Lute music is notated in tablature.
Tablature consists of: 1. A six-line staff. 2. Letters. 3. Rhythm symbols.
- The six lines stand for the upper six courses of the lute. The highest pitched course is indicated by the topmost system line.
- The letters show in alphabetical order which fret to stop, a = open string, b = 1st fret, c = 2nd fret, d = 3rd fret etc. The letter "j" is not used in order to avoid confusion with the letter "i".
- Rhythmic symbols showing how long a note sounds are written over tablature letter. If you see no new symbol for a while, it means that all the notes are the same length as the last symbol.
Your First Tune
Put the tip of the middle finger of your left (fingerboard) hand on the second fret (tablature letter c) of the first (highest tuned) course/string. Pluck the course twice with the thumb of your right (striking) hand. Then remove the left hand finger from the c fret and pluck the open course (tablature letter a) once with the thumb of your right hand. What you just played looks and sounds like this:
The first (highest tuned) course is tuned to g1, the 2nd to d1, the 3rd to a, the 4th to f, the 5th to c and the 6th to G. If you play guitar, the tuning is: e1, b, f-sharp, d, A and E. (ie.: to play lute music on your guitar, just lower the g-string to f-sharp and you're ready!)
Your First Two Part Tune
When two (or more) letters are placed above each other, they should be played together. Use your right hand index (.) and middle (..) fingers in alternating strokes for the upper (highest sounding) voice and the thumb for the lower voice. It looks and sounds like this: