ECOLM - An Electronic Corpus of Lute Music

Basic TabCode - pitch indicators

Lute tablature says says nothing about absolute pitch, only specifying which frets of which courses (sets of strings) should be sounded. In the most popular forms of lute tablature, this information is given by placing a glyph - indicating the fret - on one of (usually) 6 horizontal ‘staff’ lines - indicating the course to sound.

French Tablature Notation

In French tablature, the fret is indicated by a letter of the alphabet: ‘a’ represents the open string, ‘b’ the first fret, ‘c’ the second, and so on. The letter pairs ‘i’ and ‘j’, and ‘u’ and ‘v’ are each used interchangeably. Furthermore, certain letter-forms in original tablatures are unlike their modern counterparts. In particular the letter ‘c’ is frequently written in the old ‘court-hand’ form ‘r’, whilst the letter ‘i’ sometimes appears in the form of a ‘y’, occasionally with a diaresis: ‘ÿ’

Some examples:

A manuscript aa
A manuscript bb
A manuscript cc
A manuscript dd
A manuscript ee

In French tablature, the highest-pitched courses are represented by the top lines of the stave.

Italian Tablature Notation

Italian tablature uses numbers as French uses letters, so ‘0’ represents an open course, ‘1’ the first fret, and so on. The highest-pitched courses are here represented by the lowest lines of the stave.

Pitch indicators in TabCode

In TabCode, frets are indicated by letters, as in French tablature, and courses by numbers, starting with 1 for the highest fret and going down to 6 for the lowest fret before the bass courses start.

Both of the above would be encoded as c2.