Gorlier: Duo

In 16th century, arrangement, Chords Guitar, Renaissance, Renaissance guitar, tablature, transcription 4553 views
Gorlier: Duo,2.67 / 5 ( 6votes )

Gorlier: Duo Another piece for low-G ukulele transcribed from a 1550s piece for Renaissance guitar. “Duo” doesn’t mean a duet, but two musical voices played on one instrument.

Not a lot is known about Simon Gorlier, but I remember reading somewhere that he thought that the Renaissance guitar was rather beneath him (ahem!).


I did not transcribe this piece from a facsimile of the original, as I have been doing of late, but from a transcription for modern guitar by he excellent Charles Wolzien & Frank Bliven: Early Guitar Anthology, I, The Renaissance, c.1540-1580, [EGA1], available to download at:

I have since found a facsimile at https://www.delcamp.net/pdf/facsimile_1551_Guillaume_Morlaye_Livre_III_Guiterne.pdf
for which I express my gratitude. I have used this to “correct” a few divergences in fingerings.

The piece has also been transcribed by Keith Calmes (Guitar music of the 16th Century, 2008, Mel Bay Publications) but in 2/4 time (as in the original). The main difference with the EGA1 version is that he carries the upper voice across the bars marked by a “¶” (to show the end of a cadence) on the attached files. It’s up to you what you prefer to play.


You can download the files for free in the following formats:

  • pdf
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI


There are 5 sections of 9, 6, 6, 7 and 9 bars, marked by the paragraph sign (¶) in the score. There are just two voices (except in the last few bars): I imagine that, in the convention of the time, they would be played mostly by the thumb on the lower voice and the index and middle fingers on the upper voice. In scalar passages, the index finger would be reserved for the less accented notes.

In bar 6 it is not clear where the upper and lower voices lie. I have followed EGA1 by moving the initial F to the 3rd string (the original has it on the 2nd) so that it can be sustained in the lower voice, whilst the upper voice takes the A-G-A-B…; meanwhile, Calmes has the lower voice as part of the scale in the previous bar continuing on through F-G-A-B… (but then turning into the upper voice in the second half of the bar). I have appended his voicing to the score as a footnote. To be quite honest, I don’t think anyone will notice the difference. Perhaps Gorlier meant it to be ambiguous.

The following commentary is copied directly from the learned account on EGA1 – I don’t pretend to understand all of it.

“The Gorlier Duo … features tightly packed, overlapping imitative entries at the octave
as well as the fifth that change with each new phrase (see measures 9, 16, 21 and 28).”

“Gorlier’s Duo … is written in the phrygian mode on E*, the top voice spanning the
octave of E4 to E5 (solmized with the authentic range of the mode mi-fa-mi-re-sol), the bottom voice inhabiting the octave from A3 to A4 (solmized with the plagal range of the mode, la-re-la/mi-fa-mi/la-sol).

The mode is defined by the expected cadences on the first, fourth and sixth (the phrygian dominant) degrees of the scale and reinforced by the picardy third that makes the final chord E major. By dwelling slightly on these cadence points, and carefully blocking the notes at the end of each phrase in order to draw attention to the start of every new motif, the performer can help clarify the modal structure of this piece for the listener.”

* I have converted the pitch references in EGA1 to the ukulele equivalent.  The Phrygian mode in E is what you get on the piano when you play a scale on all the white notes starting on E.

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