The Lute Society: Beginners Lesson 17

Sellingers Round
  • Lesson 17 of our beginners lessons, by Lynda Sayce
  • Piece number 7 from The Lute Society's '58 Very Easy Pieces
  • Full copies of the playing editions from which the lessons are taken can be ordered in our catalogue

This is one of many surviving settings of this lovely tune, which is published as piece no.7 in '58 Very Easy Pieces'. I would like to use it to focus on two main issues; we shall look first at the performance of dotted rhythms, and then consider some situations in which one might choose to modify or disregard the normal rules of right-hand fingering whereby the index finger is normally expected to take all off-beat or weak beat notes.

Crisp rhythms

The main problems with dotted rhythms are achieving an accurate and consistent length of dotted note, and getting a crisp and tidy short note to follow. With a true dotted rhythm the dotted note should be three times the length of the short note - which makes the short note very short indeed! Be careful that you don't play the dotted note too short and the following note too long; the tune will lose its sparkle if you loosen the rhythm in that way. The short notes should also be light; a common tendency is to panic over the fleetness required on these dotted rhythms, and to attempt to 'dig out' the short notes with too much volume and contact. The short notes should not leap out of the line. As usual, slow practice is extremely useful to check on your rhythmic accuracy; only speed up the piece when you are confident that your rhythms are crisp and tidy.

Right hand fingerings

The original right hand fingerings show some inconsistencies, as is common in manuscript sources, but some of the given fingerings are actually useful and helpful, in spite of the fact that they appear to break the 'weak note = index finger' rule. The main reason why one might choose to break this rule is when the weak note is on a higher string than the following note, as in the first half of bar 1. The given fingering works well if the middle finger plucks the short note in the middle of the unit; just be careful that the note is not too heavy, because the middle finger is a strong finger. An alternative would be to take the short note with the index finger, and bring up the thumb to play the third note of the unit; this would preserve the natural weighting of the various notes in the group without awkwardness.

In the second half of bar 1, however, the original fingering is less successful, and it may be that the scribe simply copied the fingering of the first unit without considering the context. I would suggest a refingering of the second half of the bar, using the index finger on the short note in the middle of the unit, and either the middle finger or the thumb on the final note in the bar; either option will work satisfactorily. The same situation applies in bar 2.

Another moment of awkwardness is the second half of bar 5, where again I would suggest that the index finger takes the short note in the middle of the unit, and the middle finger the last note of the bar; the same applies in bar 7.