Alfabeto Crash-Course for Guitar with Michael Dollendorf

Alfabeto Marini / Foscarini -  Photo: Michael Dollendorf

3 October 2023 from 12-5 pm

The Alfabeto system was developed in the late 16th century in order to create an easy notation tool for song accompagnement  and dance tunes on the guitar. It can be compared to the chord graphics in modern song books. Once learned it is easy to use and also gives useful hints to singers and Basso continuo players about the sound spectrum and chord voicing. Besides the chords, early Alfabeto books give detailed strumming patterns.

This German National Holiday afternoon crash-course wants to unlock the Alfabeto to all guitar players. If you play Baroque guitar, you will be somewhat familiar with it and might want to brush up a little. If you play modern or Flamenco guitar, or even a little parlor guitar, you are welcome too and you can add a whole century of wonderful music to your repertoire. Five course Baroque guitars can be strung in three different ways. All are fine for this. Six string guitar players might want to remove the low E string for this workshop to join in with the active playing. We'll all tune down to the lowest instrument, which might be about a half step or a bit lower than modern pitch.

There will be a reader that includes a lot of learning material for further studies, pieces to play and a list of original and modern sources.


The guitar (chitarra spagnola) arrived in Italy via the Kingdom of Naples and the first sources from 1599 set Alfabeto chords to Spanish lyrics. Between 1610 and 1659 105 Italian songbooks were published with Alfabeto. Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger and Biagio Marini were the first prominent composers to use it. The last Italian source dates from 1698. After 1630 also so-called mixed tablature was used by composers like Foscarini, Granata, Corbetta, Sanz and de Visée. They all use Alfabeto. You might be familiar with the famous 'Pavanas por la D' by Gaspar Sanz. The 'D' he refers to is the Alfabeto sign for an A minor chord.

For our workshop we'll focus on the collections of Giovanni Paolo Foscarini that contain very useful exercises and music at all levels of difficulty....but we'll stay at the easy end....


This workshop can happen with a minimum number of five players and we'll take on no more than eight to keep it personal. Please sign up soon - so we can plan and give you the best experience.

Alfabeto Crash-Course for Guitar with Michael Dollendorf | Michael Dollendorf - Early Music


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