Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

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kenray12
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Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by kenray12 » Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:24 pm

(Apologies in advance if this is not the appropriate subforum for this type of question; please move if so.)

My primary interest is playing Renaissance and baroque lute (and theorbo) pieces on guitar, but I can't always find them in modern staff notation for rearranging as solos, duets, or ensembles. So transcribing it is the first step. I'm curious if anyone has a smoother process than I used on my first attempt at transcription. For Dalza's "Calata ala Spagnola" (#1?), I:

1. Retuned my guitar for Renaissance lute
2. Slowly, on a note-by-note basis (I'm new to reading lute tab), played each note in the lute tab fingerings I found on Sarge Gerbode's website
3. Checked the tuning of each note with an app on my phone
4. Notated it in MuseScore

Apart from the odd third string tuning, I now have a decent modern score that can easily be transposed to a more appropriate modern key in MuseScore if necessary. But, for a nonprofessional musician, is there an easier way of doing it that doesn't take a minute or two per measure?

What will be more challenging to me is when the original manuscript is the only source. If I can't interpret the handwritten tablature in the manuscript correctly, I wouldn't know how to notate it without playing the recording through Audacity to slow it down (without changing the pitch) to the point to where I can check each note individually. But I don't have a good enough ear yet to recognize the chords, and the ornamentation and other common performance practices may not be written in the score anyway. This seems to be the only way I'll be able to get the music for Boquet's (Dubut's?) Chaconne from the Barbe Manuscript that Rolf Lislevand plays on La Belle Homicide.

(I've tested auto-transcribing software during its trial period, but the recordings I was testing it on were too complex for it to reliably find the correct pitches, so that seems to be out of the question.)

Any ideas on how to streamline this process, or will it always be arduous?
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sun Jun 10, 2018 10:48 pm

I'm afraid I can't see an easier way, though it will almost certainly be much harder with baroque tuning than Renaissance. Personally I just write everything out in pencil in simple note heads, then decide on voicings and durations etc afterwards - unless they're really obvious. Then type it up from the final pencil draft - should be quicker than two minutes per bar!
I too struggle to read the original handwritten pieces, and think that If you really want to get into that, then some personal study with an early music expert would be how to clear the way. If you try the lute forum you may find somebody you can get to, or perhaps a summerschool, seminar or similar thing.
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by pogmoor » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:15 am

If you are using files from the Gerbode website then you can download a midi file of each piece and import that into MuseScore. The result will need a lot of editing, as the program Sarge Gerbode uses for digitising tablature (Fronimo) exports everything as a single voice, but it's much quicker than transcribing the tablature bar by bar. However for pieces where only the only available written source is the lute tablature I find myself most comfortable using a program that has an onscreen fretboard (in my case Sibelius). Sibelius allows you to create an instrument with the required tuning (renaissance or baroque lute for example) and reproduce the layout of the tablature on screen which can then be transferred to a notation staff. This, again, needs editing to separate the voices and you need to judge how the voicing works in each piece as the lute tablature does not convey this information.

The drawback of using Sibelius is that it does not have a good way of representing the courses below the 6th, so you have to add these notes in later. MuseScore is much better in this respect (I find its implementation of lute tablature very good) and I hope that the developers will eventually implement an onscreen fretboard (there is already an onscreen keyboard).

An alternative could be to get hold of a midi guitar and 'play' the tablature into a scoring program. I tried this a few years back and didn't get on with it at all but I believe some people find it ok.

Music recognition programs that 'listen' to the music playing and convert it to a score are mostly very poor with polyphonic music, but if you have a copy of a piece in notation - say you want to make a guitar arrangement of a keyboard piece - then optical music recognition programs are not bad, especially with clearly printed scores. I currently use SmartScore Music-to-XML which, as its name suggests, converts a written score to Music XML, which most music scoring programs can import (it will also convert to either Sibelius or Finale). There have been experiments with scanning and digitising lute tablature directly but I don't think these have progressed very far - that would be the ideal method if it worked!
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sxedio
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by sxedio » Mon Jun 11, 2018 7:33 pm

pogmoor wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:15 am
An alternative could be to get hold of a midi guitar and 'play' the tablature into a scoring program. I tried this a few years back and didn't get on with it at all but I believe some people find it ok.
I've done this with the YouRock guitar midi controller and MuseScore, though not for lute tablature. YouRock guitar has a (renaissance) lute tuning mode, though only six strings . Definitely faster than a minute per measure, I use step mode entry so not as fast as playing the piece. Still requires some editing to assign notes to different voices.
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kenray12
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by kenray12 » Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:34 am

I did not know about the midi file import feature in MuseScore. That definitely speeds things up! It worked well when I tried it.

I'm too cheap to spring for Sibelius, but the onscreen fretboard sounds like it could simplify things. But it also sounds like MuseScore has some features I need to dig into since I'm not fully familiar with it.

Thanks for these tips. I still need to learn lute tablature, but this is a much faster way of getting sheet music to where I can play around with it.
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sxedio
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by sxedio » Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:17 pm

kenray12 wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:34 am
I did not know about the midi file import feature in MuseScore. That definitely speeds things up! It worked well when I tried it.
Are you using midi guitar or a midi keyboard? Midi entry is definitely worth it especially where the music is chordal/polyphonic
(Gr) (En) (very little Fr)

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RobMacKillop
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by RobMacKillop » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:28 pm

You could purchase Fronimo, then open up the fronimo files which are free on Sarge's site and elsewhere, and with a few mouse clicks have the music in standard notation, treble clef.

kenray12
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by kenray12 » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:23 am

sxedio wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:17 pm
kenray12 wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:34 am
I did not know about the midi file import feature in MuseScore. That definitely speeds things up! It worked well when I tried it.
Are you using midi guitar or a midi keyboard? Midi entry is definitely worth it especially where the music is chordal/polyphonic
I don't have any midi instruments; my only avenue to the midi input feature is the files I can find. I'm still very much an amateur musician, so I get more mileage out of "programming" the music into MuseScore than I would by stumbling through playing it through a midi interface.
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kenray12
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by kenray12 » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:25 am

RobMacKillop wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:28 pm
You could purchase Fronimo, then open up the fronimo files which are free on Sarge's site and elsewhere, and with a few mouse clicks have the music in standard notation, treble clef.
The current price for Fronimo is a bit much for me at this point. Maybe once I get better acquainted with the lute repertoire it will be a better investment for my musical toolbox.
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by RobMacKillop » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:27 am

Well, might I suggest my Introduction To The Lute for Lute and Guitar Players (Mel Bay publications)? It teaches guitarists systematically how to read lute tab, but guitar tab is included also. It starts with single line studies, then two-part textures, before moving on to a lot of great repertoire. There are also sound files I recorded of every piece in the book. Many classical guitar players use it, as well as non-classical players. It has proved very popular, and Mel Bay has commissioned a repertoire supplement, which I've just finished compiling and typesetting. That will appear in two separate 80-page volumes, one in lute tab, the other in guitar tab. Reading Renaissance lute tab on the guitar is not difficult, but requires repetition and reinforcement - something I've tried to address with these books.

kenray12
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by kenray12 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:16 pm

RobMacKillop wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:27 am
Well, might I suggest my Introduction To The Lute for Lute and Guitar Players (Mel Bay publications)?
Sold! Sounds like the New Testament to Diana Poulton's Old Testament.
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RobMacKillop
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by RobMacKillop » Thu Jun 14, 2018 3:52 pm

Haha. We should advertise it as that ;-)

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tosunpasa
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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by tosunpasa » Mon Jun 18, 2018 12:03 am

What a coincidence, I too was trying to transcribe a baroque lute tablature today and asked Rob from youtube, and he lend his help, thank you again Rob. My channel is this by the way; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgFtSt ... iLV64PeHXg

I will publish my first transcription in musescore but also will create a post here, though i might get removed from delcamp due to long term inactivity before that :s

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Re: Transcribing lute tablature or performances to modern notation

Post by RobMacKillop » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:06 am

Good luck with it!

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