I hope that isn't all I said - if so parts got lost in the ether!
You'd have seen from my eml that in fact I think it's a matter of
horses for courses so that, for example, to return to Les Bouffons:
- I would strum the block chords (including those where one is
requiired to leave out the top course); and no - I wouldn't strum
of the chords in the diminuee section. Similarly in your 'sober'
I might not strum even if it were possible - however to automatically
link strumming with jocund play and plain plucking for sombre/sober
music is selling the guitar short (there are strums in 17thC
tombeaux) - so I might.
The point about inversions is not that they don't sometimes appear
one is obliged to pluck (such as a chord using the 1st, 2nd and 4th
courses only), but that in sequences of block chords they
are disguised by strumming (as, of course, common in 17thC tablatures
as well as this 4 course example). This is why I choose Les
a good example of such block chords rather than a fantasia which may
not have such and would suggest plucking. In short, I don't think
one or the other: both can be employed in the same piece.
The relevance of the cittern isn't to suggest that the guitar was
played with a plectrum but that strumming was a well known
the 16th century. Indeed, purchasers of Morlaye's fourth book (1552)
would have bought not only four course guitar music (including fine
fantasias by da Rippe and lovely Italian dances such as La Seraphine)
but also music for the cittern printed in the same book!
if you look at La Seraphine you'll see that the second two note
in bar one (and elsewhere) is played with a upstroke strum of the
Finally, I've just been playing through Bartolotti's second book
again struck not only by the originality and beauty of this music but
by the way he uses many different types of play in the same piece:
strummed chords - full, partial and inner: plucked chords - ditto;
arpeggios, single notes etc in a very fluent manner. I see no
suppose earlier guitarists were incapable of playing in a similar
manner - allbeit with less virtuosity.
--- On Tue, 3/8/10, Stuart Walsh <s.wa...@ntlworld.com> wrote:
From: Stuart Walsh <s.wa...@ntlworld.com>
Subject: [VIHUELA] Re: Four c. guitar - strumming
To: "Monica Hall" <mjlh...@tiscali.co.uk>
Cc: "Vihuelalist" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tuesday, 3 August, 2010, 10:41
(I prefer to reply after the message, so you read the the message and
then the reply ("bottom posting" as it is called, which sounds
ridiculous). But Monica has asked me to reply at the top.)
I rather incautiously claimed that strumming on the guitar emerged
at the end of the 16th century. Obviously that's a daft thing to say:
how could anyone know? But evidence for strumming on the guitar? With
the development of alfabeto and the 5-course guitar in the 17th
century, strumming is talked about a very great deal and it is
- it's what the guitar is all about at this time.
The existing repertoire for the four-course guitar is quite small
(Gerard Rebours has the actual number on his website! ...about 400?).
Most of the Spanish stuff is really very sober - just like the
repertoire.Not obviously strum material. The Leroy books in France
have fantasies, settings of chansons, dances with elaborate
and there is no textual evidence for strumming nor little place for
The fourth book of Brayssing is particularly sober with fantasies,
psalms and lengthy chanson settings. Joceyln says she can't imagine
setting of La Guerre without strums (presumably the setting here,
rather than the Pavane and Galliarde de la guerre set by Leroy) and
would certainly be a striking effect in this one piece - but is there
anywhere else in that Book (Book 4) where strumming strongly suggest
itself? Obviously, if you have some sort of prior commitment to the
intrinsic strumminess of the guitar you can invent where it might
only have some pieces from the Gorlier books - but again there are
sober duos and some religious things as well as dances and the
written out for fingerstyle play, not chords. I think you could play
much (most?) of the existing repertoire without even having to
consider possibility/appropriateness of strumming. (The Braye/
MS is one small exception, of course)
Jocelyn says that strumming is important in the songs. (books 2
Jonathan LeCoq wrote an article (The Lute 1995) looking at the
possibility that these songs were never meant to be actually sung and
are solos (as they appear in Phalese 1570) so there would be no
add strumming - which isn't there. Or, if sung, get the singer to
up a bit!
References to the cittern of the time don't seem to me to be relevant
at all (unless we are talking about fingerstyle play, which
we are not). When played with a plectrum it is not a matter of
to play a chord you have to move the plectrum over the strings
. On a guitar you can pluck (in different ways) OR strum.
Martyn suggest that strumming disguises the sound of some chord
inversions - but there are many places where you can't strum and just
have to live with the sound of the rootless chord anyway. (There are
examples of this even in the 18th century on the English guitar where
pieces in F major will end on a chord with the bottom note A, even
it would be possible to play F below it).
But underlying it all seems to be some kind of commitment to the
instrinsic strumminess of the guitar ('intrinsically natural',
'idiomatic' as Jocelyn puts it). Well strumming is certainly the
of the 17th century guitar. But later? Merchi et al? Or the thousands
of pieces from the 19th century?
Flamenco and modern popular guitar uses strums but that doesn't make
strumming ancient and the 16th century four-course guitar repertoire,
as it exists, doesn't seem to exhibit any necessity for strumming
except for a bit of colour, here and there (La Guerre, Les Bouffons).
The guitar can 'do' strumming but it isn't obliged to, as it were.
Monica says that I'm adopting a lutecentric (I just made that word
view of the four-course guitar. But on the evidence of most of the
repertoire, the little guitar does seem to being treated as a little
lute or vihuela. Now maybe other people of the time were strumming
dusk until dawn - but there is no particular reason to think they
For starters Foscarini does not claim to be the first person to have
combined tablature with alfabeto or to have written pieces in mixed
The point made by myself and others is that his is the first
to include music of this kind.
There is at least one Italian ms. - I:Bc Ms. V.280 - dated 1614 in
guitar music is written out in tablature on 5-lines and although the
are apparently intended to be strummed because there are stroke marks
beneath them some of the chords are almost certainly intended to
fewer than 5-courses. There are also some obscure passages in the
pieces where figures seem to be used to indicate short passages in
There is no evidence that strumming emerged only at the end of the
16th century. What did happen at the end of the century is that the
5th course was added to the guitar - or at least became more common.
These things never happen overnight and are seldom the invention of
individual. Notation evolves as musical styles change and always
behind. (The very first essay I had to write at Uni was on this
Returning to the 4-course books, as I originally pointed out these
printed using the same font of type as the lute books published by
Co. At least one of them includes music for cittern printed in the
way although - since the cittern is played with a plectrum the chords
have been strummed. The font of type probably didn't include any
indicate elaborate right-hand technique.
Since the lute (I believe) was also originally played with a plectrum
hard to believe that chords were not occasionally strummed even if
there is no indication of this.
Many of the 4-part chords in these books are the standard alfabeto
chords minus the 5th
course. Les Bouffons is a classic example since it is based on a
chord sequence -
I IV I V I IV I V I
and the chords in alfabeto are
A B A C A B A C A
Gm Cm Gm Dm Gm Cm Gm Dm Gm
They didn't suddenly start strumming them when they added the 5th
My fingers don't end up miles away from the strings when strumming
have no difficulty in playing pieces in mixed style - and I'm only an
amateur! Leaving out the first course is standard practice - De
others even puts in dots to indicate the ones to be left out. It is
standard practice to strum the inner three courses on the 5-course
the baroque guitar you should not play close to the bridge at
all. That is a lute thing This is what Santiago de Murcia says-
beside the bridge of the guitar, so as to steady the hand, because
"The usual method of all beginners is to place the little finger
are unable to strike the strings with the hand free, but only in the
This [manner of playing] will not be seen used by any expert who
plays this instrument with any skill, especially if the works being
played are delicate with strummed chords because these must be played
in the middle of the instrument. The hand should only be placed on
bridge when it is necessary to play loudly, as when accompanying
reply at the top. As far as I am aware this is standard
You shouldn't be playing the guitar as if it were a lute.
That will have to do for now - but
Please, Please, Stuart when you reply to messages can you put your
or what you will - practice. Otherwise the messages are a complete
. ----- Original Message ----- From: "Stuart Walsh"
Cc: "'Vihuelalist'" <vihu...@cs.dartmouth.edu>
Sent: Monday, August 02, 2010 11:11 AM
Subject: [VIHUELA] Re: Four c. guitar - strumming
Here's 'Les Buffons' as in the Phalese edition of 1570 and in
1969 trancription. Giesbert has added fingering and strumming
are not in the original.
Now some people, like (I hope I'm right in this) Monica and Martyn
that a piece like this (and many others) might - or even would -
strummed. Whenever I have had a run through of this repertoire - and
pieces like this - I've never thought of strumming as first option
something that might just be added in places.
Martin Shepherd pointed out some examples of strumming in the lute
of the time but it would seem to be fair to say that out of the
of lute pieces from this time when the lute was the pre-eminent
instrument, strumming occupies only a minute fragment. So strumming
not a typical or common practice on the lute, it would
block chords on guitars (on all strings) emerged at the end of the
century (of course, correct me on this if I'm wrong!) but playing
version of Les Bouffons with strumming would involve the mixed
and plucking style that Foscarini claimed to have invented in the
I play Les Bouffons (and pieces like this) fingerstyle and the
in position to play the punteado,fingerstyle bits. One of the issues
the mixed style of the 17th century is that if you do a fancy strum
your fingers end up half a mile away from the strings and then you
get them back to do some fingerstyle play. Also in Les Bouffons, in
second bar of the second section, if you are strumming, you have to
strum which omits the top course. That's a bit tricky to do and the
arranger didn't include the addition of another note on the top
(fret one) which would make a simple downward strum easy to do and
interrupts the melodic line such as it is.
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