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"Wilson's Wilde": Easy Renaissance Fingerstyle Guitar in Tab, Standard Notation and Audio

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Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.

Wilson's Wilde - in guitar tab, standard notation and audio

Wilson's Wilde - in guitar tab, standard notation and audio

"Wison's Wilde" is an easy guitar piece played by classical and fingerstyle guitarists who enjoy music of the Renaissance Period. It's an English Elizabethan tune of anonymous origin dating from the 16th century, but it has been arranged for lute (and other instruments) by several Elizabethan composers such as John Dowland and William Byrde. Lute music transcribes well for guitar, so here is an arrangement of it that I hope you'll enjoy.

The video capsule below contains an audio track along with the score, which is also reproduced in full below the video. Make sure the score in the video is clear by viewing it in full screen mode at 1080HD quality if possible.

Wilson's Wilde


Study Notes for Learners

Typical of the period, the music follows a 'theme and variations' format. Each section is similar to the previous one but modified to make it more interesting.

The time signature is 68 'six-eight', which is a so-called compound duple time signature, meaning there are two beats per bar, and every beat is worth a dotted quarter note. Feel those two beats driving the music forward.

Hammer-ons and Pull-offs

In this arrangement, although I've used plenty of hammer-ons and pull offs in the recording, I've resisted the temptation to include them in the score as I thinks it's better for each player to put them in wherever they feel they sound good. The same applies to slides - slide up to certain notes where you feel it enhances the effect.


Some fretting hand fingering is shown as a suggestion. You can use any fingering that suits you better. The same goes for your picking hand. All single notes with downward pointing stems are bass notes that should be played with your thumb, but the others can be played according to what you find most practical. One rule that comes from classical technique is that you should always alternate fingers on melodic runs and not be tempted to use the same finger twice in succession. It makes for greater fluency.

Lute-like effects

Two things can make the arrangement more 'lute-like'. One is to spread or roll certain chords, especially at the ends of phrases. The other is to use a capo on the 3rd fret. I haven't used one on this recording to ensure the pitch is the same as the tab and notation, but using a capo does give a pleasing lute-like effect.

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Chords and their chord tones used in Wilson's Wilde

ChordsChord TonesFunction

A major

A C# E

Tonic (home chord)

D major

D F# A

Subdominant (pre-dominant)

E major

E G# B

Dominant (leading to tonic)

Key and Chords

The key is A major, so the key signature is the three-sharp signature of F#, C# and G#. Don't forget to make those notes sharp every time they appear, and keep in mind that that applies to any line or space of the notation, not just the lines or spaces that they are placed on in the key signature. Tab readers can ignore this completely as the tab automatically makes them sharp.

The notes combine to form just three chords: A major, D, major and E major. The chords are all in root position, so you can easily identify which chord is being played by looking at the bass notes, i.e., if the bass note is A, the chord is A major. Knowing the chords and the chord tones that make them isn't essential to playing the piece well, but it does make for more confident playing when you know how the piece has been constructed, musically.

The tonic chord, A major, is the home chord. Notice how the piece starts and ends on this chord. Starting on that chord isn't really significant, but ending on it is. It needs the tonic chord to make it sound finished and complete.

The dominant chord, E, is the chord that leads to the tonic chord and, in the process, confirms the tonic chord as the main chord or tonal centre of the piece.

The subdominant chord has a pre-dominant function. It leads naturally to the dominant chord.

Renaissance music pre-dates our modern major-minor key system, but you can see how it's not far off. Apart from the complete absence of the expected dominant 7th chord (E7), the chord scheme is very similar to any later 'tonal' piece.

More Renaissance Period Guitar Arrangements

Here are a few more easy pieces from the Renaissance period - all are English Elizabethan pieces and have an authentic 'olde-worlde' charm that makes them popular with classical and fingerstyle guitarists.

Orlando Sleepeth by John Dowland

Kemp's Jig (anonymous)

The Renaissance Period of Europe is a time rich in culture, arts and innovations. You can learn more about Renaissance Period music on Wikipedia.


The music dates from the 16th century (composer anonymous), and is in the Public Domain.

The score, cover image and audio are produced by chasmac on Finale, Photoshop and Goldwave.

© 2014 Chas Mac

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