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Violin Pedagogy: How Did They Learn?

Music Treatises for Amateurs

By Dr. Robin Kay Deverich

During the 16th century, large numbers of instructional treatises for amateur musicians were published. Thurston Dart and William Coates commented on the heightened interest of amateurs in music instruction during this time period:

By 1575 or so there was every sign of a steadily increasing public and private demand for vocal and instrumental music. London bookshops sold tutors for the lute and cittern, books of printed music paper, and collections of printed and manuscript music mainly imported from the Low Countries; musical instruments were becoming less costly, music teaching less exclusive, musical notation less abstruse. [22] 

David Price offered several reasons why amateurs became so interested in music literacy and performance during this era:

By the middle decades of the sixteenth century, and in some places even before then, the reading and writing of music had taken its place within a broadening spectrum of educational possibilities. Literate musical ability was reflected in and stimulated by literature, by travel, by the entertainment or imitation of royalty, and by social ambition. Perhaps this developing literacy was to be seen most clearly in the lives of members of the governing classes but nonetheless simpler expressions of the pleasure of reading and writing music revealed themselves among all classes of society. Indeed the growing number of musical tutors, primers and treatises suggest that a revolution in musical education accompanied that in general standards of literacy, thereby creating its own class of potential musical patrons. [23]

Examples of musical instruction for amateurs include vocal tutors such as Thomas Morley's A Plaine and Easie Introduction (1597), lute tutors geared for amateurs such as Adrien Le Roy's English version of A briefe and easye instrution to learne the tableture (1568), William Barley's A new booke of tabliture (1596), Thomas Morley's The first booke of consort lessons (1599), and Alfoanso Ferrabosco's Lessons for 1, 2, and 3 viols (1609).


Dart, Thurston and Coates, William, Eds. Jacobean Consort Music. Musica Britannica, vol. 9. London: Stainer & Bell, 1966: xv.

Price, David C. Patrons and Musicians of the English Renaissance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981: 47.

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