Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

Hi everyone,

I am currently carrying out research into alfabeto chord charts and was wondering if anyone had ever come across tagliate chords in a song accompaniment.  They're certainly rare in this context, but I have found them in one or two sources.  Just thought I'd ask, but I won't get my hopes up.


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I've heard about the guitar being used for the villancicos, and most early music artists make us think it sounded big in churches on this side of the world. And I really wish I had an excuse to play many villancicos on the guitar... in church during a liturgy of hours would  be great.

However, looking at over 800 pieces of music in Guatemala City Cathedral (mostly late 1600s to 1800s), so far I've seen only one direct mention of a guitar.  Except for this isolated mention in which the guitar part -if it ever existed-is missing, I have not seen church music in alfabeto, tablature or "normal" notation mentioning a guitar. Continuo -often marked "acompañamiento"- sheets sometimes ask for an instrument like "arpa" or "bajón" ...but saddly I have not seen "guitarra".


Thanks for the Monteverdi suggestion. 


This is why I love "early guitar and vihuela".  Good, useful, and interesting infomation, always.


Well - June Yakeley and I wrote an article a few years ago about sources with either Castilian or Catalan cifras and we identified three which are apparently  sacred, two with Catalan cifras and one with Castilian. I think the guitar would only be used for items with Castilian/Catalan words and in Spanish sources the chords will not be in alfabeto - they would use Spanish cifras.   You are are probably right - the enthusiasm for including the guitar in everything is probably a bit misplaced.
I had a look in the liber usualis and also in a very old copy of the Promptuarium chorale for a melody.  I found one in the latter source and Pico helpfully provides the starting text of each new section so I can correlate which bit of melody belongs where.  I'll have a go at putting the two together and I'll upload what I come up with, but bear with me, as it's not a form of notation I'm used to reading.  May need to check a few things with someone more knowledgeable about chant first.
I seem to remember reading somewhere that there was an anonymous book of Canzonette spirituali, et morali published in Milan with alfabeto accompaniment in the 1650s (1657 I think), for those who wanted to entertain themselves singing sacred songs in a domestic context.  But I rarely come across mention of the guitar in a liturgical context in academic writing.  There was one book I remember though called 'Christmas Music from Baroque Mexico' by Robert Stevenson.  That did have some discussion of the guitar in the context of the villancico if you are interested.

The Stevenson book includes an illustration of part of one vocal piece with Castilian cifras

- a Christmas villancico which survives in a Mexican source. This is in the metre of a chamberga and is for five voices. ..Christmas pieces cast in dance form with words in the vernacular are very numerous in Mexican sources. Only three parts, two treble and alto survive, in the form of separate part sheets. All are texted and the cifras are added to the alto part. The manuscript originally belonged to the Convent of the Holy Trinity in Puebla and was obviously used in performance. The names of singers appear on each part, Ysabel and Miguel on the treble parts and Ynes on the alto part. This is particularly interesting because it shows that women took part in professional performances of sacred music in Mexico, both as singers and as instrumentalists - the guitar in this instance was played by a woman. This was not customary in Spain. 

I copied and pasted this in from our article ... I have a copy of the illustration but it is barely legible

No castillian or catalonian cifras found so far.  I would not disagree with Stevenson, but I wouldn't be so sure either... there are quite a few boys named "Inés" and "Isabel"... another name that can be used for boys and girls is Carmen.
I think in Pesori you should include the open 1st course - it is a C sharp minor chord.   Marchetti may be an error.
Well - you are obviously more double jointed than me!   The point about Chord L is that the third course is open.   With this Chord Z you have to stop adjacent strings at different frets.....and in any case in Chord L the second course is usually stopped at the 3rd fret making it a dissonance rather than at the 1st. .....................Seems to me that it is one these things which are theoretical rather than of much practical use.   But keep practising. 
Love the Penguin.   I did a bit of research this morning (I don't know whether Natasha has got around to looking at Chord Zs yet).  Gary Boyes' website gives details of chord charts in different books.   The earliest C# minor Chord Z seems to be in Trombetti's book of 1639 - and it is the dissonant form of the chord - the second course is stopped at the 4th fret.   Anon 1648 (which Gary says is the same as Marchetti) gives the consonant form.   According to Gary athough it is not in the table apparently there is a Z tagliate in the music which he assumes is just the top three courses (I'm not sure why).   Carbonchi gives the same in French tablature as Pesori - without indicating that the first course should be included.   Ricci has a C# major Chord Z -  the equivalent of Chord H4.    I've attached my homework for your perusal.   I tried playing these this morning - but I think I will leave the contortionism to you.
Appropos Stevenson - the piece in question does have CAatilian cifras added to the alto part.   It is reproduced in Stevenson's book but it is a photograph and in the photocopy which I have they are barely legible so there is no point my trying to scan it.   As for the names - well...but as it belonged to a Convent it seems possible that the player/singers were female.


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