Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.
Lady Laiton's Almain is an Elizabethan, Renaissance Period lute composition by John Dowland that, like a lot of his lute pieces, has found its way into the classical guitar repertoire. It's around intermediate level of difficulty, and, unusually for him, it's quite a cheerful piece.
The video contains the score, which you should view in full screen mode with HD playback quality if possible to ensure it displays clearly. See the image below if you're not sure how to select the quality settings on YouTube videos. The soundtrack is an audio rendition of the MIDI file generated by Finale (the notation software used to create the score) so that you can hear what it's supposed to sound like if your sight-reading skills aren't quite at that level.
The score below the video is a static version of the same score. If necessary, you can enlarge any staff line of the score by clicking on it. You can also download a PDF copy of it via the link below the score.
John Dowland - Lady Laiton's Almain
Download as PDF File
Click to view and download Lady Laiton's Almain PDF as a free file for offline viewing and printing.
Study Notes for Learners
An almain (also called alman, or allemande) is a 16th century courtly dance that is believed to have originated in Germany. Music being written for them outlasted the Renaissance Period and survived well into the Baroque Period. J.S. Bach, the most famous Baroque composer of all, composed quite a few of them.
The fretting-hand fingering is shown as a suggestion, although in some places you don't really have a choice. I haven't suggested picking-hand fingering as I don't feel it's necessary. If you have the skill to play this intermediate level piece, you certainly have the skill to use the most practical picking-hand fingering. If you're a fingerstyle guitarist unfamiliar with standard classical technique, the rule is to avoid using the same picking-hand finger twice in succession. Constantly alternating your fingers when you have to play successive notes on the same string makes for greater fluency. Exceptions to the rule are made for the thumb playing bass notes or fingers playing chords of three or four notes.
These are marked above the standard notation staff in Roman numerals wherever barred chord shapes are needed. Tab readers should make a note of them, too, because they let you know which fretting-hand fingers to use for notes on that fret or higher.
As you can hear in the audio track, rolling or spreading some of the chords can make for a more lute-like effect. Don't do it on every chord, though. Another lute-like effect can be achieved by playing it with a capo on the 3rd fret. Renaissance 'lute to guitar' transcriptions, unlike most guitar pieces of the later classical period, also sound good on the steel strings of an acoustic guitar.
Lady Laiton's Almain - Key and Chords
The key of Lady Laiton's Almain is E major, and the chords used, including those formed by the combination of melody and bass lines, are shown in the chart.
Basically, it alternates between the tonic or 'home' chord, E major and the dominant chord, B major. Mostly it moves between them quite directly, but it also sometimes takes a more interesting route via C sharp minor and F sharp minor.
E G# B
Tonic (Home chord)
B D# F#
Dominant, (leading home)
A C# E
C# E G#
F# A C#
A# C# E
Secondary leading tone
Based on the first note of the scale of the almain's key of E major, the tonic chord is E major. It's the home chord that the music always returns to, and it provides an end to the almain with the appropriate feeling of finality that only the tonic chord is capable of.
The dominant chord is the chord built on the 5th scale degree of the key, which makes it B major in this case. It leads back home to the tonic chord naturally and forcefully.
The subdominant chord is A major. It's the chord built on the 4th scale degree of the key. One of the subdominant's commonest functions in music is to act as as a pre-dominant chord. That is, it leads naturally to the dominant chord, as is the case in Lady Laiton's Almain.
The submediant chord (C# minor) is built on the 6th scale degree of the key. As here, it often acts as a tonic substitute, similar in sound to the tonic chord as it has two notes in common with it (E and G# in this key of E major). But it's different enough to sound unsettled and interesting when used in the right context.
The supertonic chord (F# minor) is built on the 2nd scale degree of the key of E major. Its function, like the subdominant, is to lead to the dominant chord.
Secondary Leading Note Diminished
This is the chord built on the 7th scale degree of another key. It occurs on the last beat of bar 3 (ignoring the pick-up bar) as notes C#, A# and E. So it's an inverted A# diminished chord. It leads strongly to the dominant chord B major.
John Dowland (1563-1626) was an English, Elizabethan-era lutenist and composer who published a lot of lute music that transcribes very nicely for guitar, and there are many classical or fingerstyle guitar transcriptions of Dowland's lute music available. They were originally written as tributes to, or commissions from various English aristocrats and royalty including Queen Elizabeth I, herself (Queen Elizabeth's Galliard). He never worked at the court of Queen Elizabeth, though, due in part to religious differences, but worked at the court of the King of Denmark.
© 2014 chasmac