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Alonso Mudarra -

Complete works for vihuela in modern tablature

Presented here are all the solo pieces for vihuela and for 4-string guitar from Alonso Mudarra's Tres Libros de Musica en Cifras. This modern tablature uses only common keyboard characters - no graphics. It's very simple and instantly usable, but you might want to click here for some general comments on the modern tablature, including tips on printing it out perfectly.

You can also find all of these pieces in a graphic tablature format on Wayne Cripp's Lute site. (Just search on those keywords.) You'll find instructions on how to view the tablature and print it out. (You use a program called GhostView.) Mike Graham did the original conversion from the ascii tablature you'll find here, and Leonard Williams made further refinements. The results look great.

Further comments specific to Alonso Mudarra's tablature follow the table of contents. For convenience, each piece by Mudarra has been assigned a short ID.

Tres Libros - Book 1

Fantasias in three and four part writing

AM1: Fantasia de pasos largos para desenbouluer las manos.
AM2: Fantasia para desenboluer las manos.
AM3: Fantasia de pasos para desenbouluer las manos.
AM4: Fantasias de pasos de contado.
AM5: Fantasia facil.
AM6: Fantasia facil.
AM7: Fantasia facil.
AM8: Fantasia.
AM9: Fantasia.
AM10: Fantasia que contrahaze la harpa en la manera de Luduvico.

Compositions of Josquin des Pres

AM11: La segunda parte de la gloria de la misa de faysan regres.
AM12: Pleni de la misa de faysan regres.

Lesser pieces

AM13: Conde Claros.
AM14 Romanesca: o guardame las vacas.
AM15: Pavana
AM16: Pavana de Alexandre.
AM17: Gallarda.

Pieces for guitar

AM18: Fantasia del primer tono.
AM19: Fantasia del quarto tono.
AM20: Fantasia del quinto tono.
AM21: Fantasia del primer tono.
AM22: Pavana.
AM23: Romanesca: o guardame las vacas.

Tres Libros - Book 2

Pieces in the First Mode (tono)

AM24: Tiento.
AM25: Fantasia.
AM26: Kyrie primero de la missa de Beata Virgine de Josquin glosado.
AM27: Fantasia.

Pieces in the Second Mode

AM28: Tiento.
AM29: Fantasia.
AM30: Fantasia de sobre fa mi ut re.

Pieces in the Third Mode

AM31: Tiento.
AM32: Fantasia .
AM33: Glosa sobre un Kyrie postrero de una misa de Josquin qua va sobre Pange Lingua.

Pieces in the Fourth Mode

AM34: Tiento.
AM35: Fantasia.
AM36: Glosa sobre un Benedictus de una missa de Josquin que va sobre la sol fa re mi.

Pieces in the Fifth Mode

AM37: Tiento.
AM38: Fantasia.
AM39: Fantasia.

Pieces in the Sixth Mode

AM40: Tiento.
AM41: Fantasia .
AM42: Glosa sobre el promer Kirie de una missa de Antoine Fevin que va sobre Ave Maria.

Pieces in the Seventh Mode

AM43: Tiento.
AM44: Fantasia.
AM45: Glosa sobre el Cum Sancto Spiritu de la missa de Beata Virgine de Josquin.

Pieces in the Eighth Mode

AM46: Tiento.
AM47: Fantasia.
AM48: Fantasia.
AM49: Fantasia va sobre fa mi fa re ut sol fa sol mi re.

Tres Libros - Book 3


AM50: Pater noster a quatro de Adrian Williart.
AM51: Respice in me Deus de Gombert.

The remainder of Book III is for voice and vihuela, plus one piece for harp or organ.

Mudarra, vihuela and tablature

Alonso Mudarra was the third of the known vihuelists with surviving publications. His Tres Libros de Musica en Cifras (1546) followed Luis Milan's El Maestro (1535) and Luis de Narvaez' Seys Libros del Delfin de Musica (1538).

His title page began as follows:



cil en fantasias: y ComPosturas: y Pauanas: y Gallardas: y AlGunas fanta=
sias pora guitarra. El segundo trata de los ocha tonos (omodas)
tiene muchas fantasias Por diuersas partes: y Com
posturas glosadas. El tercero es de musica
para cantada y tanida...

Fue impresso el presente libro enla muy noble y leal ciudad de Siuilla en casa de Iuan deLeon.

I can't recommend strongly enough buying a facsimile copy of Tres Libros de Musica en Cifras. Mine was published by Editions Chanterelle (1980) and has explanatory material by James Tyler. Everything you need to play the music is here in these web pages, but having access to the original enhances the experience immeasurably. Even if you never actually play from the facsimile, merely looking it over and cross-checking a few bars here and there with the modern tablature goes a long way in removing the "middle man" (me) from between you and Mudarra.

TABLATURE ORIENTATION: Mudarra's tablature is "upside-down" (although I doubt that Alonso would agree.) His top-most line in the tablature staff represents the bass-most string on the vihuela. This modern tablature has flip-flopped the original tablature staff; the top-most space here represents the treble-most string.

VIHUELA TUNING: For some reason, we say the nominal tuning for the vihuela was G c f a d' g' even though there was no standardized pitch back then. The same intervals can be gotten on the guitar by tuning string 3 down a half-step to f#. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to put a capo on the 3rd fret solely for the purpose of matching the nominal vihuela pitch, but there may be other reasons for using a capo at any fret that works well for you. Some people say the capo "lightens the sound".

TEMPO: Mudarra uses three different symbols to indicate tempo. They were placed at the beginning of the first tablature staff. A symbol which looks like a Greek phi means "apriesa" (quickly). A "C" (which looks like our common time symbol) means a middle tempo. A "C" with a vertical slash down the middle (which looks like our cut time symbol) means "despacio" (slowly). These symbols were written on Mudarra's 1st, 2nd or 3rd line. I don't know what the different locations imply.

HELD NOTES: A caret, or hat (^), above a fret number in Mudarra's tablature means to let the note ring as long as possible. I suggest writing in a concave-up tie starting below the fret number and open-ended to the right.

RIGHT-HAND TECHNIQUE: In a few pieces, Mudarra gives instructions for the right hand. He writes "dedi" for a "dedillo" passage - the index finger alone plays by plucking up and down. "Dosde" is short for "de dos dedos", which means to play the passage with alternating thumb and index finger. In some instances it is not clear exactly which fret number Mudarra's instruction is aligned with - not that this is crucial. (Modern right-hand technique seems to work fine.)

ORNAMENTATION: Mudarra's tablature shows no ornaments.

FINAL MEASURES: Mudarra always wrote a breve (1 breve = 2 whole notes) as the rhythm for the last measure. Note that this is twice the value of the other measures.

SIMPLIFICATIONS: While evolution has generally been very good to us humans, it's pretty clear that it's been sabotaging our left hands over the last few centuries. In particular, the 4-finger "flying wedge" formation shown below must have been child's play in the 1500s and 1600s, judging by its ubiquity. For most modern guitar mortals, it's a sure-fire crash point. Suggestion: use a 3-finger formation and leave out the second note from the top. Hey, it sounds the same! (The first example is typical in the vihuela pieces, the second in the guitar pieces.)

          _____    _____          _____    _____
          |____    ____|          |_5__    __5_|
          |_4__    __4_|          |_6__    ____|
          |_5__ to ____|          |_5__ to __5_|
          |_4__    __4_|          |_3__    __3_|
          |_2__    __2_|          |____    ____|
          |____    ____|          |____    ____|

In most other cases of hard chord formations, it is possible to pull a similar stunt: just eliminate an internal note which is an octave of the bass or treble note. There will be negligible loss of effect.

RHYTHM VALUES: All of Mudarra's rhythm values have been halved (with the exception of one piece where they were quartered.) This brings the rhythm values into line with what we are used to reading today. Also, if the rhythms weren't halved, the tablature would show hypnotizingly long passages of bare stems. A single beam would appear only where the tablature here shows 16th notes.

Halving the rhythms makes it harder to describe corrections that have been made to the rhythms. (There weren't many.) I always speak in terms of Mudarra's original, full-length rhythmic values, so you must make a mental conversion when looking at the modern tablature.

Remember that in the original tablature, a rhythm symbol is supplied only when a new rhythm begins. I write the implied rhythmic values in ( ). For example, where Mudarra writes . . .

        |             __   
        o      |      |   |

. . . I would describe the rhythms as follows:

Bar 1 - half (half).
Bar 2 - (half) 4er (4er).
Bar 3 - (4er) 8th (8th) 4er (4er).


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Helpful keywords not in the main text: four-string guitar; four-string renaissance guitar; upside-down tablature; capotasto.

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