CHAPTER 3: History to 1800 > Later Renaissance - 16th century

Detailed Treatises - 3 of 8 : Agricola

fig. 55a: from Martin Agricola's
Musica Instrumentalis deudsch
, (1528 edition)

In 1528, Martin Sore, adopting the Latin form Agricola for his name, published his Musica Instrumentalis deudsch, based on Virdung's work but using simple rhyming verse; he considered it 'highly necessary that the youths who begin to learn, be ... taught by short and plain information and enticed and allured to study' (65).

The book went through five editions between 1528 and 1545, the title page of the last edition bearing the author's name in the form "Martinus Shor odder [or] Agricola". Sachs (65) gives the full title in English as 'Musica Instrumentalis in German, which comprises a method of learning to play on various wind instruments based on the art of singing, and how to play the organs, harps, lutes, viols, and all the instruments and strings according to the correct tablature'.

Agricola does indeed give tablature for nearly all the instruments - note-names written against the appropriate string, finger-hole or whatever, on a drawing of the instrument - including a psaltery (surely a living dodo by this time?) with a range of 25 diatonic notes between F and b". The dulcimer appears without any notes beside it (fig. 55), something which might be taken as one very tentative indication that the dulcimers known to Agricola may perhaps have been played by ear ...

Agaricola's fifth chapter begins with a short prologue denigrating the old inconvenient lute tablature (168), and announcing another "welch aus dem rechten fundament der Musica her kompt", 'which comes from the very foundations of music'. He continues:

"Sintenmal ich habe gefangen an
Und von Pfeiffen ein lere gethan.
So wil ichs weiter nicht unterlassen
Zu sagen und leren etlicher massen.
Von der Lauten/ Hackebret und Geigen/
Harfen/ Psalter/ so viel sichs wil leiden.
Orgelen/ und Stohfideln nicht vergessen
Und der andern dissen gleich gemessen."


'I have started a thousand times
and have written a Pipe tutor
So I will not fail further
to say and teach a variety of things.
About Lutes/ Hackebret and fiddles/
Harps/ psalter(y)/ as much as can be.
Not forgetting organs/ and Stoh-fiddles
And others similar to these.'

Towards the end of the book (1528 edition) comes:

Die dritte art der Seyten spiel / welche wider schlüssel noch bünde / sondern viel Chöre der Seiten haben / auff welchen man / eine / zwo / drey / odder vier stymmen machen odder spielen kan.

Das zwelffte Capitel.

Volget die dritte art det Seytenspiel
Welche widder bünde haben noch zil.
Sie sind nur mit Chören unterschieden
Du solt sie gleichwol auch nicht vermeiden.
Als sein / Harffen / Hackebtreter / und Psalter
Die man ytzt gebraucht bey unserm alter.

'The third kind of Stringmusic which have neither keys nor frets, but many courses of strings, on which one can play one, two, three or four parts.

The Twelfth chapter

There follows the third kind of stringed instrument

which neither have frets nor (goal).
They are only distinguished by courses
And you should nevertheless not shun them
As their/harps/Hackebrets/ and psaltery
Which people nowadays use in our own time'
fig. 55b: from Martin Agricola's
Musica Instrumentalis deudsch
, (1545 edition)
These references are missing from the 5th edition of 1545 but Agricola still gives the illustration as before (the spelling of the caption without the final 'h' this time, 'Hackebreth' has become 'Hackebret') and there is an additional dulcimer in the frontispiece by the feet of Fraw Musica (fig. 55b), another woodcut which was reused elsewhere.

fig. 56: possible tuning for the
in Virdung etc.

The instrument is shown as having six or seven double courses, and, if it be of type 11.2., fig.56 would be a possible tuning.