Brussels : Bibliothèque du Conservatoir Royal de Musique Ms.S.5615


Among these signs there are many which are common to all sorts of tablature, and without detaining myself to make the distinction, here are those which are found in guitar tablature which one ought to understand.

The two lines with dots [example] which are in the middle of a piece, indicate that it is necessary to play the first part twice and the second part twice.

The signs for a reprise [examples] indicate the place to which one has to return [repeating from the sign to the end of the section].

The line of returning [examples] indicates that it is necessary to pass immediately from the note where it begins to that where it finishes, after repeating that which precedes it [i.e.there are first and second time bars at the end of a section].

[Examples of rests]

Pause = semibreve; Demi-pause = minim; Soupir = crotchet; Demi-soupir = quaver; Quart de Soupir = semiquaver.

The rest indicates silence until the beat where it is found ends.

[Examples in tablature]

Cheutes = upward slurs; Tirades = downward slurs; Tremblemens = trill; Martellemens = mordente; Miolemens or Plaintes = vibrato.

[Other examples in tablature illustrating strummed chords]

The lines from below indicate that one should strike with thumb; very often making the thumb run over the letters in the form of a batterie.

The diagonal lines indicate that it is necessary to separate [spread] the [notes of the] chords [rather than strumming them].

A dot below a letter indicates that it is necessary to strike with the first finger; two [dots] with the second.

This line [between two letters] indicates that it is necessary to pluck [the two notes indicated, but not those on the open strings in between].

Dots indicating silent [unplayed courses].

The note [symbol] between between the first and second chord indicates that it is a batterie; the tail downwards that it should begin above or at the fifth course, the tail upwards that it should begin below or from the first course or chanterelle depending on the hand. (Note1)

The chord marked with a sign like half a circle between the fourth and fifth courses indicates in de Visée that it is necessary to make the fingers of the right hand run downwards finishing smoothly with the thumb and to touch them [the strings] one after the other. If it is below the fifth course, it should be struck with the thumb alone. This is what Mr. Le Cocq seems to indicate with a dot below the fifth course.

Mr. Le Cocq does not give a mark to indicate his sweet and harmonious harpegemens; the fifth line [of tablature] on page seven will show you. It is necessary to look for them according to these examples. (Note2)

The strings of the guitar with the corresponding musical notes

Examples illustrating the tuning of the guitar in French tablature and staff notation.

All the letters and notes of the guitar

Example of notes in staff notation with corresponding notes in French tablature

French and Italian Alphabets

Five part chords in French tablature with corresponding letters of Alfabeto with the roots of the chords in staff notation

The way of making trills on all the notes, both major and minor


The letter [representing the note] which follows that which ought to be trilled indicates where the trill should be made; the dots indicate the fingers with which the notes should be sustained and the trill played. On the third course one stops [fret] b with the third finger and trills with the fourth.


(1) The terms up and down refer to the position in which the instrument is held. Return to text

(2) There are actually dots below chords on the third and fourth lines of the tablature. Return to text

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