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Alonso Mudarra

Complete works for vihuela in modern tablature

Here are all the solo pieces for vihuela and for 4-string guitar from Alonso Mudarra's Tres Libros de Musica en Cifras (1546).

The vihuela pieces are directly playable on a modern guitar with the 3rd string tuned down a half step. However, most pieces have a few "tough" spots requiring what I would think to be quite an extraordinary left hand. In those cases, I've worked up a second, slightly simplified version, leaving out as few non-critical notes as possible, and moving problem notes to a different string, to allow the music to flow without a herculean struggle.

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.

You may safely IGNORE the "Notes" link after each piece. This is where errors in the original tablature are noted. It also presents the same piece in my superceded, but then-revolutionary, ASCII tab. In fact, the original version of this page stirred up a wave of interest in Mudarra's music back in the late 1990s.

Tres Libros - Book 1

Fantasias in three and four part writing

am01: Fantasia de pasos largos para desenbouluer las manos.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am02: Fantasia para desenboluer las manos.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am03: Fantasia de pasos para desenbouluer las manos.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am04: Fantasias de pasos de contado.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am05: Fantasia facil.   Original.   (No simplified version.)   Notes.
am06: Fantasia facil.   Original.   (No simplified version.)   Notes.
am07: Fantasia facil.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am08: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am09: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am10: Fantasia que contrahaze la harpa en la manera de Luduvico.   Original.   (No simplified version.)   Notes.

Compositions of Josquin des Pres

am11: La segunda parte de la Gloria de la misa de Faysan Regres.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am12: Pleni de la misa de Faysan Regres.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Lesser pieces

am13: Conde Claros.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am14: Romanesca: O guardame las vacas.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am15: Pavana.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am16: Pavana de Alexandre.   Original.   (No simplified version.)   Notes.
am17: Gallarda.   Original.   (No simplified version.)   Notes.

Pieces for guitar

am18: Fantasia del primer tono.   Original.   (No simplified version.)   Notes.
am19: Fantasia del quarto tono.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am20: Fantasia del quinto tono.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am21: Fantasia del primer tono.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am22: Pavana.   Original.   (No simplified version.)   Notes.
am23: Romanesca: O guardame las vacas.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Tres Libros - Book 2

Pieces in the First Mode (tono)

am24: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am25: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am26: Kyrie primero de la missa de Beata Virgine de Josquin glosado.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am27: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Pieces in the Second Mode

am28: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am29: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am30: Fantasia de sobre fa mi ut re.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Pieces in the Third Mode

am31: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am32: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am33: Glosa sobre un Kyrie postrero de una misa de Josquin qua va sobre Pange Lingua.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Pieces in the Fourth Mode

am34: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am35: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am36: Glosa sobre un Benedictus de una missa de Josquin que vasobre la sol fa re mi.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Pieces in the Fifth Mode

am37: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am38: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am39: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Pieces in the Sixth Mode

am40: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am41: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Further simplification.   Notes.
am42: Glosa sobre el promer Kirie de una missa de Antoine Fevin que va sobre Ave Maria.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Pieces in the Seventh Mode

am43: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am44: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am45: Glosa sobre el Cum Sancto Spiritu de la missa de Beata Virgine de Josquin.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Pieces in the Eighth Mode

am46: Tiento.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am47: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am48: Fantasia.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am49: Fantasia va sobre fa mi fa re ut sol fa sol mi re.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

Tres Libros - Book 3


am50: Pater noster a quatro de Adrian Williart.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.
am51: Respice in me Deus de Gombert.   Original.   Simplified.   Notes.

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.

As always, I encourage you to track down a facsimile copy of Mudarra's Tres Libros de Musica en Cifras. I worked from the facsimile published by Editions Chanterelle (1980), with explanatory material by James Tyler. Everything you need to play the music is here, but even if you never actually play from the facsimile, just looking it over and comparing a few bars here and there with the modern tablature will bring you a lot closer to Mudarra.

VIHUELA TUNING: We say the nominal tuning for the vihuela is 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 from g to f#, as we do for playing Renaissance lute music on the guitar. A capo at the 3rd fret will yield the nominal vihuela pitch. Some people say a capo "lightens the sound". Theoretically, a capo should ease the left hand stretches. (I don't find that it helps.) In any case, feel free to experiment with a capo.

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.

RHYTHM VALUES: All of Mudarra's rhythm values have been halved (with the exception of one piece, am23, where they were quartered.) This brings the rhythm values into line with what we are used to reading today. Moreover, 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.

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 positions imply.

RIGHT-HAND TECHNIQUE: In just the first four pieces (am01-am04), 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. You can find in my Notes page where Mudarra indicates this. I think most players will find that modern right-hand technique works just fine.

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 indicate this with an open-ended tie starting on that note.

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: I mentioned at the top that most of Mudarra's pieces have a few "tough" spots for the left hand. I've taken the liberty of working up slightly simplified versions, removing as few non-critical notes as possible, and moving problem notes to a different string, to ease the player's difficulty. Of course, you may have no trouble with Mudarra's originals. (I tip my hat!)

Here's an example of what I'm talking about, the "flying wedge" formation:

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

The first example is common in the vihuela pieces, the second in the guitar pieces. Notice how little effect is lost by dropping the note, which, after all, is simply the octave above the base note of the chord.


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

Retired nuttiness from the original page: "While evolution has generally been very good to us humans, it seems it's been sabotaging our left hands over the last few centuries. In particular, the 4-finger "flying wedge" formation shown below [above] 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."