string-crossing.

Mr Thom Martine, A Thumpe (Manchester III-12, p.43); lyra-way tuning. Less success with this one!

Willis, Corant. Less success with this one too.


One of the reasons I got this weblog going was to psych myself up for some bass viol duets. That has happened, yet, but may. As Picasso once said, “I don’t wait for inspiration to come, I work 9 to 5 in my office every day so I’m ready when it does!” One of the delights of blogging is the serendipitous nature of interweaving realisations and synchronicities. Today’s example is the link between tab for two and bass viol duets.

Music for a Viol: J.Jenkins, Chr Simpson, Th Ford, M Locke. Wieland and Sigiswald Kuijken, viols with Robert Kohnen, harpsichord.  CD. Beert, Belgium: Accent ACC 68014D. Recorded 1980.

Tracks 4-9, Matthew Locke, Duos for two bass Viols, composed in 1652 in C and Emin.

Tracks 12-14, Thomas Ford, Musicke of Sundrie Kindes, 1607.

One notes the players, the Kuijken brothers, and one knows immediately one is talking about the high end of the bass duet repertoire, not just in terms of the technical complexity of the music but the transcendent nature of the performance. For mere mortals, this is the stuff of aspiration, reinforced by three tracks devoted to Chr Simpson divisions and the two fantasias by Jenkins as well, for violoni e viola. Locke and Ford remain accessible for some of us, so I’ll speak of them briefly today.


Tracks 4-6. Fantazia (1.27), Fantazia (2.07) and Saraband (0.45). This is “pure” Locke, consort music distilled into two parts. Brilliantly “searching” introductions quickly developing into the full sound of the confident point once established. Players thrown in some sensitive changes in tempo in the fantasias. Tracks 7-9. Fantazia (1.44), Fantazia (1.52) and Courant (1.28). More of same!

For sheet music, see The King’s Edition, Corda Music Publications, in their usual hand-copied style.


And here’s the cross-over with tablature. Firstly, the sheet music is available in the Martha Bishop tab anthology, Tablature for Two. In that book, her normal tuning works are by Hume and her Lyra Way or Bandora Sett (fefhf) are in the main by Mr Ford. Here you will find Why not Here, which is the title of another CD recording of tab music. They come off here as almost encore pieces after the Jenkins and Simpson.

Track 12. Pavan, M. Maine’s Choice and Galliard (7’48”). The Galliard is a splendid work and the pavAn a beautifully Grave work, from poignant beginning to piercing end, all so delightful the sheet music is worth seeking out. The score is not in the Bishop anthology, but another Paven is, being M Southcote’s Paven.

Track 13. The Baggepipes, Sir John Howards Delight (1’10”).  A mere 20 bars played at a rollicking speed.

Track 14. Why not Here M Crosse His Choice (2’05”). Not dissimilar to the last, but rather more tuneful, including some delightful thumpes or pizzicato, a common ornamental feature of tab and not just in the likes of Hume’s Harke Harke!


 John Rozendaal has a new solo CD out featuring Chr Simpson divisions and pieces from the Manchester Gamba Book.

Why Not Here: English Music for two Lyra Viols is a CD by Lee Santana and Hille Perl, featuring music by Ford, Ferrabosco, Jenkins, Holborne, Alison, Danyel and Lawes. The Ford pieces include Pavane and Galliard, M Mayne’s Choice, Forget me not, Why not here? and another Pavane and Galliard. all with lute accompaniment. The Lawes is the Pavan a3 for lyra viols and Aires for 2 Division Viols in C.


Viola da gamba tablature

December 29, 2009

Unlike my other blog on Japanese Textiles which often seems set to blossom into three figures daily for the number of people reading it, this blog scores a mere handful of readers at any one time. Not that that concerns me too much, since like any journal its purpose is largely for me myself. Too frequently in the past I’ve considered my progress on gamba to be insubstantial and less than what it should be; who or what drives me to compare myself with others is a whole other ball game. I’m certainly gaining clearer insights into why I get intimidated by my own seeming lack of progress on the gamba and certainly the smallest bit of feedback from readers here is incredibly inspiring and motivating. It’s been a quite a few years since I consciously did some inner work along the lines of The Artist’s Way (and the sequel Walking in the World); I think I’m overdue for a bout of that, especially given the death of my father eighteen months ago. I’m not doing any Buddhist sitting meditation either, which dives “beneath” the TAW process straight into the inner peace without any of the “working out” process. I found it useful yesterday to read weblogs created by students of TAW; the evidence is there for all to see of the private and personal impacts of it on individuals’ creativity. 

Viola da gamba tablature

Like most viol players, I got exposed to viol tab in my beginner viol days but never followed through on it. I can now see a lot of potential benefits from taking it more seriously: exposing myself to more Hume and Ferrabosco in particular; I like playing detective; it would be nice to move past ordinary viol tuning to other tunings; the pieces are short enough for me not to be too overwhelmed; I can incorporate technique (playing which note where on the bow); I ought to be composing myself; it might help with the necessary skill of memorisation; it allows me not to worry about playing with others; it translates beautifully into videoclips, as Ben Torrey has so admirably shown.

The Manchester Gamba Book 

The Manchester Gamba Book is such a massive volume it demands respect, as well as engendering curiosity. Its clear original handwritten score is encouraging since you don’t feel an editor has mediated it for you. An admirable goal would be to decipher a piece a day, so I’m writing out the tab with its staff notation transcription above it into my little manuscript book. The first section of pieces is in ordinary staff notation and having briefly looked at some of them already, I’ve come across other published versions of Woodicock for example by Patrice Connelly, Alison Crum and the Newberry Simpson in my music library. So far so good. I also dragged out my Martha Bishop and Carol Herman tutors, along with an American Lute Society book of lute pieces by Pickering and others for lute which I’ve never touched (though have dutifully stuck the errata in the right places). Normally I play around with some of this stuff in a very basic way, then get intimidated at the first difficult point. I note with great satisfaction that some of the MGB is now on the American VdG Society website. The significance of MGB is all the more obvious when I see how dependent Martha Bishop has been on it for her anthologies. I’m a great fan of Hume but d like to get stuck into more Ferrabosco (the consorts are somewhat dense and unforgiving), using the tab as a way into the consorts perhaps, if only to better understand how he wrenched music towards the instrumental away from the vocal, in a similar way to Hume putting Dowland and the lutenists on notice about moving away from lute to viol as chief recreational instrument of the period.

Mr Elliot Oxon, [Untitled], III-13, p.43

So I transcribed Mr Elliott Oxon into ordinary notation so I could see what I was doing. I know I’m supposed to dive straight in and leave staff notation behind, but I need to wean myself of it rather slowly. With this particular piece, I need to keep redoing it to get the rhythms right. One Blessed Reader of this blog has reminded me that each piece in this collection has important secrets to give up and he’s right.

Tobias Hume, I’m falling

With that heavy lifting done, I then opted for I’m falling by Tobias Hume, working it up to a good tempo. It’s on the first page of Martha Bishop’s Tab for One. No great shakes, but I might be on the tab road again!

Wm Kingelake, A Sarabande (III-3)

Inspired by Ben Torrey’s videoclip of the same piece, I jumped a lot further into the book than I thought possible to Lyra-Way or Bandora Sett tuning, which is mainly built around the Fmaj chord: from top string down, DAFCFC. Again, I wrote out the tab and staff notation into my little manuscript book, such is my peculiarly personal way of doing things.

I’ve made a singular turning-point today:  the tuning as shown by Martha Bishop in her Tab One book on page ix contains a typo. This typo unfortunately dispirited me so much last time I looked at tab, I gave up on it. I was so convinced I was right, but had no way of proving it. That someone as great and wonderful as Martha could be wrong didn’t make sense. However Martha herself provides the clue in her intro to Tab Two, where it’s shown correctly. The tuning for the third string is an F and not an E. But I’m still not quite there yet: the written-out tab is right, the staff notation is right, but playing the notes on my viol following the tab sounds wrong. Declaring publicly that I can’t seem to tune my viol properly sounds ignominous. But it sounds perfectly fine when I follow the staff notation. I’m not deterred; everything will turn out in the wash, so much so I’ve moved on to another Lyra-Way piece. Kingelake (I’m sure no other music of his has come down to us) has some topicality; the small village of Kinglake was destroyed, and many of its inhabitants died tragically, this time last year in the massive bushfire storms in Victoria.

G. Willis, Corant. III-14, p.44. 

The Lyra-Way tab pieces in Manchester include ornaments, something I’m not quite ready for just yet. The American Lute Society book has not included the ornaments for beginners either, so one step at a time. But this Corant bounces around the fingerboard in a similar way to the Kingelake and as I predict exploits the F maj arpeggio. Good string crossing practice. This will probably lead to Mr Tho. Martine’s A thump.

 John Moss, Alman. Bibliotheque Nationale Res.860. 

This nice Gmin piece from 1671, both in tab and staff notation, was included in the VdGSA News of March 2000, by way of advertising the Society’s microfilm collection and its rental program.


The Manchester Gamba Book, with an introduction by Paul Furness. Peacock Press, 2003.  Some of these pieces are up on the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s website. Go to “Music” and follow the prompts.

Martha Bishop, Tablature for All! English Country Dances. Book for D instruments. Self-published, 1993. 26 dances, set for two or three instruments (e.g. melody, chordal accompaniment and bass line) so it’s great for two or three or more people.

Martha Bishop. Tablature for Two: collected, edited and composed by Martha Bishop. Self-published, 1980. Various tab tunings, starting with pieces by Hume in ordinary viol tuning in tab, with pieces by the likes of Ford and Ferrabosco following, including Martha’s own interpretations of well-known tunes in difficult tunings.

Carol Herman, Alphabet Soup: a Tablature Primer for Viols. Albany Ca: PRB Productions, Educational Series no.2, 1990. Carol used to do a mean intro to tab for viol students. Here she has composed easy melody lines (in both D and G instrument versions) with an accompanying bass line. A good primer before tackling the Bishop anthologies.

Karen Myers, ed. The First Book of French Tablature. Lute Society of America, Special Publication 1993. 25 or so lute pieces without ornaments (Pickering, Playford et al.), one to a page. Nice big print, as are the others here. A useful final two pages of blank tab paper for your own efforts.



Manchester Gamba Book

December 25, 2009

The Manchester Gamba Book, with an introduction by Paul Furness. Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire: Peacock Press, 2003. Reproduced from the manuscript in the Henry Watson Music Library (BRm 832 Vu 51) by kind permission of the Director of the Manchester Public Libraries.

Inspired by the prospect of music for two lyra viols by Wm Cranford sometime, I’ve put this music on the stand. This is a facsimile of the manuscript printed on yellow paper. It’s one of the largest collections of lyra viol music around, so Martha Bishop and others have included it in their anthologies of tablature.

Sherlie and Ives are in this collection, along with Coleman, Young, Lawes and Jenkins, which puts it smack in the period 1640-1660 I guess. Last time I tried to unravel the tunings, I came unstuck. The first twelve pieces are in staff notation. The first piece sounds like a Ballet from the suites of Hotman.The pedagogic value of this “A Schoole grounde” is demonstrated in the very similar No.5 “A fancie“. Nice to get my fingers around No.4 Wooddicocke, so to speak, with all the Englishness of “Greensleeves“. The untitled No.2 and 3 by Hugh Facie make a lot less sense and I’ll leave the 16th note runs in the Richarde Sumarte bastarda-like pieces for another day, though no.11 recalls Lachrymae.

A “way into” the 27 pieces with standard tuning (Violl Waye) might be the well-known tune of No.6 Daphne and then perhaps No.9 Lachrymae.

Other diversions –

* a seven-string 70cm bass (after Bertrand) on eBay for $AU4000.

* lush viola solo (would sound great on gamba) in a piece called Celtic Dance, as recorded and distributed by the Palm Strings Quartet, A Festive Christmas. See

* And Johnny Depp in “The Libertine“. Astonishingly good writing in this film, notwithstanding the unusually blunt bawdy language. Concerning the Earl of Rochester and Elizabeth Barry (with references to Wren, the Great Fire and plague), it follows on very naturally after another film, also made in 2004, set in the Restoration, Stage Beauty. In SB, Rupert Everett plays Charles II; in Libertine, he is played by John Malkovich.  Stage Beauty is a rivetting drama about the first women to take the stage in Restoration England, replacing men actors playing women; Libertine is set but a few years later. No viols in either, but Stage Beauty has a scene of instrumentalists in a public house which bears striking resemblance to a description by Roger North at the time about violin solos in such venues as organised by Banister. Neither is your standard bonnet drama by any means, with Stage Beauty being largely and strongly feminist and Libertine seriously exploring wine, women and theatre (that is to say, addiction, sexuality, gender relations and the life/artifice divide). Both deal with important social issues (sexuality, gender relations and personal freedom in the main, and the English love of the theatre) set against the upheaval of Charlie’s Restoration England. It’s certainly not hard to imagine Purcell and his predecessors of Charles I’s time in both films. Stage Beauty, set somewhat earlier points up the frippery somewhat more; Libertine shows Charles II in more desperate times and in more straightened times politically, without Nell being portrayed at all. Both show everyone literally mired down in the filthy muddy streets of England; Libertine has more of the heavy fog about it. Both form a nice foil to how things were in France at the time, as portrayed in Tous les matins du monde.