The Lute Society: Beginners Lesson 5

Le Roy, Prelude

  • Lesson 5 of our beginners lessons, by Lynda Sayce
  • Piece taken from 70 Easy to Intermediate Pieces (piece #48)
  • Full copies of the playing editions from which the lessons are taken can be ordered in our catalogue


This innocuous-looking little piece has some surprisingly awkward corners. Because the piece is in two-part counterpoint throughout, it is essential to project this clearly. I have put in some additional hold marks, which should be carefully observed. I have also added some left-hand fingerings, which, in one or two cases, require an awkward stretch or contraction, but are the best fingerings I can find to preserve the counterpoint.

Left hand

Untidy left-hand fingering can ruin your counterpoint, so make sure to place your left hand fingertips as perpendicular to the strings as possible, so that they do not mute the adjacent courses. Leave fingers down until the last possible moment, to achieve the maximum possible legato effect. It is very important that the right hand makes the best possible contact with the strings, especially when the voices lie on adjacent strings; it is generally easier to produce a good sound with more widely-spaced voices, and most difficult when the two top courses are to be played simultaneously.

Right hand

I have slightly modified the right-hand fingering, to maintain the off-beat use of the index finger as much as possible. At the end of bar 13 this means bringing the index finger swiftly and cleanly to the fourth course, crossing several strings en route. However, it is worth the effort for the nicely-articulated bass line which results.

Tricky spots

The first really awkward corner occurs at the end of bar 5, where the closeness of the two voices, together with the shift to fourth position, may cause some players to stumble. My suggested left-hand fingering uses the index finger as an anchor during bar 6, and the third finger as an anchor during bar 7. I suggest leaving the index finger down for all of bar 6, using a 2-course barré to provide a bit of stability for the hand at this point. A secure placing of the third finger in bar 7 will be immensely helpful for the awkward stretch and intricate fingering. Many beginners find the upper frets daunting and avoid them, adding the burden of unfamiliarity to the tablature letters f, g and h. Whenever you have to venture up the neck, it may be helpful to think of where the index finger is anchored, rather than worrying about the dizzying heights occupied by your fourth finger. If you cultivate a disciplined left hand, this method of index finger placement 'plus a hand' will prove an accurate and reliable way of locating the three frets above your index finger, and will spare you many a panic-stricken lunge for the upper reaches of the fretboard.


Practise this piece slowly and make sure that you can hear the progress of each independent voice through the piece; if you can't, stop and go back and rethink your right-hand contact and/or your left-hand fingering. The exploratory nature of the piece means that it does not need to be performed metronomically, but a metronome will be very helpful during the learning process, to iron out any technical stumbles.