The Lute Society: Beginners Lesson 21

Canson Englesa (Lusty Gallant)
  • Lesson 21 of our beginners lessons, by Lynda Sayce
  • Piece number 47 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

Canson Englesa (Lusty Gallant)

This lesson looks at piece 47 from ‘58 Very Easy Pieces’. This popular tune exists in several sources, but this version from the Dallis lute book is characterized by a strong rhythmic motif, and distinctive full chords at the end of main phrases.

Right hand

The first decision to be made concerns right-hand fingering. The opening upbeat definitely requires the index finger, but for the three-note units which fill most bars, there is a choice of fingering for the last note, depending on the effect required. The two-note chords at the beginning of each beat should be played with the thumb and middle finger, the second note of each beat will be played by the index finger, and the final note can be taken by the thumb, or by the middle finger. Both options will necessitate a repetition of the digit, and achieving a smooth result will be the main difficulty resulting from this. Repeating the thumb will require a lot of thumb movement, but may work best for those who play with a thumb-inside technique. Those who play thumb-out will find the middle finger option easier. In each case, be careful that the rhythm is accurate and not rushed.

The big chords at the end of bars 1 and 3 are best played with the thumb alone, in a quick, vigorous but controlled strum. The strum alone should give plenty of emphasis to the chord; there should be no need to try for volume as well, and if you strum the chord lightly, it will be easier to get the hand back to pick up the final single note with the index finger. Some careful practice will probably be necessary to achieve a good shape to these phrases, with good balance between the two-part sections and the five-part chords. It is also important to make a suitable hierarchy of phrases, otherwise the piece will sound lumpy and rather repetitious. It may be helpful to think in two bar phrases, each phrase growing towards the middle and phrasing away towards the end. When you have the piece under technical control, you can experiment with some more sophisticated phrasing, but that simple measure will prevent it sounding like a series of identically phrased single beats.

Left hand

For the left hand, there is relatively little to worry about. Make sure that the many small shifts between first and second position happen with the whole hand; you should feel your thumb cross one fret in each case, and in each direction! It is very easy to leave the thumb behind and simply twist the hand to reach, for example, in the first two beats of bar 1; make sure that your thumb travels up to second position. It can remain there for the compressed hand position necessary for the chord at the end of the bar, then it needs to return to first position for bar 2.

A simple variation can be improvised when you have the piece fully learnt; try leaving the bass unchanged and adding some elaboration to the treble part. Some left hand ornaments can also be added to good effect.