Medieval tunes for beginners

  1. Gelsenbury
    Does anyone have some recommendations to share about medieval tunes for mandolin, simple enough to be learnt by a beginner? I have Allan Alexander's "Mandolin music for medieval faires", which has some nice easy tunes in it. Anything similar that you can recommend?
  2. Simen Kjaersdalen
    Simen Kjaersdalen
    I've got plenty of pieces in that style, but except for the Salve Regina I've posted here, they are not original "oldies." But if you post this request at the larger classical forum, you will sure get plenty of qualified advice. Try that!
  3. Gelsenbury
    I'd be interested in your pieces even if they aren't originals! Could you send me one or two? I can read notation, but can also figure out tab.
  4. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    A while ago, I came across an ABC file at Richard Robinson's tunebook site simply called "" with 46 medieval and renaissance dance tunes, which is one of my favourite sources of early music tunes to play on mandolin. None of these are even remotely obscure, but most public domain sources have them in four-part arrangements, usually for recorders, and it can be difficult to adapt that to solo mandolin playing. In this ABC file, however, the tunes are with a single melody line, and almost all of them can be played on mandolin straight from the sheet and sound good without any particular technical difficulties. Several of these are also in the Allan Alexander books, virtually identically, but a fair number of the best ones are not.

    The link to the ABC file at Richard Robinson's site appears defunct, but a mirror is here (renamed "early", presumably because most of them are actually renaissance rather than medieval):

    Link to ABC file

    Tunes can be converted to standard notation using any number of ABC notation programs, or the online converter at, and there is also a PDF version at the same site (now renamed "A Renaissance Miscellany", but it's still the same tunes as in the original ABC ""):

    I've recorded a few of these before, and have added several more today. Here are the links, today's first:

    1. Ronde VII Il Estoit Une Filette (Tielman Susato)

    2. Ronde VI & Salterelle (Tielman Susato)

    3. La Volta, Terpsichore #202 & #210 (Michael Praetorius)

    4. Courante, Terpsichore #183 (Michael Praetorius)

    5. Lamento di Tristano et la Rotta (Italian, 14th century)

    6. Ductia (English, 13th century)

    7. Bransle Simple 1 (Claude Gervaise)

    8. Den Hoboeken Danse (Tielman Susato)

    9. Reihentänze/Three Bransles (Tielman Susato)

    10. Ronde I Pour Quoy (Tielman Susato)

    I have previously posted my other videos based on the transcriptions in this ABC file in other threads on the Cafe (some in this group), so I'll only give the links here rather than embedding the videos:


    Alli In Midbar

    Mistress Winter's Jump (John Dowland)

    Sing Care Away (Playford)

    Ballet/Espagnoletta (Michael Praetorius)

    Ballet/Bouree (Michael Praetorius)

    Many thanks to the compiler of that ABC (presumably Richard Robinson).


    (Edited 23/1/11: added five more tunes)
  5. Gelsenbury
    Martin, I'd like to say a belated thank you for these clips. I'm having some trouble streaming from YouTube at the moment, but this is good stuff. I know many of the Praetorius pieces from a CD called "Tanzmusik um 1600", and it would be great to learn to play them. I've never used ABC notation, but I'll learn.
  6. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    Hi Gelsenbury,

    Thanks. No need to learn ABC notation -- just click on the link I've given above for the PDF file, which has all these tunes in standard notation.

  7. Gelsenbury
    I've downloaded it! Some old favourites in there. I'll give them a try.
  8. Didge
    Wow! Just found this topic and I'd also like to thank Martin for the great site. I've been looking for a site with some good renaissance mando tunes. I guess I'm gonna have to break down and learn to read music now xp Awesome clips, btw :D
  9. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    I've just recorded another three tunes from the same source:

    1. La Bergamasca (17 century Italian):

    2. In May, When The Little Nightingale Sings (Colin Muset, 13th century French)

    3. When I See Winter Return (Colin Muset, 13th century French)

    4. Pase El Agua Ma Julieta (15th century Spain)

  10. Jeffrey Sawyer
    Jeffrey Sawyer
    Is there an app that will convert that PDF to tab? I lack reading skills.
  11. Martin Jonas
    Martin Jonas
    I'm pretty sure the full version of TablEdit will import ABC notation and convert it to tab. If you have TablEdit, just import the ABC file linked above (not the PDF file).

    There is also a freeware program for generating mandolin tab from ABC notation, called "m2g" (Link), but it is not very user-friendly -- command-line interface only although the author has provided some decent guidance notes for beginners.

    I haven't tried either of these options myself, as I simply play from the standard notation.

  12. Gelsenbury
    I made use of the very late summer sun (in OCTOBER!) to do the last bit of open-air playing for the year. I was sitting on an old bridge in a quiet field, with nobody around to be disturbed by me. This is a tune from the Allen Alexander sheet music we were talking about.

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