Early Music on Ukulele: Robert de Visée, “Menuet”

In my previous post, i’ve written about ukulele reentrant tuning and campanella technique, and how this technique has been derived from techniques used on ancien instruments.

One reader sent me an email that can be summarized with:

“So, if the campanella-style comes from ancien instruments, may be a good idea transcribe some music from that instruments!”

Good point!

Why re-entrant tuning? A bit of history…

So, the ukulele use re-entrant tuning for historical reasons? Let’s investigate…

Strings for early instruments were made from gut, that in some situations makes impossible to create a thicker lower string, so was simply replaced with an higher-octave string, sometimes with a double course.

But ukulele, developed in the 1880s, is based on several small guitar-like instruments of Portuguese origin such as the machete, the cavaquinho, the timple, and the rajão, introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by portuguese immigrants.

So the ukulele actually not comes from a continuous line of reentrant-tuned instruments, because all portuguese instruments on which is based doesn’t use re-entrant tuning.

In my opionion, re-entrant tuning simply gives to players easier access to a potential melody note within a given chord.

The high reentrant G tends to give you close position chord voicings similar to the sort of voicings a keyboard player would play in his right hand.

This can come in handy with chord-melody and finger picking styles, and allows unusual techniques with interesting sounds.

And so?

So, even if the “jumping flea” is not descendant of ancient instrument, nothing says we can’t try to transcribe some ancient music piece.
In fact, today I’d like to share this transcription of a menuet by Robert de Visée (1655–1732), a lutenist, guitarist, theorbist and viol player at the court of the French kings Louis XIV and Louis XV, as well as a singer and composer for lute, theorbo and guitar.

The original piece is in D major, but in order to a better use of empty strings, i’ve transposed the melody in C major.

Here my version:


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