This blog is the record of a learning voyage. I have long been intrigued by Renaissance music, and am slowly learning more about it. I am trying to get to grips with the tenor ukulele, which is not dissimilar to the Renaissance guitar.
This will be probably my most anachronistic post – charts of generic chord shapes suitable for the music of the mid 20th century. They are not exactly Renaissance, I know, but I wanted to publish them somewhere, and here are the pfd files:
"Why do we need yet another chord table? " I hear you cry. "Aren't there enough out there already?"
Well, I hadn't found any laid out in the way I preferred, and they didn't always have the chords I wanted.
It all started when I was working my way through Glen Rose’s excellent Jazzy Ukulele Work Books. For the first time I had some understanding of extended chords and chord substitutions, as used by the beboppers and others. But, when I tried to modify or extend his approach, either the available charts were too elementary, or I had to flick through pages of the very useful Hal Leonard Ukulele Chord Finder (which is restricted to rooted chords). Also, it took time to work out each voicing by hand. I just wanted a few sheets of generic chord shapes that I could glance at and find the most suitable and comfortable fingerings. So, I decided to write my own reference charts, and hence this blog.
◦ The chord sheets are organised thus:
1. Major chords and extensions.
2. Suspended chords.
3. Unresolved chords: +5, dim 7, and dominant chords and their extensions and alterations.
4. Minor chords, extensions and alterations.
◦ On each sheet, simpler chords are generally shown first, followed by more complex ones.
◦ Each row on a sheet contains various voicings of a type of chord.
◦ Within rows, chord voicings with roots on the fourth string are shown first, followed by those rooted on the third, second and first strings. If you have a uke with a low fourth string, this can help one develop an interesting bass line.
◦ Triads (3-note chords) have 1 note duplicated an octave apart.
◦ 4-notechords usually have all notes included, but with the occasional omission and duplication.
◦ Chords of 5 notes and more obviously don't fit on a 4-stringed instrument such as the ukulele, so we have to omit one or more notes. Usually the 5 is the first to go as it provides less information than the 3 which discriminates between major and minor keys. Following Glen Rose, some voicings are shown without their root notes, which can make them easier to play, especially the 9 and 13 chords which often require an awkward stretch. This means, for example, that a 9 chord without a root is equivalent to a 7 chord of some kind formed on the third above the root: e.g. CM9 (C E G B D) becomes Em7, and C9 (C E G Bb D) becomes Em7b5, and Cm9 becomes EbM7. There are plenty more aliases to search out. Happy hunting.
How to use the charts
Decide where on the fingerboard (string and fret) the chord root lies
Look at the charts to find a chord voicing where the root note lies on that string. Root notes are shown by a red square ■ in rooted chords, and by a red diamond ◇ in chords where the root is not voiced. Other notes are shown by blue dots ● .
In general, it seems a good idea when accompanying a lead to select adjacent voicings, which don't involve big jumps up and down the finger board. When playing choral melodies (with the tune on the 1st or 2nd string), however, that may be just what you want to do. These charts should help with either application.
I hope you have fun using the charts! If you find any errors I'd like to hear from you.
Renaissance guitar player. The renaissance guitar was tuned in the same intervals as the low-G tenor ukulele, but was double strung, apart often from the 1st course. The scale length was 5 – 10 cm longer than on the tenor. Note the thumb-under right-hand technique. As far as I can tell she's fingering the chord of G major (2 4 5 4).
The wonderful galliards on To plead my faith written by Bacheler himself and by John Dowland [which I posted recently here and here] are only loosely loosely based on the melody, and the structures vary. So, I thought: "what would they have done if they had ukuleles, and wanted to represent the whole song?". (For "ukulele" you can read "Renaissance guitar".)
This simple arrangement for low-G ukulele is an attempt to answer the question. As I wrote it, it became clear that one reason they modified the range of the upper voice is that it goes up to the 10th fret, which on the lute is not feasible for chordal work as the frets are glued to the soundboard and used just for the occasional note on the top few strings.
The uke arrangement includes the whole song and preserves the melody as the upper voice. It draws in part from the accompaniment written by Bacheler, but much is original (whilst attempting consistent with the musical practice of the period). It also incorporates some ideas and motifs from Bacheler’s and Dowland’s galliards.
The first expositions of the four strains are fairly plain and built on block chords, whilst the repetitions are rather more lively. For a simple playing piece, just repeat the first statements and ignore the divisions (fancy repetitions). For a strumming piece you could fill in the chords of the chordal treatments, and spank your plank.
Anyway, you can download the arrangement files using the links below and see what you think:
A correspondent asked me how to subscribe to this blog, and I thought what a good idea it was. So, I've had a go at adding a "Follow by email" option (right-hand column, below the "Contact me" option).
I post on average less than once a week, so it won't overload your inbox.
I don't know if it will work, so if you try to use it and it doesn't work, please send me a short note. Many thanks!
After the previous short piece by Johnson, here is a longer one, also from the Brogyntyn Lute Book. I considered adapting a transcription by Sarge Gerbode of another version of this piece from the Marsh Lute Book in Dublin, but it is so full of fast divisions I feel it is out of the scope of this amateur blog.
On the whole, it's quite an easy piece, with a few tricky bits. The harmonies are mostly quite simple, with some quick chord changes and patches of syncopation to cope with.
There are eight themes, each followed by an often minor variation. These are indicated in Roman numerals by I, I’, II, II’ and so on. The first three themes are set in in common time annd are 8 bars long; the fourth fits most comfortably into 3/4 and is 4 bars long; and the rest are in 6/8 time and 4 bars long. This ukulele version has been set at 4 bars per line, to make the structure clearer. The themes are presumably arrangements of old songs and dances, whose identities remain unknown to me.
The abundance of block chords in this 4-string version give a possibly misleading impression that they would have been strummed, but checking the lute originals shows most chords include unplayed internal strings; but, there's no reason that we can't strum them (anachronistically) in the fashion of Gaspar Sanz et al. if we want to.
In chords such as E and F which do not have a root note available on a lower string, I have often added B and A respectively on the 4th string, mainly where a fuller chord is indicated in the MS. To help in interpretation, I have tried to identify voices by stem direction, but this was not always possible.
Now, here's a nice little galliard in three parts, with some slightly unexpected harmonies. As with all pieces set in D (or Dm), one runs out of root notes in the chords, so I have used 5ths in places.
The galliard in the Brogyntyn Lute Book.
It's one of a number of pieces by Johnson (c. 1545 _ 1594), copied out very neatly in the Brogyntyn Lute Book. You can see facsimilies of the original in the National Library of Wales here.
John Johnson was a lutenist and composer and was at the court of Queen Elizabeth I. You can read his biography here