The Rasgueado (Strummed) Style


The strummed style (called rasgueado in Spanish and battute or battuto in Italian) dominated early 17th century guitar music. Most of the printed tablatures are from Italy and were notated in a simple notation using stroke signs and letters/symbols:

Colonna 1620 notation sample

This example is a short passacaglia from Colonna 1620. In standard tuning, it would be in A minor (the "D" symbol), followed by chords on E minor, F major, D minor, A minor, E major, and A minor (see chord chart below). The meter is triple and begins on beat two, following the simple down-down-up strum pattern for four bars. Note that the letters have absolutely no relation to our modern letter designations for notes and chords: the letter "D", for example, is NOT a D major chord form. The Italians would have referred to notes by their solfeggio names (do, re, mi, etc.), not their alphabet names, so this caused less confusion outside of the English-speaking world.

The alfabeto system evolved over time and, in general, the most commonly used chord forms are given the lower letters of the alphabet. There is no easy logic to remembering which letters refer to which chords, but in general the letters from A to P are used far more often than the other letters. In addition to the alphabet (minus the letters "J", "U", and "W" which are not used in Italian), there are also several symbols, most commonly the symbol of the cross for an E minor chord form. Note that the letters are best referred to as "chord forms" rather than simply chords, since they designate specific fingering patterns on the guitar, not just specific "chords" in the modern sense. The most commonly used chord forms are as follows:



These finger patterns result in the following chords, in various voicings:

+E minorME flat major *
AG majorNA flat major *
BC majorOG minor
CD majorPF minor *
DA minorQF sharp major *
ED minorRB major *
FE majorSE major *
GF major *TA major *
HB flat major *VF sharp minor *
IA majorXB minor *
KB flat minor *YG major *
LC minorZC major *
ME flat major *&C sharp major *

The chords marked with a * indicate forms that are movable and can be played at different frets
with the addition of a numeral: for example, H2 is the H form at the second fret, or a B major chord.


This notational system was also used for the mixed style, where it was combined with Italian tablature.

© Copyright Gary R. Boye 1995–2024

© Copyright Gary R. Boye 1995–2022

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