The Lute Society: Beginners Lesson 15

Beginners' lesson 15, Decmber 2012

Elslein, liebstes Elslein mein
  • Lesson 15 of our beginners lessons, by Lynda Sayce
  • Piece number 21 from The Lute Society's edition of Neusidler's Das Erste Buch , edited by Stewart McCoy
  • Full copies of the playing editions from which the lessons are taken can be ordered in our catalogue

This lesson comes from Stewart McCoy's excellent edition of Hans Neusidler's 'Erst Buch' of 1544. Neusidler was one of Renaissance Germany's finest arrangers and printers of music for the 6 course lute, and he had a particular talent for making simple but effective arrangements of vocal pieces, reduced to 2 or 3 parts. This particular piece is one of the most haunting tunes of the period, and makes a beautiful lute solo.

Left Hand

I have added some basic left-hand fingering to help you find the basic positions; these repeat often through the piece, so you should have no difficulty finding good fingerings for the remaining bars. Be careful of the shift up into bar 4 and down again into bar 5. Make sure that the 4th finger is not stopping the string when you shift, otherwise you will hear an ugly slither in both directions. The relatively long reach in bar 10 is another danger point for the left hand; be very precise in your placing of the index finger on the 2nd beat, and then make sure that the whole hand shifts back to first position for the final beat of the bar. There are some quite awkward stretches across the fingerboard for the left hand, notably in the B flat chords, for example, at the end of bars 8 and 11. The 3rd finger can be planted relatively flat to help with this stretch, but the 4th finger must be well on its tip and quite strongly curved to achieve the big reach. The transition from the end of bar 8 to the beginning of bar 9 may be helped by writing the first chord of bar 9 at the end of the first system, as a little visual reminder; that way your fingers will have a little more warning of the chord shape to come.

Right Hand

For the right hand, the main challenge is making sure that all voices are audible in the three-part chords, and that each successive chord is weighted to suit its position in the bar. Be careful to keep upbeats lighter than downbeats, otherwise you will end up with a very lumpy effect. In bars 7 and 10 the movement in the lower voices needs to be cleanly played. Neusidler's little cross signs mean that you are to leave down the left hand fingers on the marked notes, to sustain those notes beyond their notated tablature values. This is necessary because staff notation can indicate two or more different note values simultaneously, but tablatures cannot.

This beautiful piece is one of the classics of the German renaissance, and was popular with many lute arrangers. You might like to try adding some simple variations of your own when you have mastered the original.