John Dowland

John Dowland (1563 - 1626) "During his lifetime John Dowland was one of the few English composers whose fame spread throughout Europe. He has never been entirely forgotten although his music was almost completely ignored during the whole of the eighteenth century and most of the nineteenth. The early twentieth century saw a dawning recognition among scholars and specialists of the rare quality of his work." (Diana Poulton and Basil Lam in The Collected Lute Music of John Dowland).

Dowland's lute music is also among the most commonly arranged for guitar and I am wary of adding to the total of arrangements already available. However I have used this page for pieces that I have not seen elsewhere arranged, or where my arrangement differs significantly from those usually found. In particular, where possible, I like to make arrangements using normal guitar tuning rather than retuning the third string. I have numbered the pieces according to their location in Poulton and Lam.

Poulton’s edition of Dowland’s music and her biography of Dowland are generally regarded as authoritative, but the lutenist David Tayler challenged her account in his PhD thesis (Tayler 2005) suggesting that a number of her attributions are incorrect. In particular he suggests that music attributed to Dowland in MS sources may often only be derived from Dowland’s work by other musicians and that some continental sources regarded by Poulton as derivative may in fact include Dowland’s own music. This difficulty arises from the fact that only thirteen of Dowland’s solo lute pieces appear in printed collections. Poulton suggested that Dowland intended to compile a printed collection of his best works, but never managed to do so. A somewhat similar point is made by Shepherd in his blog at  (Shepherd 2016B).

Fancy (Fantasia) (Poulton 06) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 08
Poulton lists seven fantasias by Dowland together with four more as probably by Dowland and a further short 
fantasias attributed to Dowland in a continental manuscript

Solus cum Sola (Poulton 10) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 08
The title of this pavan is obscure as this phrase doesn’t readily translate* (nor is it clear why the title Solus sine Sola is associated with the next piece). Poulton suggests that solus cum sola might have the meaning “One is one and all alone” (as in the rhyming game that I know as Green Grow the Rushes Oh! and which Poulton calls The Dilly Song). A more racy suggestion is contained in the sentence: Solus cum sola non cogitabuntur orare Pater Noster (A man and a woman alone together are not likely to be saying the Our Father.) This is found in Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dâme de Paris. He is, of course, a much later writer, but is quoting something that he regards as an old saying.

Solus sine Sola (Poulton 11) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 08
(Mrs Brigid Fleetwood’s Pavan)
Despite the similarity of the name associated with this pavan it does not resemble no 10, being more serious in mood.

Dr Case’s Pavan (Poulton 12) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 08

The Frog Galliard (Poulton 23, 23a, 90) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 05
This galliard, based on a song "Now, O, Now I needs must part" has always been one of my favourites. It appears in lute manuscripts in several versions and there are three versions that may be ascribable to John Dowland in Poulton. The lutenist David Tayler posted a beautiful performance of the piece on the archlute in December 2007 . This performance seemed (assuming A=440) to be in E and did not correspond fully with any of the versions in Poulton but I found it so enjoyable that I decided to make my own arrangement for guitar inspired by Tayler's playing. The arrangement is constructed from sections of Poulton’s versions plus elements of Tayler's playing, though my version is less decorated than his. I have also constructed it so that it is playable in normal guitar tuning. 

Galliard (Poulton 27) [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLDowland Grade 06

Galliard (Poulton 30) [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLDowland Grade 06

Mr Langton’s Galliard (Poulton 33) [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLDowland Grade 08
This is one of several
battle galliards that Dowland wrote, imitating the sounds of battle, the best known of the others being the King of Denmark’s Galliard.

Galliard (Poulton 35) [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLDowland Grade 06

Queen Elizabeth’s Galliard (Poulton 41) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 06
In this arrangement I have made a number of octave transpositions to adapt the piece for guitar tuning (details here).

Can She Excuse (Poulton 42) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 06
This piece occurs in several sources, some with the alternative title
The Earl of Essex Galliard. Poulton prints 2 versions (42 and 42A) the second with the alternative title. The piece is notable for quoting part of the tune The Woods so Wild in its third strain.

Dowland’s Bells (Poulton 43) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 07
(Lady Rich’s Galliard)
This is one of the few pieces by Dowland that appeared in printed form, in Robert Dowland’s 
Varietie of Lute Lessons . It is also found in several manuscripts. Poulton reproduces a manuscript version and the printed version which she regards as Dowland’s final revision of the piece. My guitar arrangement is closer to the printed version, but has some elements of the manuscript version (see comparison score here)

The Earl of Derby’s Galliard (Poulton 44) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 07
This galliard is found in several sources and, like Dowlands Bells, is printed in 
Varietie of Lute Lessons  from which this version is taken.

Lady Clifton’s Spirit (Poulton 45) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 08
This galliard is one of the pieces found in Robert Dowland’s printed collection
Varietie of Lute Lessons where it is attributed to Robert Dowland rather than his father. However the same piece can be found (without divisions) attributed to John in Dd.2.11 with the title K Darcie’s Spirit and as Poulton points out (Poulton 1982, p 401) Katherine Darcy married Gervaise Clifton who was later knighted, making her Lady Clifton. Poulton confidently attributes the piece to John rather than Robert (Poulton and Lam 1981) though others have doubted this. The piece is marked by a particularly widespread use of hemiolas; In all three sections the rhythm switches often between 3/4 and 6/8.

Almaine (Poulton 49) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 05

Come Away (Poulton 60) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 05
Instrumental version of one of Dowland’s songs.

Fortune (Poulton 62) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 05
This piece is commonly arranged for guitar in A minor. In E minor with the 6th string tuned to D it gets closer to the presumed original pitch (D minor if played on a lute in G) and also preserves an feature that may seem odd to modern ears but is not uncommon in lute works from this period, namely its deepest bass note sounding one tone below the key note. 

Go From My Window (Poulton 64) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 08
This set of variations on the Tune Go From my Window is easier to play in lute tuning, but with a couple of minor changes (detailed here) it is playable in guitar tuning.

Aloe (Poulton 68) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 07

Fancy (Fantasia) (Poulton 73) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 08
This is one of the fantasias that Poulton lists as ‘Anonymous, but probably by Dowland’. It is sometimes referred to as Dowland’s Tremolo Fantasia because of the pattern of repeated notes near the end. However these would not have been played on the lute with modern guitar tremolo technique and would likely have been a bit slower than guitar tremolo is usually played.
The lutenist and lute maker Martin Shepherd has recently (
Shepherd 2016A) proposed a re-interpretation of the tablature source for this piece (which is found in the Matthew Holmes manuscript CUL Dd.9.33). In his view Poulton missed the significance of some dots that he takes to indicate dotted rhythm and also took the barlines to indicate regular 4/4 time though, in that period, barlines were often not used in that way. Shepherd also corrects one or two errors that Homes (normally a fairly careful scribe) may have made in the tablature. I have used Shepherd’s version to make a revised arrangement for guitar. I haven’t always followed Shepherd’s barring, but I have put some bars in 2/4 and some in 3/4 where that seemed to make more sense to me, and I have adopted Shepherd’s rhythmic changes and most of his other alterations:

Fancy (Fantasia) [revised version] (Poulton 73) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 08

Fancy (Fantasia) (Poulton 74) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 06
This short fantasia is another of those that 
Poulton lists as ‘Anonymous, but probably by Dowland’.

A Dream (Poulton 75) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 07
This beautiful pavan is listed by Poulton as ‘Anonymous, but probably by Dowland’ mainly on stylistic grounds. It is written for a 6 course lute and transfers quite easily to the guitar with some minor revoicing of a few chords. I’ve included some fingering where this did not seem straightforward. (Fingering the low Bs in bar 21 can be problematic if you don’t have large hands; lucky for me I can reach them on string 5; an alternative of course is to alternate the Bs on string 6 with the open A on string 5.) 

Tarleton’s Jig (Poulton 81) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 06
Poulton lists this piece as ‘Anonymous, but probably by Dowland’ on stylistic grounds.

La Mia Barbara (Poulton 95) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 07
This piece one of several Dowland pieces found in the continental source known as the Schele MS  Poulton regarded its attribution to Dowland (at least in its entirety) as doubtful. However I think it a beautiful pavan (presumably based on a song tune) and well worth playing.

Almand (Poulton 96) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 07
This is one of several pieces attributed to Dowland in the Margaret Board Lute Book

Praeludium (Poulton 98) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML]  Dowland Grade 06

Dowland’s Midnight (Poulton 99) [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Dowland Grade 05
This short, mournful piece is one of Dowland’s works found in the 
Margaret Board Lute Book.


*My knowledge of Latin is quite shaky, but I take solus cum sola to mean something along the lines of a man alone with a woman and solus sine sola to mean a man alone without a woman, both phrases playing on the conjunction of feminine sex and feminine gender.

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