Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

 I am trying to understand modes in the light of Luis Milans 'El Maestro' and realize it has nothing in common with  the way I learned the  seven 'Modern 'modes in College. Can anyone help me  understand Milans titles to the pieces in El Maestro?

I am trying to understand this Gregorian system of modes and how it relates to Milans music.

I imagine this subject has been pondered somewhere at this site before  but I havent found a discussion of it .


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As the sticker on my guitar case says "I'm a Legend in My Own Mind" so it stands to reason that I'm a genius in my own mind as well.


I think the Gasser book has given me a greater understanding and appreciation for the work and historical context of Milan and the other vihuelists. I don't know yet if it has done the same for Renaissance music in general. Maybe a little.


As a guitarist and renaissance lute player (and soon to be vihuelist...as soon as I get the instrument finished!) I have played Milan and the others but always found their work perplexing. After reading this book it's much less perplexing but I think I'll have to read it a couple more times to be able to relate it to the rest of what was going on at the time.


So, for me the book was money well spent.


Scot, I have a song I wrote where "He was a legend in his own mind " is the first line of the chorus. It's called 'Thursday Night Open Mic'.


The book is getting more and more enticing as we continue with this forum.

By all means more pics!Can we see one of Horses dragging a man  now?

I'm starting to get a little understanding but it seems subliminal .Cant wait to  when I can actually explain something that another understands!:0

Dear all - not to spoil your fun :-) but there is short and straigth-forward explanation of the modes in Milans pieces in an introduction by Karl Eggert. Its found on Gerbodes lute tab page here: http://www.gerbode.net/ft2/composers/Milan/el_maestro_1535/

- scroll down to the end of the pieces - look also on the notes to every piece.

Interesting discussion though - also the fact that every mode in renaissance and baroque music had a speciel symbolic meaning - and were belived to influence the listener in a certain way - i.e. every mode could affect the listener with a certain mood or feeling - a fact I believe that every composer and player at that time probably were aware of - but I think it is something which is forgotten in the playing of this kind of music today - I could be wrong? But it gives the playing of the music a whole new perspective...



Maaannn!!! You fun spoiler you! 


We all forgot about Sarges wonderful and much appreciated work. Thank you Michael, for pointing those essays out.

Yeah the nerve of you Michael!


See, you didnt stop the fun!


Thank you Michael .It is helpful now that Martin has me thinking in D like I should be .The tempi suggestions are gonna be helpfull also.

Ha Ha!

I still dont understand the pieces  according to Milans modal thinking.Just what the mode is called pertaining to each piece.Helpful on a college test but not when trying to understand the modal significance of writing music they way Milan did. There is more to this than a pat answer!

Let the rumble continue!

We should remember that these moods or feelings may be influenced by the use of various meantone temperaments other than equal. Because of the location of the "wolf fifth", each key in meantone temperaments has a unique character.

I'm curious to know how many people here use some sort of meantone temperament for these pieces?

Well I dont Andrew and your point is probably an excellent one . I am playing this Renaissance music on a Lute , or a Modern Guitar and Requinto. I very much would like to get Renaissance guitars,Baroque Guitars and Vihuelas but am not there yet.

I have made little neck sized cards with marks to guide me to tune my baroque guitar to different temperaments, equal, 1/4-comma meantone, 1/3-comma meantone and Werkmeister III. Once I am "in the ballpark" I use an electronic tuner to finish the first and fifth courses.  However, I am never very satisfied with the results with temperaments other than equal... some chords sound OK others are really awful... mainly because I have my e and A strings tuned (some frets slanted) but my g, d and b strings do not agree 100%.


Check this page an the one after that.  Milan does not mention how to place the frets in here so I am guessing... if a meantone tuning was desired maybe he would have said that it was needed to make the third perfectly in tune and the fourths a bit flat... Then -unless frets were flexible- you would also have a different temperament for each course and a different "wolf fifth" in each course. Chords would beat differently depending on where and which chord was played.... sounds difficult.  Besides, how good were the 16th century gut strings... can you really be that precise with 500 year old technology?


Somehow I get the impression that something close to equal temperament would be easier with the instructions provided by Milan.

Not to get into it too much here, but Mark Lindley in his book Lutes, viols and temperaments (Cambridge University Press, 1984), makes a compelling case that Milan's music should be in some form of meantone temperament (or is at least well served by it), despite the occasional difficulty that arises. He does point out (p.52) that Milan himself gives instructions to move the 4th fret in order to affect the sound of the major third above the open string, suggesting that some form of meantone temperament may be just what he had in mind:

[R]aise a little the fourth fret of the vihuela so that the note of the said fret be strong and not flacid...

[Y]ou have to raise the fourth fret a little towards the [tuning] keys of the vihuela...

[1927 edition: 68 and 358]


McBright, as to the issue of octaves not being in tune, I don't mean to sound uppity, but if your basic octaves are out of tune, you've done something wrong! As someone who has greatly experimented with meantone temperaments, I would like to add my 2 cents (no pun intended) that it's worth the while to try it out until it works!

I've got some basic information on tuning and temperaments at my site here: http://www.theaterofmusic.com/temperaments.html. I would also highly recommend Paul Beier's String and Fret program: http://www.musico.it/lute_software/BSFC.htm. It has the added feature of being able to calculate the positions for any temperament for you, and is fully customizable with an easy "slider" for any form of regular meantone temperament.

I hope others will try it out and judge for themselves!



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