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Accessible Lute Music

 Sarge Gerbode's Lute Page

Here you will find more than 8000 lute pieces in French tablature in the following formats: fronimo (ft3), from , midi, and PDF (which you can read using Acrobat Reader). (Why the different formats?).  I apologize to those who prefer other formats, such as Spanish or Italian, but I believe French is the most widely used format, though it is easy to change to another format -- even German tab (not that anyone would really want to do this…)! These pieces are mostly for renaissance lute, but quite a few are for baroque lute and archlute, and a very few for theorbo, cittern, bandora, guitar etc. Other pieces include songs and continuo pieces, listed by composer. Under Lute ensemble in the list of composers, you will find pieces for two or more lutes.

The latest fronimo files (since December, 2015) were created with a new version of Fronimo, obtainable now on my site.  The new version corrects some minor bugs and adds tabbed files when you open more than one fronimo files at once, a convenient way to switch back and forth between the files. It is also possible, with the new version, to insert colored notes, as used in Narvaez to display a melody line.  I will try to keep the latest version of fronimo on my site for your convenience.  Suggestions for using it efficiently are also on my site, as well as a description of the format I follow  in all the postings on this site.

This website is now mirrored at www.lute.ru/gerbode , thanks to the good offices of , who has also translated the site into Russian at  www.lute.ru/gerbode/ru.  I will try to keep the mirror site as updated as possible, but gerbode.net is likely to be the latest and greatest. 

Site Structure

There are three main directories under http://gerbode.net:

/composers

This is a listing by composer, but some items that were under "composers" (like "Besard") actually belong under "sources", because they are anthologies or compilations. The intention is to gradually pare down the contents of this directory and post as much as possible under "sources". Once the database is up and running, you will be able to search by composer (or any other parameters). 

/facsimiles

These are facsimiles of source documents.

/sources

These are complete fronimo editions of sources.

Spreadsheet

This is an Excel spreadsheet with a comprehensive list of all the fronimo files on the website. It should reflect the approximate current state of the data.  It also contains hyperlinks to fronimo, midi, and pdf files for each entry.  For each piece listed, it has 26 fields that contain other data, such as key, type of piece, instrumentation, source, and difficulty.  If you can read this file, that is probably the easiest way of finding things.
In addition, the following:

Lute links

This is a list of other websites with related information.

Latest Postings

26May17: Completed Volume 13 - Sacred songs.  That completes the entire Dlugorai lute book.

22May17: Completed Volume 12 - Latin and Italian songs.  I am indebted to John Robinson and Catherine Liddell for helping me identify some maddeningly familiar but heretofore unidentified pieces.

06May17: Completed Volume 11 - German songs.

13Apr17: Completed Volume 10 - Chorea.  The word "chorea" means "dance" in Latin. So it could be a fairly non-specific label.  However, most of the pieces in this collection appear to be allemandes, though there are also some Polish dances, and some of the pieces have a triple second section, a "proportio" or a saltarello.

26Mar17: Completed Volume 9 - Voltes.

21Mar17: Completed Volume 8 - Ballets.  A ballet in this time period appears to be a short, light-weight dance, usually in duple time like an allemande but sometimes triple or with triple sections. Thanks to Catherine Liddell for pointing out other instances of ballets in Ballard (1609-1622), Vallet (1616), and  one in Francisque (1600), f. 31vb. Also, many thanks to John Robinson for his careful preparation of concordances and other helpful comments on the pieces in this volume.  This volume, like the others, is rife with errors, but with a little imagination it is possible to suss out what was probably intended.  There are so many errors in rhythm flags that at times I have not notated all of my corrections as the piece would then be hard to read.  I have noted any errors in notes.

14Mar17: Back on the Dlugorai Lute book.  Completed  Volume 7, the section on courantes. As with the rest of this volume, I had to struggle with careless and corrupt scribery (rhythm flags were pretty arbitrary), but there are many charming pieces in the volume nonetheless.

05Mar17: Completed the third and final volume of Donaueschingen, with 120 pages of German tab, as well as its facsimile.  It consists of a few dances and fantasies, but mainly consists of vocal intabulations of pieces by many European composers.

09Jan17: Completed the second Donaueschingen volume, consisting of 162 pages of German tab.  I have also posted the original v2 facsimile.  V. 2 contains 136 pieces., many intabulations of works by Cipriano de Rore and Orlando di Lasso.  It also includes copies, in German tab, of all of Matelart's 1579 volume, including his added parts to create duets to Milano pieces and 13 solo fantasies of his own., as well as miscellaneous pieces by other composers. Again, I am grateful to Arthur Ness and John Robinson for invaluable assistance in sorting out puzzling aspects of the work and for help in finding related source documents.

21Nov16: Completed the first of three volumes of the Donaueschingen Lute Book.  This is a very large German tab source, consisting of three volumes of about 150 large pages each, written for lutes of 6 to 8 courses.  I am also including a cleaned-up version of the original v1 facsimile. The handwriting is unusually clear, and the music has very few errors. It was apparently compiled and written by three doctors of the time.  The first volume contains 117 pieces, including many secular and religious vocal intabulations, as well as some fantasies and many dances.  The tab format is somewhat ususual in that the notation allows accessing any position of the 8 courses on the fingerboard.  In many of the pieces, it also contains tenuto marks (dots or small crossed before the notes to be held) and also right hand fingering dots.  In putting out this edition, I have received significant help and encouragement from Arthur Ness, John Robinson, and Catherine Liddell, who is the one who turned me on to the MS.

11Oct16: I took a break from Dlugorai and completed work on Attaingnant's collection: Dix-huits Basses danses (1530). This is a collection of 63 pieces, including various dances, mostly very easy ones.  Jason Kortis did the encoding, which was entirely error-free, so far as I could tell, and I edited it to my preferred format.

16Sep15: Completed work on the 6th section of Dlugorai, containing galliards. Herbert Speck also set these pieces, and John Robinson set several of them.  I completed my versions before consulting theirs, then checked mine against theirs.  In those cases where I thought they had a preferable version to mine, I noted the editorial changes with their initials [hs] and [lhr].  In doing this section of Dlugorai, I received considerable help and encouragement from John Robinson and Catherine Liddell., which is much appreciated. I should also mention that John Robinson has been very helpful in providing tables of contents for all the Dlugorai sections and for identifying composers, common titles, and concordances for many, if not most, of them.

31Aug16: Completed work on the 5th section of Dlugorai, consisting of "intradas".  After a discussion with John Robinson and Catherine Liddell, I have come to the conclusion that, for purposes of this lute book, an intrada is simply a piece that can be used to start of introduce something, not otherwise a specific type.  That being said, most of the pieces in this section of Dlugorai appear to be allemandes, accompanied by a lesser number of galliards and other triple time pieces, and a few vocal intabulations.  The quality seems still to be quite poor, but there is an occasional gem to be found here.

23Aug16: Completed work on the 4th section of the Dlugorai Lute Book, devoted to pavanes.

29Jul16: Completed the first three sections of the Dlugorai Lute Book, a massive MS consisting of 530 pages of music for 8-course lute, in a somewhat idiosyncratic form of German tablature, divided into different sections.  The first section consists of preludes and various exercises, samples of cadential endings ("cadentia" and "finales"), etc. The second consists of "fugae", which seem more like preludes than fugues, and passamezzi.  The third consists of fantasies plus one galliard. The scribe is quite careless, especially in the placement and value of the rhythm flags, so a fair amount of interpretation and modification has been necessary to produce a reasonable result.  Frequent line errors indicate that some of the pieces may have been copied from sources in French or Italian tab.  After I completed my edition of these first three parts, I discovered that John Robinson had covered much of the same ground in his editions for LSA and Tree.  In comparing our editions, I found that we agreed on about 90% of the corrections, which was very reassuring, because John is a very able and experienced editor.  In those spots where I liked his corrections better than mine,  I put his initials [jhr] in the footnotes documenting the corrections.  I retain full responsibility for any errors in my editions, however.  I hope they are few.

19Jul16: Completed the Barberis Lute book (1549), v.10.  This contains fantasies and vocal intabulations. It also contains two duets and some pieces for alternate tunings, as well as four pieces labeled as fantasies for 4-course guitar, but which are probably branles.  In general, the book is of poor quality, with a number of errors.  Also, the composers fantasies are not particularly interesting.  The duets required a lot of work for the parts to be even playable with each other, and even so the result is marginal.  I have provided version of the alternate tuning pieces for normal tuning.

12Jul16: Completed v.6 and v.7 of Silva de Sirenas, which completes the book. V6. contains, on the whole, simpler pieces.  There are 22 "sonetos", which appear to be vocal intabulations, not particularly related to the sonnet form or the Italian sonnetto.  V.7 contains more difficult and lengthy pieces, including variations on conde claros, guardame las vacas, and la folia ("Pavana").

09Jul16: Completed v.5 of "Silva de Sirenas", consisting of 33 fantasies, mostly of very high quality and strictly contrapuntal.  These include several parodies of liturgical works.

06Jul16: Completed v.s 3 and 4 of "Silva de Sirenas".  V.3 consists of motets and cancions. Here the vocal part is written out in mensural notation.  The text underlay is a little hard to read and not accurately aligned with the notes, so it's a bit of a challenge and involves some guesswork.  I did my best, but welcome any corrections.  V.4 consists of lute duets.  Only 3 of them are for equal lutes; the others are for lutes a minor third, a fourth, and a fifth apart.  For these, I have provided arrangements for equal lutes, the lower lute having 7-9 courses. Luckily, the volumes in "Silva de Sirenas" are incredibly accurate.  So far I have encountered only a handle of errors in the entire work.

24Jun16: Completed v.s 1 and 2 of Valderrábano's "Silva de Sirenas".  These are polyphonic pieces, including many settings of liturgical pieces of one kind or another, burt also some villanellas, sonetos, and romances..  For each piece, the composer has specified a line in the polyphony to be sung. Notes to be sung are colored red, and the words are given underneath.  In v.1, these are given without words.  In v.2, where the bulk of these pieces reside, I have created a mensural staff above the tab, with what I hope is reasonably accurate text underlay.  Fortunately, Valderrábano has been pretty careful in his placement of the words.  The source facsimiles, somewhat cleaned up, are also available on my site.

19May16: Completed all 120 fantasies from Mertel. These are very high quality stuff.  The authorship of all the Mertel materials is not specified by Mertel.  Robert Spencer and others have found the composer of about a third of the materials. I have tried to incorporate these data into my files.

31Mar16: Completed all the preludes from Hortus Musicalis Novus (1615).  Just a note on right hand fingerings:  I did not attempt to alter or correct these, although on rare occasions they appeared to be wrong.  I did, however, correct what I took to be wrong or missing notes or incorrect rhythm markings -- also quite rare, as the volume is very accurate.  Mathias Rösel has kindly provided  a translation of the Latin preface to the book.

24Mar16: All 222 pieces from Danzig MS 4022 (1621) are now posted. I would like to reiterate the wonderful job Magdalena Tomsinska has done in helping me edit these pieces. She has gone through all of them meticulously, correcting my many errors and making many crucial suggestions. As I mentioned, I have also posted a facsimile of the MS.

13Mar16: First 100 Mertel Preludes now posted. Also, posted  a facsimile of the original.  Starting at #72, Mertel introduces the double dot in his right-hand fingerings.  A study of these fingerings is interesting in showing how the middle finger of the right hand is used. The middle finger appears always to be used on an accented beat, while the index finger (denoted by a single dot) is usually on an an unaccented beat, except when the forefinger is used for convenience in hitting a higher string next to a lower one, in which case it may appear on an accented beat. 

11Mar16: Posted a couple of instructional videos on using the fronimo tab editing software.  The first shows how to set up convenient shortcut keys; the second is a live demonstration of the entire process of editing a medium-length lute piece in fronimo.  I recommend you watch these in full screen mode.


Other new postings 

This is a list of recent additions to the website, with commentaries on them.

Editorial Policy

I feel strongly about making a large quantity of lute music accessible to all for free. See my "manifesto" on the subject", published in LSA Quarterly in 2014.  Over the years, I have collected the pieces on this site from the internet or have entabulated and/or arranged or realized them myself. I have edited all of them and formatted them to fit nicely on US letter size paper (8.5 x 11 in), though some are formatted for US legal size (8.5 x 14 in). I have not formatted any for A4, as life is too short. Again, if you have the fronimo software, it is pretty easy to reformat these to taste.  I have tried to create performable copy in all cases. In editing these files, I have tried to use "canonical" composer names and to eliminate spelling variations wherever possible, and have inserted the names of the "original composers", where known, in parentheses under the title.  For instance, where Albert de Rippe intabulates "Douce memoire", de Rippe is given as the composer and (Pierre Sandrin) as the original composer.  In my footnote credits, I have included credits for encoder and editor. The encoder is the one who actually does the data entry to create the fronimo, TAB, Midi, or Django file that I work from.  Other credits, and other important information, are contained in the "Section Annotations" within the fronimo file. For a detailed explanation of these and other editing practices of mine, see my writeup on fronimo formats. Credits, and other information contained in the fronimo files, are also present in the spreadsheet I have created for the website. I update the spreadsheet frequently to reflect the approximate current state of the data.  It contains hyperlinks to fronimo, midi,and pdf files for each entry.  It also has other data, such as key, type of piece, instrumentation, and difficulty.  If you can read the Excel file, that is probably the easiest way of finding things until an actual searchable database is created.

To Err is Human; to Correct, Divine

In all cases, I have edited and formatted each piece and take responsibility for any errors therein. Although I have tried to be as accurate as possible, I'm sure many errors remain. I have cited the original source (MS or otherwise) whenever I knew it, and the original contributor/encoder, though over the years some of this data has been lost. If you feel you are the one that originally contributed a particular piece and have not been acknowledged for having done so, or if you know the source of a particular piece for which a source is not cited or wrongly cited, please email me at so I can update the footnote. Also, if you find errors in any of the pieces, can you please email me and, if possible, attach the modified version? I maintain a  Corrections and Contributors Honor Roll to credit all who have contributed to this effort. You can also email me at with any comments or special requests.

Notes

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I hope you get and give a great deal of pleasure from playing these pieces!

Sarge Gerbode

If you are curious about my other identity as a psychiatrist and philosopher, you can find out more about me by clicking here.