Early Guitars and Vihuela

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 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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The Lute Society of America has a simple albeit good program as well.



The human ear (brain) is an amazing organ. It only takes seconds for the internal adjustment to meantone to happen and all will sound normal.


We have little (or no) evidence of Ren. masters using harmonics. Maybe because they are harder to tease out on a gut string? Besides, getting a harmonic above the 4th fret is no easy task...


The suggestion to move the 4th fret toward the nut would flatten it -- in some cases, considerably more so than in ET, in order to bring it more in tune with the pure major 3rd. Consider: An ET maj 3 is 400 cents; a pure 3rd is 386 cents -- a 14 cent difference!  (By comparison, an ET 5th is 700 cents; a pure 5th is 702. Almost no difference.)

I could be wrong about gut being harder to produce a harmonic on. What do I know - I'm primarily a cittern player. We don't have record of it discussed though, to my knowledge. Maybe because of the unevenness of gut, harmonics were less dependable?


Regardless, I approve of your method. Anything moving toward meantone sounds better than ET, IMO!

Hi Andrew, I play romantic guitars with gut strings and producing harmonics is quite easy. Not much softer than on a modern guitar really, depending on the overall sound of the instrument.

And I think Martins fretting method sounds very elegant :-) I'll try that on my baroque guitar!

Your transformation has begun...!

There is no consensus on modes in the renaissance, that is why you see so many different versions. Each renaissance writer on modes has a different definition. From a technical point of view, in the renaissance only (not middle ages) the mode is basically the final, that is, the final note. To draw a very strange, yet true, analogy, the mode is like the key. A piece in the "key" of G may or may not follow the rules of harmony, nor even begin on a G. But G is usually the final. Different composers treat these rules, or guidelines, quite differently.


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