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*** #9, Winter 2000 ****
*** by Federico Marincola ***

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*** Table of contents ***
Part I -- Observations on the lute technique (by Giorgio Ferraris - kafer@ti
Part II -- About Giorgio Ferraris

Part III -- About Federico Marincola
Part I -- Observations on the lute technique
(by Giorgio Ferraris -, with the kind permission
of "Il Fronimo, rivista trimestrale di chitarra e liuto",
translation by Robin Fox)
In 1978 I wrote an article for the magazine "Il Fronimo", entitled "Sulla
tecnica del liuto". At that time "Il Fronimo" was directed by Ruggero
Chiesa, my former guitar teacher, and edited by Edizioni Suivini e Zerboni;
the article was published in the January 1979 issue.
Even today, republishing the same article twenty years later, I must quote
from the introduction to that article that "I'm totally in debt to Mrs Diana
Poulton for her research of the sources and for most of the quotations about
the lute". At that time I was just a beginner lute student and she was a famous
lute teacher and the best-known musicologist of the lute repertoire. On my reque
however, Diana very kindly sent me various pages of quotations and suggestions
for the article. When I respectfully sent the article to her, she wrote back to
me saying: "Thank so much for sending me the copy of "Il Fronimo" with your art
on the technique of the lute. I am so very pleased that you haver been able to m
use of the sources of information which I was able to show you. This will all
help towards spreading a knowledge of the true technique and, I hope, help to
convert some of the people who still maintain that the technique of the guitar
can be transferred to the lute without any modification. I can't tell you how mu
pleasure it gives to me when I find I have been able to help people towards a
better understanding of the lute and its music"
(a facsimile of Diana's letter is at --->
a.htm )
Apart from the technical contents of this letter and the many subsequent letters

that I had the honour of receiving from her, I must say that, thanks to her teac
I had an extraordinary lesson on how to transmit culture. She showed me, in what
the most evident way, how a teacher's influence can shape a pupil's mind and way
thinking for life.
Twenty years ago there were very few well-qualified lute teachers and, at the sa
time, many guitarists who wanted to play the lute, thinking that the two
instruments shared the same technical approach. I think the problem is still
a current one and the points made in my article are valid discussion points
even today. Anyway, I was trying to prove that the main difference between
the two techniques - the little finger on the belly - has immediate consequences

on the musical expression in a performance of a piece of music. In other words,
"the little finger on the belly" is the technical principle which unites all
European lute schools from the renaissance to the late baroque period. On the
other hand the aim of modern classical guitar technique is far from being
orientated towards specific philological problems of interpretation; the modern
guitarist who wishes to play early lute music on the classical guitar should, in

my opinion, adopt a right-hand fingering technique based on that used by lute pl

The playing of early music on the guitar has led to many guitarists being intere
in the lute. The lute is an instrument that has a very precise place in history.

It underwent a definitive halt in its evolution and has been virtually "dead" fo
a certain period of time. The only possible method of research for an instrument

of this type is, therefore, a philological one. There is no valid reason, for ex
for the invention or application of new technical principles. As, from a mechani
point of view, what was taught at the time was considered adequate and satisfied

all the aesthetic rules of the period, why should any new way of holding the
instrument or moving the hands be any better? It is even less thinkable to call
into question the general aesthetic principles of the time and think about intro
new principles. The philological approach, here, is clearly indicated.
Two methods can be used to provide clear indications as to how musicians in the
past played their instruments: the study of treatises and the study of iconograp
The quantity of iconography regarding the lute is, in fact, enormous and very
detailed (The English lute Society has the biggest collection in the world with
hundreds and hundreds of examples); equally as detailed and as numerous are the
treatises: there are examples from every period and from every school. Any
complete study of lute technique would need a comparative analysis of treatises
and iconography, but, in order not to deviate from the aim of this article, we
will include only a few examples of visual evidence as confirmation of the writt
evidence without attempting to go into the subject in detail.
(English translation by Diana Poulton)
Hans Gerle , 'Musica Teusch', Nuremberg, 1532:
"take the lute holding it with the left hand and place the little finger and
the ringfinger on the soundboard, not on the rose, bat a little lower"
Adrian Le Roy, 'A Briefe and easye instruction', London, 1568:
"the little finger serveth but to keep the hande from [firm ] upon the bealie
of the lute"
Matthaeus Weissel, 'Lautenbuch', 1592 (translation by D.A. Smith, Journal of the

lute Society of America, vol. VIII ):
"the right arm is placed not too high, but almost in the middle behind the
bridge, so that the hand is stretched out somewhat lengthways, restling firmly
on the little finger which is placed on the top of the lute on held motionless"
Thomas Robinson, 'The Schoole of Musicke', London, 1603:
"leane upon the bellie of your Lute, with your little finger onelie, & that
neither so far from the Treble strings, neither to neere, and although you ought

to leane lightlie, you carie your hand stedd ilie, not sliding out of this place
Robert Dowland, 'Varietie of Lute-Lessons', London ,1610:
"First set your little finger on the belly of the LUTE, not towards the Rose,
but a little lower"
Alessandro Piccinini, 'Intavolatura di liuto e chitarrone, Libro Primo', Bologn
a 1623:
"Il deto Police stia longo; l'Auricolare sta posato sul fondo e stara' bene
Mary Burwell's Lute Tutor (c. 1652-8):
"For the right hand, it must be placed between the Rose and the Bridge, but
nearest to the Bridge your hand must lie upon the belly of the lute with the lit
finger onely which must be as it were glued unto it; [...] but take heed that yo
u never
lay the little finger uppon the Bridge, neither strike the strings with nails"
Marin Mersenne, 'Harmonie Universelle', 1636 (Translated by Roger E. Chapman):
"In the fourth place, the little finger ought to be propped on the soundboard of

the lute, close to the bridge and the treble strings, since those who place it b
the said bridge contract a bad habit which changes later into a second nature"
Thomas Mace, 'Musick Monument', 1676, p.71:
"set your Little finger down upon the Belly of the Lute, just under the Bridge,
against the Treble or the Second String"
Ibidem, p.72: "The second thing to be said is, setting down your Little Finger

upon the Belly, as afore said, close under the Bridge about the first, 2d, 3d.
or 4th Strings; for the thereabouts, is its constant station. It steadies the
hand, and gives Certainty to the Grasp."
Ernst Gottlieb Baron, 'Study of the Lute', 1727 (Translation by D. A. Smith), p.
"the right little finger must be placed by the chanterelle or thinnest string
behind the bridge where it is held slightly curved, and the lute rests somewhere

on the right thigh".
The above-mentioned sources, as well as making it clear that the little finger w
to be rested on the instrument, also outline various different hand-positions;
from the little finger being placed between the rose and the bridge according
to Gerle (1532) to a position behind the bridge according to Baron (1727). The
fact remains that lute technique, according to all the important composers of
the time, required the little finger to rest on the lute.
The most important result of the placing of the little finger on the belly was
that it led inevitably to the thumb and first finger being the main fingers used

in alternation for playing the melody. During the renaissance period, in fact,
the thumb was to play without exception on the strong beats of the bar. The thir
or ring finger was never used in alternation with other fingers; the first known

indication of the use of this finger was in 1603, in Thomas Robinson 'The School
of Musicke'.
Among many different examples, I'm quoting one from the introduction by Besard
published in Robert Dowland's 'Varietie of Lute Lessons' (1610):
"if a letter be left immediatlie after any Griffe, which letter is of the same
mesure with the Griffe, then when you have played that Griffe, you must needs be
the Note following with your fore-finger at all the times, and afterwards use th
Thombe if you meet a third note, so that as long as you play in that mesure you
nothing with the Thombe twice together"
"know that the two first fingers may be used in Diminutions very well insteed o
the Thombe and fore-finger, if they be placed with some Bases, so that the middl
finger be in place of the Thombe, which Thombe whilst it is occupied in striking

at least the Bases."
(a facsimile of these examples is at --->
etie.htm )
In any case the numerous theoretical examples found are supported by most tablat
which indicate the fingering of the right-hand.
The answer to the question "can the lute be played seriously using the same
technique as used on the guitar?" is clearly negative. Without even
going into the mechanical aspect, which works excellently, it is clear that the
technique used was the only one that satisfied the general aesthetic criteria of

the time. We believe that the decline and disappearance of the lute was precisel
because of its inability, at a certain point in time, to adapt to the new demand
asked of it and for which it was not created. I consider it important, therefore
to mention some of the general principles of musical aesthetics valid during the

renaissance and baroque periods and to see how the lute fitted in to this.
The lute was one of the most common and widespread instruments in the whole of
Europe during the renaissance. It goes without saying that general aesthetic
musical principles were also valid for the lute: one need only consider the
innumerable pieces written "for any instrument" and refer to the treatises that
dissertate on every manner of making music.
We can quote from Luis Venegas de Henetrosa's 'Libro de cifra nueva para tecla
harpa y vihuela' from Bottigari's 'Il Desiderio' from Mersenne's 'Harmonie
niverselle' or from Ganassi, Bermudo, Vicentino, Galilei, etc.
What Ganassi states in 'Fontegara', Venezia 1535, chap. I, is therefore true
for the lute: "All musical instruments respect and copy the human voice [...]
therefore we try to learn from it and imitate it"
The method by which the instruments 'imitate' the human voice is by their
"pronuntia" or 'pronunciation'. This term was adopted by the most important
theorists of the time, such as Vicentino in his 'Della Antica Musica ridotta
alla Moderna Prattica', Roma, 1555, Libro IV, chap. XXIX. Trissino, whose Academ
Vicentino attended, defined 'pronuntia' as the study of the accent ("in spirit,

in timing and in tone") of the syllable. Even Zarlino talks about pronunciation
with a musicological meaning, likening the definition to singing or playing a
melody where accent depends on the 'technique of voice emission'. As L. Girodo
and M. Tiella state in their 'Pronuntia strumentale nel Rinascimento e nel Baro
Torino, 1977, p. 5, "The voice or melody should not be measured so much by its
quantity [...] as by the accent; [...] a detailed analysis of the components of
coincide with an analysis of emission".
As far as string instruments are concerned , L. Girodo and M.Tiella remember th
"the slightest alteration of pressure from the first finger of the right hand on

the bow, and consequently from the finger onto the strings, constitutes the tech
basis of playing accents, such as the 'tremar del braccio de lo archetto' descri
by Ganassi in his Regola Rubertina (Venice, 1542)".
"Regarding the recorder, according to Ganassi there are three basic methods of
articulation: the first is TE CHE, TE CHE to produce a harsh and severe effect
('un effetto crudo e aspro'); the second TE RE TE RE, that is for the tempering
of harsh and tender sounds ('temperamento di durezia e tenerezia'); the third
for 'pleasant and soft sounds' ('piacevole et piano') is LERE LERE".
Again , according to Girodo and Tiella, "for keyboard instruments reference can
be made to Diruta's Transilvano:'It remains for me to tell you which are the goo
fingers and the bad fingers; as the fingers speak in a similar fashion about goo
notes and bad notes...' -Good- notes are those on which the accent falls (strong

beats) and therefore the ones that characterise the harmony: the 'pronunciation'

comes from the inequality of the touch, which corresponds to the accent of long
and short syllables".
Similar analogies emerge when comparing the thumb-index finger technique of the
lute with the techniques used for other instruments. Used in alternation with th
index finger, the thumb (or its substitute, the middle finger), playing always o
the strong beat, leads to the formation of 'good' notes and 'bad' notes. A quick

practical trial is enough to confirm this statement. We do not believe that the
lute can be played well if these considerations, which were the basis of musical

composition, are overlooked.
According to some writers, modernisation of the instruments themselves brings
about a continual improvement in performance technique. In reality, only if we
turn our judgement criteria around, can "an aesthetic principle of pronuntia"
emerge, albeit a simplistic one, and it is commonly true that in musical
performances any historical perspective in fact vanishes with the mistaken
belief that modern-day instruments are more perfect than period ones and their
corresponding performance techniques are better. Accordig to Girodo and Tiella
"the reversal of judgement criteria can be identified historically with the
exasperating search for a greater volume of sound and consequently for a greater

dynamism of emission which has characterised the ideals of the 'romantic' school
The idea of using vocal expression as a point of reference was also reversed,
in that melodrama in the nineteenth century produced an instrumental model which

singers were to imitate".
* Ernst Gottlieb Baron, 'Study of the Lute', 1727 (Translation by D. A. Smith),
modern edition, Instrumenta Antiqua Publications, Redondo Beach, California, 197
* Robert Dowland, 'Varieties of Lute-Lessons', London 1610, fac simile editon
by Schott and Co. Ltd, London 1958
* Silvestro Ganassi, 'Opera Intitulata Fontegara', Venetia 1535
* L.Girodo-M.Tiella, 'Pronuntia strumentale nel Rinascimento e nel Barocco',
in 'Musica Antica', Pamparato, 1977
* Adrian Le Roy, 'A briefe and easy instruction',London 1568, modern edition
by C.N.R.S, edited by Jacquot, Vacaro and Sordes, Paris 1977
* Marin Mersenne, 'Harmonie Universelle', Paris, 1636-7, new edition C.N.R.S.,
Paris 1965
* Thomas Mace, 'Musick's Monument', London, 1676, fac-simile edition C.N.R.S.,
Paris, 1966
* Alessandro Piccinini, 'Intavolatura di Liuto, et di Chitarrone, Libro Primo',
Bologna 1623,fac simile edition edited by Orlando Cristoforetti, S:P:E:S ,
Firenze 1983
* Thomas Robinson, 'The Schoole of Musicke', 1603,Modern edition by C.N.R.S.
edited by David Lumsden, Paris, 1971
* Marco Tiella, La pronuntia degli strumenti barocchi, in Atti del Convegno
su M.Schtz, Urbino-Roma, 1978, p.221-240
* Marco Tiella, Renaissance and baroque Musical Instrument and their
"pronuntia", in The Organ yearbook, XV,1984, p.5-12
* Marco Tiella, La "pronuntia" degli strumenti barocchi,in Atti
dell'Accademia roveretana degli Agiati, VI,20,I.A., 1981, p.147-166
* Stefano Toffolo, 'Antichi strumenti veneziani', Arsenale Editrice, Venezia 198
* Gioseffo Zarlino, 'Le Istituzioni Harmoniche'. Venetia, MDLXII
Part II -- About Giorgio Ferraris
Giorgio Ferraris was born in Milan in 1946; he studied Economics and graduated
at the Catholic University of Milan in 1969. In the same years he was taught gui
by Ruggero Chiesa and got his diploma at the "G. Verdi" Conservatory of Milan. A
a guitarist he completed higher courses of specialization held by Oscar Ghiglia
Abel Carlevaro. In the following years he devoted himself to the study of the lu
he studied under the guidance of Orlando Cristoforetti and got his diploma at th
Conservatory of Verona. As a lute player he completed higher courses of speciali
run by the English Lute Society.
He performed as a concert-player in Italy and abroad (on tours in Europe, Japan
and India) both as a soloist and as a member of groups specialized in early musi
As a continuo player he performed l7th and l8th century music with the R.A.I. Or
of Milan and with the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra.
He is also interested in musical iconography. He cooperated with the Biblioteca
della Banca Popolare of Bergamo an the Accademia Carrara of Bergamo to the publi
of different books on Evaristo Baschenis, the most important l7th century paint
er of
musical instruments. He published papers, essays and monographs on the above top
He is currently teaching at the Scuola Civica di Musica and Civica Scuola di Liu
of the City of Milan.
He has recorded for Concerto and Ducale.
1991 Ensemble del Riccio: Per sonare et cantare, musiche italiane del
XVI e XVII secolo, Concerto
1998 Ensemble Baschenis: The Early Mandolin, musiche del '700 italiano per uno o
mandolini barocchi e basso continuo, Ducale
* In Marco Rosci, "Evaristo Baschenis", Biblioteca della Banca Polpolare di Berg
Bergamo, 1985: 'Guida all'identificazione degli strumenti' by Giorgio Ferraris
and Franco Gallini
* In AA.VV., "Evaristo Baschenis e la natura morta in Europa", Skira' Editore, M
1996: 'Guida all'identificazione degli strumenti musicali', by Giorgio Ferraris
Lorenzo Girodo
* In "Il Fronimo, rivista trimestrale di chitarra e liuto", Edizioni Suvini e Ze
rboni, Milano:
- 'Sull'impostazione del braccio destra', XVII, p.17-21
- 'Sulla tecnica del liuto', XXVI, p.24-28
- 'Liuto, arciliuto, chitarrone. Strumenti dell'et barocca in Italia', XXXIX, p.
- 'I liuti di Evaristo Baschenis', LVII, p. 7-21
- 'Pasquale Taraffo e la scuola chitarristica genovese',CVI, p.17-30
Giorgio Ferraris
via Marsala 7
20121 Milano
tel: +39 02 65 92 274
cell. +39 (0)328 4667457
email <>
I live at the border between France and Italy, but I spend a lot of time
traveling around to play my concerts and to teach. Usually I have a quite
tight schedule, but if you contact me well in advance I might be available
for recitals and seminars, or for collaborations with professional
renaissance and baroque ensembles.
Here are my addresses and phone numbers:
Lute Page:
snailmail: C.P. 50, 18039, Ventimiglia (IM), Italy
French Tel. + 33 4 93 35 66 58
French Fax + 33 4 93 35 56 68
Italian mobile + 39 347 73 09 321
If you want to read my CV, to check my complete discography, to see some press
reviews etc, you are warmly invited to visit my Lute Page at or you can get my Electronic Brochure
(send an email to
######### end of the "LuteBot Quarterly" #9, Winter 2000 ##########
(by Federico Marincola <>)