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A Method for the Renaissance Lute, with a Supplement for the Archlute

Peter Croton (1957) • Renaissance lute • Italian & French tablature

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• Author(s): Peter Croton
• Title: A Method for the Renaissance Lute
• Sub-title: with a Supplement for the Archlute
• First Publisher: Le Luth Doré, Paris
• Language: English
• Year of edition: 2019


This book is intended as an intensive course for teenage and adult beginners on the lute, with or without experience on the classical guitar, as a self- tutor or with a teacher, as well as for experienced lutenists who wish to re-evaluate their technique and musical approach. As a prerequisite, I assume basic knowledge of modern music notation and rudimentary sight-singing ability. If these skills are lacking, I suggest taking the time to develop them.

There are several excellent modern methods available for the renaissance lute. I shall cover similar ground in some respects, while additionally emphasizing a vocal approach by using original or imagined texts and employing modern notation (in addition to lute tablature) to help deepen our understanding of the music. My experience is that these tools can bring us closer to the subtleties inherent in our repertoires. Furthermore, I put added emphasis on historical source material, rhetorical expression in performance, physical efficiency of playing based on anatomical principles, and on mental imagery and training.

The focus is on solo music played in the ‘old tuning’ from 1507 (Spinacino) until 1623 (Piccinini), with a brief foray into early 18th century music (Zamboni). The instruments in question are lutes of six to ten courses (the latter were played long into the ‘baroque’ era)(1), as well as the archlute. Different right-hand positions were used during this time; I will present the ‘thumb-under’ technique for 16th century music, and the ‘thumb-out’ position for 17th and 18th century music.

I begin with a select few elementary-to-intermediate exercises and pieces (or excerpts thereof) to illustrate important points, assuming that students will make use of the surfeit of facsimile and modern editions to individualize their needs. Both “Exercise” and “Example” are abbreviated with “Ex.” I focus on ‘French’ and ‘Italian’ tablature systems and, fac-similes being sometimes difficult to read, have reset many pieces. Later on I introduce facsimile images of more advanced pieces.

Although the lute as an instrument of accompaniment is not covered in this book, there is a vast repertoire to explore once the basics have been learned: from lute songs with tablature to music with basso continuo requiring training in this art. There are many facsimiles and modern editions to choose from, either printed or on the internet.

I have produced video clips to clarify certain points found in these pages. Please check the playlist “renaissance lute method” at Peter Croton's Youtube page.

(1) I shall speak of “baroque” music but do so with misgivings, for it was not consistently used to signify the music of the period in question until the 20th century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “baroque” stems from the Portuguese word “barrocco” (Spanish “barrucco”), a jeweler’s term for a rough or imperfect pearl, and came to mean, in a derogatory sense, “overly ornamented”.

© 2019 Peter Croton | Le Luth Doré ® 

I. Background Material

1. Historically inspired performance
1.1 The Improvisatory Tradition 1
1.2 Instruments, repertoire and tablatures 2
1.3 Rhetoric as a guiding principle 11
1.4 Consonance and dissonance 16
1.5 Phrasing, articulation, punctuation, emphasis 16
1.6 Rhythmic inequality 19
1.7 Tempo modification 25
1.8 Passagework 26

II. Introduction to Anatomy & Biomechanics

2. An exploration of movement
2.1 General considerations 30
2.2 Bones and joints 32
2.3 Muscles 40

III. Preparing to Play

3. Practicing, making the difficult feel easy
3.1 Mental imagery and processing 45
3.2 The brain 46
3.3 Motor performance and learning 47
3.4 Mental training 48
3.5 Repetition and ‘muscle memory’ 49
3.6 Tactus & Time
3.7 The present moment
3.8 Breathing
4. Body warm-ups

IV. The Renaissance Lute

5. Tuning & holding the lute, right-hand exercises
5.1 Fretting, tuning and stringing the lute 58
5.2 Observing the right hand 59
5.3 Holding the lute 60
5.4 Single voice play: right hand only 63

6. Left-hand exercises & pieces
6.1 Single voice play: left hand only 77
6.2 Right and left-hand together 82
6.3 Melodic fragments 85
6.4 Complete melodies 88
6.5 Practice routine 102
6.6 Velocity training 102
6.7 Body movement while playing 103
6.8 Mode 103
6.9 Melodies in Italian Tablature 105
6.10 The Gamut 109

7. ‘Graces of play’
7.1 General 116
7.2 The Appoggiatura 118
7.3 The Mordent 118
7.4 The Trill 119
7.5 The Turn 121
7.6 The Double Fall or Slide 121
7.7 The Tut 121
7.8 The Arpeggio 121
7.9 Vibrato 121
7.10 Grace notes and signs used in this book 123
7.11 Practical application of graces 125

8. Two-voice music
8.1 General 127
8.2 Thumb technique 1: with arm movement 127
8.3 Thumb technique 2: without arm movement 133
8.4 Two-voice music with open basses 136
8.5 Two-voice music with fingered basses 141
8.6 Advanced two-voice play and counterpoint 147

9. Advanced shifting
9.1 Exercises for shifting 158
9.2 Pieces with shifts 160
10. Multi-voice music
10.1 General remarks 164
10.2 Three-voice exercises 164
10.3 Pieces that include three-voices 169
10.4 Bass courses with rest-stroke 177
10.5 Four-voice exercises 178
10.6 Playing chords of more than four voices 181
10.7 Bar chords 182
10.8 Typical lute chords 184
10.9 Multi-voice music 185

11. English pieces in facsimile 211
12. The 10-course lute
12.1 Right-hand technique in transition 222
12.2 Modern times 224
12.3 Exercises 225
12.4 Music by Robert Ballard 232
12.5 Music by Nicolas Vallet 234
12.6 The new Italian style and music by Giovanni Kapsperger 237

V. Supplement

13. The archlute
13.1 Exercises and chords 242
13.2 Music by Pietro Paulo Melii con discrezione 244
13.3 Music by Alessandro Piccinini 248
13.4 Music by Giovanni Zamboni 251

• Editor(s): Roger Harmon & Peter Croton
• Music period: Renaissance
• Instrument(s): Renaissance lute & Archlute
• Notation: Italian & French tablature
• Modern edition: Urtext
• Publisher: Le Luth Doré Urtext Editions
• Year of publication: 2019
• Collection: Didactic Music Collection

• Pages: pp. 282
• Dimensions: 230x310 mm
• Weight: 0,942g
• Binding: Section sewn glue binding
• ISMN: 377-0-0017-8833-3

Peter Croton

Award-winning lutenist and guitarist Peter Croton is an active performer and recording artist as soloist and accompanist.

In the press he has been called a “lyric poet of the lute” and has been praised for his “breath-taking virtuosity” and “astonishing range of tone colors and dynamics”. His compositions for voice & lute have been described as “challenging and refined... highly suited for inclusion in today’s concert repertoire”.

Born in the USA, Peter Croton lives in Switzerland where he teaches lute and continuo at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, as well as lute, historical performance practice and guitar continuo at the Conservatories of Basel and Bern. His musical activities, however, are not limited to early music.

At six he began performing as folk guitarist and singer. At twelve he began classical guitar lessons with Leon Atkinson, and later played guitar in various jazz ensembles. Starting in 1979 he studied lute and classical guitar with Dr. Loris Chobanian (Oberlin Conservatory of Music) and lute with Eugen Dombois and Hopkinson Smith (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis).

He won first prize at the Erwin Bodky Competition for Early Music in Cambridge MA (1984) and has also won prizes at other international competitions. He has recorded numerous CDs and appeared on television and radio as soloist and chamber musician. Peter’s regular duo partners have included the singers Derek Lee Ragin and Theresia Bothe, and he has appeared at many international festivals.

His instruction manual Figured Bass on the Classical Guitar: a practical approach based on historical principles was published by Amadeus Verlag (2005). Six of his compositions for lute and voice were published by the German Lute Society (1999), and four new settings of texts by William Shakespeare for lute and voice by Tree Edition (2009). His book Performing Baroque Music on the Lute and Theorbo: a practical handbook based on historical sources was published in 2016 on Amazon/Createspace; Hopkinson Smith has praised its “wealth of information and insight”.

His book Performing Baroque Music on the Classical Guitar: a practical handbook based on historical sources was published in 2015, likewise on Amazon/Createspace; David Russell calls it a “fabulous book – it will be a great help and inspiration to many guitarists”.

Le Luth Doré Urtext Editions

The Le Luth Doré Urtext Editions offer musicians and musicologists worldwide reliable and authoritative musical texts. The main features are:

• superb and aesthetically appealing music engraving
• optimized for practical use (page turns, fingerings)
• books originally in Italian tablature are published in both Italian and French tablatures
• high-quality and durable (cover, paper, binding)
• both original and modern prefaces, documentation of the corrections made and explanatory footnotes in English, French, Italian, German …

About Le Luth Doré Urtext Editions

Our editions are urtext: we strive to provide reliable musical texts that are as true as possible to the existing sources and the composer’s intentions. We are aware, of course, that it is impossible to reconstruct the one and only urtext. Often, several manuscript sources exist for the same piece, and there is little reliable guidance for determining which version best represents the composer's intentions.

Although we cannot entirely dissipate historical uncertainty, we can compare texts and correct obvious errors, which sometimes occur even in autograph manuscripts. Sources have been meticulously examined - note by note, mark by mark.

When facing ambiguity inherent to the sources, wise editorial judgment must take the place of textual certainty.

The most important observations and editorial decisions are elucidated in the prefaces, in the critical commentary, in footnotes, or marked as such in the musical text. It therefore comes as no surprise that an editor has to invest a great deal of patience, knowledge and time when piecing together an urtext that is true to the source and, hopefully, to the composers’ intentions as well. Proven specialists with extensive knowledge and experience edit our Le Luth Doré Urtext Editions in close cooperation with our Editorial Department.

Each verified musical text preserves the original fingerings and notation of ornamentation and, in the absence of original manuscript notations, also sets forth helpful suggestions by modern masters regarding useful fingerings and ornaments faithful to historical style, as a stimulus to further thought and a starting point for the student's approach to performance.

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Le Luth Doré ©2015

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