Grade 4 Lesson: Orlando Sleepeth by Dowland

This lesson comes from my book Classical Guitar Repertoire Lessons Grade 4 – Six pieces at the grade four level with dedicated lessons preparing you for each piece.

Orlando Sleepeth (Poulton No.61) by John Dowland (1563-1626) – YouTube Video Lesson Link. I perform the piece in three ways: regular tuning, relative lute tuning, and with a capo. You’ll be playing this piece in two different tunings to gain an awareness of the options available to the modern classical guitarist.

I play all Dowland’s works in relative lute tuning (3rd string tuned down to F sharp). This places the instrument in the same relative tuning as a Renaissance lute. It’s even closer to Dowland’s lute if we place a capo on the third fret. Most of the time, Dowland’s music is much easier in relative lute tuning because of the open F sharp on the third string. The music was composed with this tuning in mind so the chord shapes generally work better in the original tuning. That said, there are occasions when regular guitar tuning works fine. This piece is one such occasion, but for the sake of practicing and understanding the arranging process, we will play the piece in both tunings. Try out the first four bars of the work as well as a D Major scale in relative lute tuning.

When you play the actual piece you will notice that the relative lute tuning requires a barre in this particular work. This is the reason you see this work in regular tuning in many guitar anthologies. Performers often play sets of works (three or four of Dowland’s pieces in a set), and most pieces only work in relative lute tuning so it still makes sense to play in the original tuning to avoid re-tuning between pieces. The tuning you choose doesn’t matter, being informed and aware of the choices is the important factor.

More Info: Why do guitarists use capos and 3rd string F# tuning?

Matthew McAllister plays Orlando Sleepeth (Poulton No.61) by John Dowland (1563-1626). This comes via his amazing YouTube channel where he’s recently been featuring a number of student level works. It’s great to hear professional players play right from my edition. Charming piece and great phrasing by McAllister, plus that lovely rhythmic change in this work.

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