© 2019 John Griffiths  All rights reserved

Encyclopaedia of tablature

Alternative notations, unwritten practices 1450-1750

Backwaters of history, frontiers of research

Tablature is the generic name for many of the alternate notation systems used in Western music that are not based on the conventional representation of pitch and rhythm. Most tablatures are for instruments and aim to tell you where to put your fingers. They are called tablature, however, because they put the music into some kind of table. To musicians of earlier times, a table was what today we would call a “score”. The earliest known tablatures date from around 1450. They were of fundamental importance in the renaissance and early baroque until composers started writing scores using conventional mensural notation.

In 1906, Wilhelm Tappert published a book entitled Sang und Klang aus Alter Zeit that was the first anthology of music in tablature. Tappert published modern transcriptions of a selection of one hundred pieces for lute, guitar, vihuela, keyboards and strings although due to the technical limitations of his period, with very few facsimiles of original tablatures.

The ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF TABLATURE, under the guidance of John Griffiths, David Dolata and Philippe Vendrix will present 400 examples of tablature for close to forty instruments, with facsimiles, transcriptions and commentaries on all the pieces. The examples will cover the approximate period 1450-1750.  Collaborators on the project include Gregorio Bevilacqua, Hyacinthe Belliot, Vincent Besson, Aurelio Bianco, Andrés Cea Galán, Stuart Cheney, Victor Coelho, Annie Coeurdevey, Tim Crawford, Dinko Fabris, Monica Hall, Thilo Hirsch, Jeffery Kite-Powell, Nuria LLopis, Joachim Luedtke, Andreas Michel, Jocelyn Nelson, Davide Rebuffa, John Robinson, Daniel Russo-Batterham, Andreas Schlegel, Anne Smith, Mauro Squillante

A SELECTION OF TABLATURES

1452 Old German organ tablature — Conrad Pauman

1507  Italian lute tablature

— Francesco Spinacino 

1529 French keyboard score — Pierre Attaingnant

1532 German tablature for viol consort — Hans Gerle

1536 German lute tablature

— Hans Neusidler

1547 French lute tablature

— Pierre Phalèse

1570 French renaissance guitar tablature — Phalèse et Bellère

1578 Spanish keyboard tablature — Hernando de Cabezón

1589 New German organ tablature — Jacob Paix

1604 Italian chitarrone tablature — Girolamo Giovanni Kapsberger

1620 Baroque guitar tablature — Giovanni Ambrosio Colonna

1640 ca. French baroque lute tablature — anon.

1637 Italian keyboard tablature — Girolamo Frescobaldi

1700 Spanish harp tablature — anon