S6 Old Favorites Robert Bremner part 3 Bremner’s Guitar Tutor with Special Thanks to Ryan Kirk and Rob Turner


August 6th, 2022

53 mins 48 secs

Season 6

Your Hosts

About this Episode


Robert Bremner: Stadholders Minuet, Moorish Tunes, Mill Mill O, Willy was a Wanton Wag, and Black Joke.
William McGibbon: Mill Mill O, Willie Was a Wanton Wag
James Oswald: Burlesque on a Black Joak:
Miscellaneous: Clare Dragoons, Braes a Mar

Big Thanks To Ryan Kirk for the performance and write up. Head over to the Facebook page to tell him thanks!

Thanks to Rob Turner for his Playing of James Oswald’s Burlesque on Black Joke. You can watch his youtube upoload of the tune, along with some stellar background information. https://youtu.be/vHFwsYbvZ-A

As I said in the episode, be sure to check out the rest of his music on his Youtube channel: fiauto

Bremner’s Guitar Tutorial settings for, Moorish Tunes, Mill Mill O, Willy was a Wanton Wag, Stadholders Minuet, and Black Joke:

Oswald: Burlesque on a Black Joak:

O’Farrell’s The Black Joke with Variations:

McGibbon’s Willy was a Wanton Wag:

Clare Dragoons: I just took off The Session

But you might be entertained by this bizarre “Fennian War Echoes” Pamphlet with the Song:

If you haven’t listened to The Dollop Episode about the Fenian Raids, it’s a pretty good laugh:

McGibbon’s Mill Mill O:

Here Is Ryan's Excellent write up if you'd like to see it as written:

English Guitar Notes:
Robert Bremner’s Instructions for the Guitar is a short tutor book containing a brief overview of the instrument and a small collection of popular English and Scottish tunes. The instrument described within is not what most people today would picture when they hear guitar. Instead of the six stringed Romantic or Spanish guitar - the direct ancestor to today’s classical and steel stringed instruments - the instrument described is what is now known as an English or Scottish guitar. This instrument had six courses of strings, but was a smaller teardrop shaped instrument strung with metal wire and tuned in open tunings. It is the ancestor to and most closely resembles the modern cittern or German waldzither. With its early wire strings and open tunings it was less suited to the more harmonically complex and delicate music played on the gut strung Spanish instrument. Nevertheless, it enjoyed widespread use as an instrument for popular and folk music.

The ‘Instructions’ portion of the text is relatively brief. It explains the tuning of the instrument (an open C major chord) and a few rudimentary techniques. Interestingly it describes a simple strumming technique and also suggests an alternating plucking with the thumb and forefinger, a common technique on the lute and other early stringed instruments now known as ‘thumb under’ that approximates the effect of a plectrum.

The musical selections themselves are mostly presented in simple settings. The music is provided in staff notation, rather than the tablature more commonly used for stringed instruments of the era. All of the music is transposed to C to fit the open chord tuning of the instrument. The texture is simple, mostly simple monophonic melody line with the odd open string drone or strummed open string chord for emphasis, when harmonically appropriate. In all but a few instances the music only calls on the player to strike notes on immediately adjacent strings, most often in melodic parallel thirds or a melody over an open drone string. There is none of the counterpoint, moving basslines, or harmonic figuration that is typical of Baroque or Romantic guitar repertoire. These factors along with the popular tunes suggests to me that the music was intended for an amateur audience and intended to be strummed as much as plucked. One could view the tutor as analogous to modern commercial ukulele books full of popular and folk tunes in simple arrangements.

The various Moorish tunes are interesting and of particular note. They are all extremely short and simple with a strong pastoral sound of open ringing intervals evocative of hunting horns and reveilles, perhaps intended to conjure the image of the trumpets popularly associated with the military bands of the Ottoman Empire.

In light of the above notes on the instrument itself, I have played the selected tunes on a modern steel string acoustic guitar, with a mix of pick and thumb and forefinger as appropriate.
Ryan Kirk, Nova Scotia Canada (thanks again Ryan!)
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