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Accessible Lute Music

Sarge Gerbode's Lute Page

Hello. We need your help! LuteMusic.org is going to be the new home for the Gerbode Lute Music Collection, currently at http://gerbode.net/. We are trying to determine what features people do / do not want in a new site. This is the first of several surveys we will be doing as the design progresses.

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Here you will find more than 7000 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. 

Latest postings:

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.

09Mar16: Posted the first 20 preludes from Mertel's "Hortus Musicalis Novis" (1615).  Göran Crona has already done an elegant PDF edition of the Mertel. Mine will be in my own preferred format, will be done directly from the original facsimiles, will include the original right hand fingerings and slur marks, and will have the original version noted wherever I have made a correction.

07Mar16: Posted v.6 (1615) of "Airs de differents autheurs", thus completing the collection.

01Mar16: Posted v.5 (1614) of Ballard's "Airs de differents auteurs".

26Feb16: Posted v.4 (1613) of Ballard's "Airs de differents auteurs".

20Feb16: Posted v.3 (1611) of Ballard's "Airs de differents auteurs".  Another editorial point:  In the original, all of the airs end in a long (quadruple  semibreve), with a fermata or corona over it.  It seems clear that it would have made no sense to sing the songs this way, so I assume this was just a way of showing that it was the end of a piece.  This means the individual performer will have to decide what to do about the length of the final note. I have given my interpretations, but the performers should take these with a grain of salt.

16Feb16: Posted v.2 (1609) of Ballard's "Airs de differents auteurs".  Editorial note addendum: I continue to put in dotted bar lines and time signatures.  The sparse bar lines in the originals are not very meaningful rhythmically, since they only mark the beginning of text lines, and many text lines begin with a pickup note or two, and where this is the case, I have left them out.  I think early music performers  are used to seeing modern editions with bar lines and time signatures where these are not present in the original and have learned not to take them too seriously.

10Feb16: Posted v.1 (1608) of Ballard's "Airs de differents auteurs".  I also corrected some text underlay issues in v.7.

05Feb16:  Posted v.7 (1622) of Ballard's "Airs de differents auteurs", containing 64 airs de cour.  This is the last of 7 volumes put out by Ballard, each containing a large number of airs, the total number being 422. These were painstakingly and very accurately encoded and edited by Douglas Towne, who also put in the text underlay for the pieces--altogether a monumental piece of work. In their original form, these are mostly unmeasured.  I have taken it upon myself to insert dotted bar lines and time signatures.  As a performer, I have found these visual aids helpful, though others may find them annoying. Those who prefer the unmeasured versions can find them in the very clear and accurate source facsimiles.

31Jan16: Mynshall Lute Book (1600) posted, along with its cleaned-up facsimile.  This book may be useful in providing concordances but contains very little that is new.  Also, its scribe is extremely sloppy about barring and rhythm flags, so there are multiple errors per page.  Some pieces were actually indecipherable (by me); others required a lot of work.

27Jan16: Sampson Lute Book (1610) posted, along with a cleaned-up facsimile of same.  It contains several duets and many familiar English pieces.

26Jan16: Brogyntyn Lute Book (c. 1600) completed.  This source has a number of familiar dances and some lute duets, but the bulk of the MS consists of lute song accompaniments.  It appears to have been intended as "Part Book 2" of a collection, the other parts of which are lost.  However,  most of the other parts of the songs and duets are available elsewhere.  I have brought in these other parts from other English MSS and especially from Philip Brett's book of consort songs to make for complete pieces.  So reconstructed, the lute songs are excellent pieces.  There are also many where I was not able to find the other parts, so if anyone has access to these, I would appreciate the help.  I have posted a cleaned-up copy of the source facsimile.

25Jan16:Posted #'s 1-100 (out of 222) of the Danzig MS 4022 (1621).  I have been most pleased to collaborate with Magdalena Tomsinska on this edition as co-editor. As she has studied these pieces extensively and even made an excellent CD of pieces from the collection [link included], I consider her the leading expert on the MS.  The MS is notable for its extensive collection of Polish music and other European pieces and a few English ones.  Almost all of the pieces are dances of one kind or another or vocal intabulations. They are written for Renaissance lute of 6 to 9 courses.  I have also included a cleaned-up facsimile of this document.

05Jan16: Posted the complete Hirsch Lute Book (1595).  This is a rich source of English lute music, but also of European pieces. All but two pieces are for 6-course lute.  All are untitled, but many are familiar pieces by Dowland, Byrd, Allison, Holborne, Milano, etc. About half of the pieces in the MS are fantasies; 14 are anonymous. Many of these are very interesting, beautiful, and well put together. I have also posted a cleaned-up version in facsimile.

16Dec15: Completed work on Paladin's second book, Livre de tablature de luth (1560). This contains vocal intabulations of madrigals and chansons, as well as some well-crafted fantasies and parodies. and a few dances.  I also posted a cleaned-up version of the facsimile in Italian tab.

24Nov15: Completed work on Jean Paul Paladin Tabulature de Lutz (1549). Most of the pieces are fairly simple. There are some vocal intabulations of French chansons, followed by some good fantasies and dances, presumably by Paladin himself, ending with a lengthy "battle", intended for 6-course lute with the 6th course down a whole note.  I have also made an arrangement for 7-course lute.. I have a cleaned up version of the source facsimile, as well.

30Sep15: Completed work on the Siena lute book (ca. 1590). It contains 155 pieces, mostly by Francesco da Milano and contemporaries with a similar polyphonic style -- a truly wonderful collection. I am greatly indebted to Jason Kortis, who encoded the vast majority of the pieces in 2003 -- a major piece of work taking more than four months -- to Arthur Ness, John Robinson,  and others, who helped me finding source documents for the pieces and  helped identify many of the untitled or unattributed pieces. Most of the pieces are fantasies or ricercars, but there are 22 intabulations of French chansons and a very few dances. Only some of the pieces are titled or attributed, but many have been identified from other sources. All the pieces are for 6-course lute, except at the end of the MS there are several unmeasured  pieces for 7-course lute which present a considerable interpretive challenge, as they also contain many puzzling rhythm notations.  I did the best I could, but I also included unmeasured versions of these pieces that are unedited apart from a few corrections of wrong notes.

05Sep15: Posted an edition of John Danyel "Songs for the lute, viol, and voice" (1605), with its facsimile. These are songs of amazing quality, quite comparable to Dowland at his best. It is a shame that so little of Danyel's music survives.  His lyrics are very interesting and intelligent , and his settings display an excellent sense of counterpoint, in which each part has its own interest, yet all easily playable.  Also, his text underlay is meticulous; the poetry fits the words perfectly, in all the parts. A couple of the pieces use alternate tunings.  I have made arrangements of these in standard tunings.

27Aug15: Completed work on Corkine's Second book of ayres (1612), containing 18 lute songs and 12 pieces for lyra viol, including one duet.  I made arrangements of these for 7-course lute.  This includes one rather extraordinary lute song, and which the singer tries to dissuade a maiden from her vow of life-long chastity. The argument is that if she does not put out, she is doomed to the eternal shame of dancing in hell with bob-tail apes, and that she would be better off lying with every passing peasant than to suffer that fate. There is also a vocal intabulation of the popular tune "Come live with me and be my love", with words attributed to Christopher Marlowe. I took the liberty of creating a lute song version of this piece.

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.

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.

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.