Theory and practice of play
How to read lute tabulatures?

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    There are many kinds of lute instruments Look >>> But all of them are combined by tabulature: French, Spanish (or guitar), Neapolitan, Italian and German. The last has styles: Hans Neusidler, Hans Judenkunig and Hans Gerle. Lute tabulature consists of six lines meaning strings. The most used are French and Spanish (guitar). Lute fingering description see Here >>>

Compare one and the same fragment in different kinds (Marco dall Aquila "Recercare 5"):

Modern notation
for classical guitar.






French tabulature.





First string is above. Letters correspond to frets in such order:
a b c/r d e f g h i k l m n
0 I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII


Spanish (or guitar) tabulature.





Figures correspond to frets, first string is above.


Italian tabulature.






Figures correspond to frets, first string is down.


Neapolitan tabulature.





Frets count begins from open string, first string is above.


German tabulature.      

Originally, the German tabulature was worked out by Conrad Paumann (1410-1473) for the 5-choired lute. When the 6-choired lutes became more common the 6th choir was introduced into the German tabulature, it had 5 versions but more used is the second (*See the table). The main difference of this tabulature from others is, that it can represent polyphony. 6 lines, unlike the others, are absent because every note on the neck has its unique symbol.

Frets
Strings
0 I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX
5 e k p v 9
4 d i o t 7
3 c h n s z
2 b g m r y
1 a f l q x
(1) A B C D E F G H    
*(2) A B C D E F G H  
(3) A F
L Q X AA FF    
(4)  
(5)  


Rhythmical designation for all kinds of tabulatures is the same and corresponds to the modern notation. Inscription can be anyone, it doesn't matter: