Francois Campion’s alternate tunings

Francois Campion’s alternate tunings
The first half, roughly, of Nouvelles Decouvertes is devoted to pieces in 7 alternate tunings. The second half of the book is all in standard tuning. Campion specifies each “accord nouveau” by showing how to match unisons and octaves, using tablature. He always uses open string 3 as the jumping off point. The tuning instructions are shown below in order of appearance in the book.

All tunings are spelled out here from string 5 (or string pair 5) to string 1 – in the same way we say E A D G B E for the standard tuning of the modern guitar. No effort is made to specify absolute octaves because of the complicating factor of varying application of bass strings on the Baroque guitar.

                   _______________________________
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|___0_||_
                   ____|_____|___0_|_2___|_____||_
Campion Tuning 1:  __0_|_3___|_____|_____|_____||_  =  Bb D G C F.
                   ____|_____|_____|___0_|_3___||_
                   ____|___0_|_2___|_____|_____||_
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|_____||_

                   _______________________________
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|___0_||_
                   ____|_____|___0_|_2___|_____||_
Campion Tuning 2:  __0_|_4___|_____|_____|_____||_  =  B D G C F#.
                   ____|_____|_____|___0_|_4___||_
                   ____|___0_|_1___|_____|_____||_
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|_____||_

                   _______________________________
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|___0_||_
                   ____|_____|___0_|_0___|_3___||_
Campion Tuning 3:  __0_|_3___|_____|_____|_____||_  = Bb C G C Eb.
                   ____|_____|_____|___0_|_____||_
                   ____|___0_|_2___|_____|_____||_
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|_____||_

                   _______________________________
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|___0_||_
                   ____|_____|___0_|_0___|_4___||_
Campion Tuning 4:  __0_|_4___|_____|_____|_____||_  =  B C G C E.
                   ____|_____|_____|___0_|_____||_
                   ____|___0_|_1___|_____|_____||_
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|_____||_

                   _______________________________
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|___0_||_
                   ____|_____|___0_|_1___|_____||_
Campion Tuning 5:  __0_|_4___|_____|_____|_____||_  =  B D G C# F#.
                   ____|_____|_____|___0_|_4___||_
                   ____|___0_|_2___|_____|_____||_
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|_____||_

                   _______________________________
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|___0_||_
                   ____|_____|___0_|_2___|_____||_
Campion Tuning 6:  __0_|_5___|_____|_____|_____||_  =  C D G C F.
                   ____|_____|_____|___0_|_3___||_
                   ____|___0_|_0___|_____|_____||_
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|_____||_

                   _______________________________
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|___0_||_
                   ____|_____|___0_|_0___|_____||_
Campion Tuning 7:  __0_|_4___|_____|_____|_0___||_  =  B D G D G.
                   ____|_____|_____|___0_|_____||_
                   ____|___0_|_3___|_____|_____||_
                   ____|_____|_____|_____|_____||_

What matters, of course, is the relative tuning of the strings. Absolute tuning depends on which string(s) you leave the same in the retuning process. Absolute pitch was not standardized back then, anyhow. The following chart shows how the above tunings relate to the standard tuning, A D G B E, and gives some options.

   Tuning Name   |     --- Tuning ---  |  Deviation in semi- |    Strings
    (pieces)     | ID       notes      | tones from standard |    retuned
--------------------------------------- -------------------------------------
Campion Tuning 1 | 1.   A# D  G  C  F  | +1 +0 +0 +1 +1 = +3 |  3 up.
   (FC1-FC49)    | 1a.  A  C# F# B  E  | +0 -1 -1 +0 +0 = -2 |  2 down.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Campion Tuning 2 | 2.   B  D  G  C  F# | +2 +0 +0 +1 +2 = +5 |  3 up.
  (FC50-FC54)    | 2a.  A# C# F# B  F  | +1 -1 -1 +0 +1 =  0 |  2 up, 2 down.
                 | 2b.  A  C  F  A# E  | +0 -2 -2 -1 +0 = -5 |  3 down.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Campion Tuning 3 | 3.   A# C  G  C  D# | +1 -2 +0 +1 -1 = -1 |  2 up, 2 down.
  (FC55-FC62)    |                     |                     |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Campion Tuning 4 | 4.   B  C  G  C  E  | +2 -2 +0 +1 +0 = +1 |  2 up, 1 down.
  (FC63-FC66)    |                     |                     |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Campion Tuning 5 | 5.   B  D  G  C# F# | +2 +0 +0 +2 +2 = +6 |  3 up.
  (FC67-FC68)    | 5a.  A# C# F# C  F  | +1 -1 -1 +1 +1 = +1 |  3 up, 2 down.
                 | 5b.  A  C  F  B  E  | +0 -2 -2 +0 +0 = -4 |  2 down.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Campion Tuning 6 | 6.   C  D  G  C  F  | +3 +0 +0 +1 +1 = +5 |  3 up.
  (FC69-FC70)    | 6a.  B  C# F# B  E  | +2 -1 -1 +0 +0 =  0 |  1 up, 2 down.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Campion Tuning 7 | 7.   B  D  G  D  G  | +2 +0 +0 +3 +3 = +8 |  3 up.
     (FC71)      | 7a.  A# C# F# C# F# | +1 -1 -1 +2 +2 = +3 |  3 up, 2 down.
                 | 7b.  A  C  F  C  F  | +0 -2 -2 +1 +1 = -2 |  2 up, 2 down.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of course, in playing these pieces you will not always be retuning from standard tuning. Here is a suggested route through the tunings which should streamline, if not minimize, the tuning effort. The connecting line | shows at a glance which string(s) need to be retuned.

    Retune                   for           Tuning        Deviation from
    string(s)   to get       pieces      progression.    standard tuning.
    ---------   ----------   --------   --------------   ----------------
                Tuning 6a    FC69-70.   B  C# F# B  E       0 semi-tones
                                        |
    5           Tuning 1a    FC1-49.    A  C# F# B  E      -2     "
                                        |           |
    5, 1        Tuning 2a    FC50-54.   A# C# F# B  F       0     "
                                                 |
    2           Tuning 5a    FC67-68.   A# C# F# C  F      +1     "
                                           |  |     |
    4, 3, 1     Tuning 3     FC55-62.   A# C  G  C  D#     -1     "
                                        |           |
    5, 1        Tuning 4     FC63-66.   B  C  G  C  E      +1     "
                                        |     |     |
    5, 3, 1     Tuning 7b    FC71.      A  C  F  C  F      -2     "

Notice that Tuning 1a naturally exerts a strong pull as a starting point. It’s the first one; the bulk of these pieces are in that tuning; and you can easily get to it from standard tuning by lowering strings 4 and 3 a semi-tone. If you start with Tuning 1a, move to Tuning 6a, then to Tuning 2a and on down the line.

Tuning 7 is an oddball. Notice that you can get to it from Tuning 2 or Tuning 5 by retuning just two strings, the 2nd and 1st.


Francois Campion, Baroque guitar and tablature
Francois Campion’s Nouvelles Decouvertes sur la Guitarre, his first work, was published in 1705. The book is about 45 pages long, but the copy given by his nephew to the Bibliotheque Royale in 1748 has additional pieces in manuscript inserted, bringing the page count up to about 112. I am not clear about the dating of these manuscript pages, but Campion was active producing about 7 works up until 1734. To what extent any of these later works involve the guitar, and if any of the inserted material came from them, I’m not clear.

For a bit of orientation, Francesco Corbetta‘s works date from 1639 to 1674, and Robert de Visee‘s from 1682 to 1686. Campion is considered “next in importance after de Visee among French guitarists.” (Richard Pinnell’s Corbetta disertation, 1980.)

I have translated only the pieces in alternate tunings into modern tablature here for several reasons. While I would argue that tablature is an appropriate way to present any and all Baroque guitar music, it is downright necessary for pieces in alternate tunings. Even if someone did publish these pieces in music notation, it’s not likely anyone would undertake to read the music on a guitar in the specified tuning.

Another reason is that Campion’s pieces for guitar in standard tuning are fairly well represented in modern transcriptions. In my music collection, I have about 20 examples from Richard Pick, Adalbert Quadt, Bruno Henze, and Siegfried Behrend.

By all means, buy a facsimile copy of Nouvelles Decouvertes. Although I worked from a good copy from microfilm, Minkoff’s facsimile is even nicer and resolved a few questions. It has an introduction by Francois Lesure. Everything you need to play the music is here in these web pages, but having access to the original greatly enhances the experience. Even if you never actually play from the facsimile, merely looking it over and cross-checking a few bars here and there with the modern tablature goes a long way in removing the “middle man” (me) from between you and Campion.

CAMPION’S TABLATURE: Campion used “French tablature”. Specifically, it is right-side-up, uses 5 lines for the 5 strings, and uses swirly letters to indicate frets. It is generally very legible – even the pieces in manuscript. The most common problem is that “c” and “e” tend to morph into each other when not written with complete care.

Still, it would look quite scary to anyone not familiar with old tablatures: “b”s that look like “f”s (and take up 3 lines, to boot!); loopy “d”s; “a b c” mapped into “0 1 2″ – not “1 2 3″; ornaments shown behind the “note”; and skeletal rhythmic information.

CAMPION’S STRINGING: I have seen conflicting ideas on whether or not Campion used a bourdon (bass string) on his 5th course. All I know is that the music sounds fine on a modern guitar strung normally. If you go with a modern guitar, let me suggest terz guitar strings. I use LaBella. I find the brighter sound and the lighter touch – I tune them a half-step below the designated pitch – to be much more “in tune” with this ancient music.

Some Baroque guitar composers made melodic use of the high octaves on pairs 5 and 4. They were used for melody notes in passages called “campanelas”, where notes of a scale are gotten by jumping back and forth between strings on different sides of the fingerboard.

Campion did not write campanelas passages. Thus, his music will work very well played on a modern guitar. There are passages, however, where a bass line goes from string 5 to string 3, or vice versa, with a resulting discontinuity. It is always a simple matter to add, or substitute, the desired octave. Many of these spots are flagged in the notes accompanying the pieces. (See, for example, FC50 measure 2, rhythm 5.)

You may want to add the higher octave, not for the sake of a musical line, but just to give a fuller texture on the modern guitar. Be on the lookout for 4th and 5th string notes where this may be beneficial. Write in your added notes. See my web pages which present two versions of a Passacaille by Gallot – one with, and one without, added octaves. Or see my web page with suggestions for playing a passage by Gaspar Sanz on the modern guitar.

Or, for a step up in authenticity, take a look at my web page which explains how you can very simply convert a modern guitar into a Baroque guitar – what I call a “quasi-Baroque” guitar. (Don’t use your Smallman.)

ORNAMENTATION: Campion notated 3 different ornaments. In his tablature, “x” meant a trill, “,” meant a mordent, and “#” meant vibrato. These symbols were placed behind the note (i.e., fret letter) they acted on. In this modern tablature, I use symbols which suggest twiddles from above or below, and they are placed in front of the fret number.

” = trill (multiple twiddles from above.)

` = grace note from above. (Not used in Campion’s music.)

, = mordent (main note to lower neighbor and back up.)

# = vibrato.

Campion showed explicitly the auxilliary note for every trill. I haven’t passed this along since it is much easier to figure it out on the fly than to extract it from a list or somehow cram it into the tablature. It’s almost always obvious, and in the few cases where there might possibly be some doubt, I give Campion’s auxilliary note in the introductory comments.

When you catch yourself going for the wrong trill note, write the correct fret number up beside the trill symbol.

I don’t know if it can be justified in music from Campion’s time and place, but in some fast-moving pieces, I play an inverted mordent (main note to upper neighbor and back down) instead of a trill – that’s all I can squeeze in! It sounds fine to me.

SLURS: are described by their starting and ending points. You’ll have to draw them in by hand – not too onerous a chore. If only a starting point for the slur is given, the slur includes all the following uninterrupted notes on the same string, even if the run of notes crosses a bar line. (In Campion’s music, though, this never happens; none of his slurs cross a barline.)

STRUMS: Campion punctuates all of his pieces with at least a few strums – a characteristic element of Baroque guitar music. I have managed to work ^ and v arrowheads into the tablature, but they can stand a little touching up. For a nicer appearance, redraw the arrowhead right at the top or bottom of its stem and white-out the printed one.

In general, open strings were not shown in the strummed chords. Sometimes Campion tells you explicitly not to play certain strings in a strummed chord, but he is not consistent about this. I suggest that you write in the open strings that you find work well in the strum and, further, mark the undesired strings with “no strum” dots. No sense re-inventing the wheel every time.

RHYTHM VALUES: Campion’s original rhythm values have been retained. Remember that in the original tablature, a rhythm symbol is printed only when a new rhythm begins. When I need to describe a sequence of rhythm values, I write the implied rhythm values in ( ). For example, where Campion writes . . .

           __        __
        |. |  |      |
      |-c--e--f|---------|
      |--------|-b-c----e|
      |-a------|-c-d-a---|
      |--------|---------|
      |--------|---------|

. . . I would describe the rhythms as follows:

Bar 1 – dotted-4er 8th 4er.
Bar 2 – (4er 4er) 8th (8th).

NOTES INEGALES: I urge you to make extensive use of inegales when playing this French Baroque music. There are reminders in the introductions to the pieces for which I think inegales is appropriate. I emphasize, though, that I am not an expert in Baroque performance practices.

SIMPLIFICATIONS: A potential problem spot is the occasional trill executed with the little finger. In some of these cases I suggest changing the fingering of the chord to allow a stronger finger to do the trill.

IGNORED NOTATION: Campion uses parentheses ( ) on the top line of the tablature staff to show where a barre is in effect. I argue that this is never needed in music notation (since fingerings show barres clearly) and even less so in tablature.

Also, Campion makes extensive use of diagonal slashes, indicating to let notes ring (I think). His tablature is sick with them and, truth to tell, I don’t see how one would play a piece any differently with or without them.

[Jun 2008] I’ve since been informed that Campion explains the slash on page 4 of Nouvelles dicouvertes Sur la Guitarre:

/ \ Je mets ces deux marques les premieres comme les plus necessaires. Elles sont indispensables c’est pourquoi j’avertis et je prie meme de tenir les doigts autant que l’on pourra, la premiere est pour les basses et la seconde est pour les dessus.

I don’t know French, but my current understanding is that the player should hold the note at the beginning of the slash, whether bass or treble, while he plays the succeeding notes for the duration of the slash. In other words, it’s an indication to let the first note ring.

COPYRIGHT: this work may be copied freely by anybody. Help yourself.

THANKS: to early music scholar Joseph Weidlich for giving me the copy of Campion’s book he received years ago from the Bibliotheque Nationale Paris’. Almost all of my work (in quotes) was done from this copy. Thanks to Baroque guitar enthusiast and scholar Beverly Ross for answering a lot of questions and lending me the Minkoff facsimile, which helped wrap up a few loose ends. Thanks to Jean-Jacques Sacri for his help with the interpretation of the slashes in Campion’s tablature.

http://www.reocities.com/donaldsauter/francois-campion.htm


This entry was posted in Historical studies related to the guitar. Bookmark the permalink.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

ZmruU8

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>