Rob MacKillop – Musician

WELCOME! There are many recordings and videos on this site, as well as a lot of information, so do take some time to have a browse around.
There are Blog Posts archived on the left, and specific Pages above.
I am happy to hear from you:


Latest Album

Read all about it HERE


My latest Mel Bay publications have arrived!

Cover Bach Cell Plectrum



This tuning is common to fiddles, cellos, mandolins and more, and is becoming very popular with ukulele players! See the Ukulele Underground forum post dedicated to this book, with videos:

Tunes from the beautiful 17th-century Scottish lute manuscripts. Very enjoyable to play, with a pick or with the fingers. Mostly standard tuning or Drop D.

“Many great Scottish traditional tunes can be traced back to 17th century lute music. In this collection, multi-instrumentalist Rob MacKillop has transcribed and arranged 25 popular tunes derived from various lute manuscripts. While idiomatic to the guitar, some of these arrangements include fast runs and chord changes best suited to the intermediate-level flatpicking guitarist.

This guitar collection consists of the same melodies in the same keys found in its mandolin counterpart, Tunes From 17th Century Scotland Arranged for Mandolin (Mel Bay Publications). In both books, suggested chords are provided wherever appropriate. Consequently, the settings work fine as either mandolin/violin and guitar duets, or as solos for either instrument.

Until now, most of these appealing dance tunes and airs have been unavailable as guitar arrangements. Except for two tunes in drop-D tuning, all others are in standard guitar tuning. With MacKillop’s spirited online recording, generous performance notes and standard notation and tablature for each selection, get ready to explore a wonderful new take on an old repertoire! Includes access to online audio.”

This book contains music from various countries (Scotland, Ireland, Italy, England) found in Scottish manuscripts and publications for the guitar in the 18th century. Some great repertoire here! From traditional music to Italian classical violin sonatas, all found in these forgotten manuscripts and publications.

“In this unique collection, multi-instrumentalist Rob MacKillop presents 30 airs and dances from Scotland, Ireland and England transcribed for the modern guitar in open-D tuning (DADF♯AD). Although conceived for fingerstyle playing, most of these traditional, Classical and Baroque pieces are also playable with a pick.

During the mid to late 18th century, a wire-strung instrument which could be described as a cross between a guitar and a cittern appeared in Britain. With the exception of the publications in Edinburgh by Robert Bremmer (c. 1713 – 89), most period writings refer to this instrument as the guittar. In providing extensive historical and performance notes on this music, the author has adopted this spelling. While derived principally from the publications by Scottish guittarists Robert Bremmer and James Oswald (1710 – 69), MacKillop discovered additional Scottish publications and manuscripts in The National Library of Scotland and even more manuscripts in the uncatalogued library of Blair Castle in Perthshire, Scotland.

Written in standard notation and tablature, this book brings a particularly uncommon repertoire to light with an exceptional downloadable recording. Includes access to online audio.”


Two volumes have been released as a follow-up to my Introduction To The Lute for Lute and Guitar Players, one in lute tab, the other in guitar tab. 80 pages of great lute music:

Renaissance Lute Repertoire-Guitar Tablature Edition can be viewed as either a supplement to the popular Introduction to the Lute: for Lute and Guitar Players or as a standalone edition of 16th-century lute tablatures. Play from beautifully-typeset scores, music by John Dowland, Francesco da Milano, Vincenzo Galilei (father of the famous astronomer) and many others, including vihuela composers Narváez and Milán. Together, this collection provides a beautiful and extensive overview of music for the renaissance lute.

This edition is in Guitar tablature. There is a separate edition in lute tablature, see below.

TUNING: To get Renaissance lute tuning on a guitar, all you need to do is tune the 3rd string, G, down one semitone to F♯. That’s it. Then just read the tab as normal.

Renaissance Lute Repertoire-Lute Tablature Edition can be viewed as either a supplement to the popular Introduction to the Lute: for Lute and Guitar Players or as a standalone edition of 16th-century lute tablatures newly-set in French lute tab. Play from beautifully-typeset scores, music by John Dowland, Francesco da Milano, Vicenzo Galilei (father of the famous astronomer), and many others, including vihuela composers, Narváez and Milán. Together, this collection provides in lute tablature a beautiful and extensive overview of music for the Renaissance lute.


24 Pieces for guitar (plectrum/pick – though fingerstyle/classical technique possible too) by Gilbert Isbin. Available HERE.

Gilbert Guitar Cover


New Mel Bay publications, three for mandolin, one for bass guitar:

134 thoughts on “Rob MacKillop – Musician”

  1. Dr Brian Davies said:

    Thank you so much for providing so much interesting and valuable material-especially the ‘Solo Flight’ parts for big band. I am about to try and persuade our leader to do this one meanwhile off I go to try and learn to play a suitable homage….

    • Excellent, Brian. I hope you get the opportunity to play it. Good luck.

      • jean cameron said:

        Thanks for doing the mandolin books! I just ordered the 17th Century and then the Kids book. Each will keep me busy this fall and winter! Love your books! Interested in the guitar lute book but worried it’s above my skill level. Maybe later on. Glad you did the mandolin books! THANK YOU!

      • Cheers, Jean. Have fun with them! As for the kids’ books, there’s no age limit on being a kid!

  2. Alan Birkinhead said:

    Rob, I really, really like your black & white photographs ( very artistic ) thank you

  3. Hello Rob, I’ve been following your page for a while now, there’s a lot of great information on here. Iv’e been hesitant about picking up Flamenco due to most players using long fingernails. After browsing through your site however, I’ve decided to make the plunge and give Flamenco a try. Now for the hard part, choosing a guitar, I’d be looking for a guitar to last me for a decade or so without searching for the need to upgrade after 2 years of playing. Any suggestions? Thanks for the inspiration sir!

    • Hi Eduardo. I love flamenco, and do feel nails can help, but not all flamenco guitar needs to be played the same way, and I enjoyed my research into early flamenco guitar. Of course, the feeling is what it is all about, like Blues. So, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your nailless study of it. As for guitars, I’m no expert, and I don’t know your budget. But there are roughly two types – bright and percussive, or warm and slightly less percussive. The former are usually made with cypress back and sides, the latter with rosewood. These are sweeping generalisations. As flesh playing gives a mellow sound anyway, I enjoyed playing the cypress-made instruments. I also don’t know in which region of the world you live, but I have found this website to be informative:
      Good luck with your search. Let us know how you get on.

  4. Tom Oskar Ortleb said:

    Your videos, displaying beautiful music played so calm and mild, encouraged me to start nailless playing in the end of the summer of 2017 after having played over four decades with nails. Today, while still a beginner on this “new” (old) style of right hand technique, I am almost happier with my tonal quality than ever before. Though this is still the beginning of a romance, I believe I will stay with and develop this capability further on forver due to the wonderful tonal outcome.

    Thank you for your very inspiring work and performance,

    • Cheers, Tom. You are not alone – I’ve had many similar messages this last couple of years. All I can say is, Stay With It! It took me a couple of years before I was 100% happy, and now I’ll never go back.

  5. Manuel Morais said:

    Dear friend Rob, Do you know the sources that say that Fracesco da Milano played with two silver thimbles with bird feathers? Abraço, Manuel Morais

    • I can’t remember where I read it, Manuel. Sorry. I’ve read it two or three times, but can’t remember the source.

      • Arthur J. Ness said:

        As I recall Paul O’Dette was the first to point out Francesco’s use of two silver thimbles with (attached?) quills: ” . . . duo ditali d’argento, dentro quali sono due piccole penne…” Mentioned in a letter dated 1524 from Antonio Costadili to Duke Alfonso D’Este. I recall that a Fugger inventory of musical instruments also lists such thimbles. One wonders how the quills were attached. See Paul’s article in Louis Grijp and Wilem Mook, eds., **Proceedinga of the International Lute Symposium Utrecht 1986** (Utrecht: STIMU, 1988). AJN P.S. Rob. Your remarks that the errors are published uncorrected in both my Francesco tablatures and my transcriptions are false. See the editorial remarks in the Preface, pages 10-11. Fifty years later, I wouldn’t do it that way, but it made very good sense back then. “instant” critical notes, so to speak.

      • Hi Arthur. Great to hear from you! Many thanks for helping us out with the thimbles. The 1986 proceedings is something I will have to get my hands on. Also, apologies re your Francesco publication, which I have just had a quick look at pages 10-11, where you clearly outline your editorial method. Mea maxima culpa. But, I can’t remember where I made my remarks. Can you remind me? Rob

      • Dear Rob,  Nice to hear from you as well.  It’s been quite a few years (decades?).  The original remark was on a guitar list and I’m not now certain who made the false observation to which I referred. I can no longer find the message. The discussion centered on using the Harvard UP Francesco da Milano edition as the basis for a guitar edition.   I could not respond for some reason, perhaps because I was not a subscriber to that list.  You were just one of the interlocutors. On his web page, Ron Andrico made similar false statements about my edition. He had alleged that I printed the tablatures AND the transcriptions without corrections.  It takes little sense not to find such a suggestion down-right screwy. Could he have been blind? I was research assistant for Gustave Reese under whom I studied musicology at NYU, likewise with John Ward at Harvard.  Reese’s “daytime job” was chief music editor for G. Schirmer and later Carl Fischer. I knew very well what a critical edition comprised when I was asked to assemble the HUP edition.  In fact my edition was just the exact opposite from Ron’s description.   I tracked down ALL available existing sources and collated them, cipher by cipher in order to find the very best readings.  That was over a million ciphers and rhythm signs. I then used the best version as the basic source for each piece.  For example I checked each of the 91 abstract pieces (fantasias and ricercars) against all of Francesco’s  294 ricercars/fantasias in then surviving early printed and manuscript sources.  Corrections were clearly marked in the transcriptions, within parentheses for mine, and within square brackets for subsequent corrections in an early source.  The procedure created “instant” critical notes. And like all HUP music editions, it had been a refereed publication. And of course just assembling such a collection was a major chore;  I was assisted mainly by my classmate Colin Slim and Brigadier Michael Prynne (stationed at NATO headquarters.).  The Harvard libraries assisted in obtaining microfilms.  I assembled microfilms for some 46 prints and 23 manuscripts of early lute music. I was also writing the article “Sources of Lute Music” for New Grove and that assisted in locating some pieces in “likely” prints and manuscripts.  The bibliographical study of lute tablatures was very, very weak back in the ‘sixties.   Quite a story, and it saddens me that Ron would publish misinformation about my work, since my procedures are clearly described in the preface (esp. pages 10-11).   Alas his misinformation seems to have been picked up in that guitar list to which you subscribe.

        Nice to hear from you again, Rob.  Best Wishes, Arthur.

      • Rob MacKillop said:

        Arthur, your pedigree is beyond question. I think that maybe where I and perhaps Ron picked up any suggested query about your publication was when the English Lute Society started publishing versions of your tablatures in French tab. I can’t recall the exact words used, but vaguely recall something along the lines of “with corrections”. I might well be wrong here, but I do think that is where a seed was planted. But I am very clear now that you covered all the basses, as it were, and I am perfectly happy to use your edition. Just last week I bought a 6c – the first I’ve ever had – and am reading through your edition – slowly, as I’m much quicker with French tab than Italian. Best wishes, Rob.

      • In learning to play Italian tablature, because the tablature is “upside-down,” with the highest course at the bottom, it is helpful to imagine the tablature as a teacher or student seated opposite who is demonstrating fingerings on his/her lute. The instrument also has the top course closest to the floor. It was such a joy to discover Francesco’s music and you can experience the same. Best from Boston, Arthur.

      • Rob MacKillop said:

        Thanks, Arthur, but I’m very aware of what Italian tablature is, and how to read it. I just need to do it more regularly. As for German… By the way, I still have your Milano photostat book you kindly sent to me a hundred years ago. That tablature is crazy: no zero frets.

      • Of course, there are places in the world where German tablature is held in high regard. I recall one of those lute conferences in Utrecht. One table discussion was to establish a single, common tablature for international use. Pietro Pozner and Daniel? Benko? spoke in favor of German. And they made some very telling points. That with individual letters and numbers, there was less chance for typos. The passages took up less space. et cetera (I don’t recall much, but I was impressed.) The group discussion was pleasant and respectful throughout, but no conclusion was reached, and the conference did not endorse any single type of tablature for international use. And I had a guitarist who had a particular interest in Polish lute music, and she learned to play from German tablature. It takes all types, as we often say over here. Best, Arthur.

  6. congratulations.
    It is the most profound, heartfelt and beautiful guitar.

  7. the antique guitar: Ángel Torrisi

  8. skaekhund said:

    Hello. I recently bought a copy of your 20 easy fingerstyle book and I’m delighted with it. However I can’t find the online audio snippets of each one that I think used to be on a CD. Do you know where I can download them from?

    • There should be an address on the first page, the title page, for downloads. If not, please contact Mel Bay through their website, as I have no control over such things. Good luck!

  9. is your torres model still for sale

  10. Philippe Callu said:


    I bought recently through Amazaon your method : (online audio)

    20 easy fingerstyle studies for Ukulele by Rob MacKillop.

    I have some difficulties to go on ‘on line audio’ and it will be easier for me to work with a CD.

    Is that possible to get it ? can you tell me the price included sending to France.

    Thanks in advance for you kind answer,

    Best regards,
    Philippe Callu
    2 Les Marottières
    41310 Villechauve (FRANCE)

    • Hi Philippe. I have no control over that. Just email Mel Bay from their website, and ask them. If you do manage to get the online audio, you can possibly burn it to a CD for future use. Sorry I can’t help you further.

      Best wishes,


  11. Nestor Guillermo Duce said:

    Toco guitarra clasica. Amo la musica de Lauro. Así descubrí su versión de La negra, que me impactó mucho. De ahi llegué a su página, y el impacto es mucho mayor por la enorme capacidad, talento, y versatilidad a un altísimo nivel musical, y la enorme capacidad que hay que tener en la vida que es tan corta para hacer todo lo hecho hasta ahora por ud. Así que felicitaciones. No hablo ni escribo inglés, sepa disculpar el texto en castellano. La sencillez y belleza de su arreglo para manha de carnaval me gusta muchísimo. Ese arreglo tal cual ud lo toca está escrito? de ser así quisiera adquirirlo. Muchas gracias. Y mis mas sinceras felicitaciones

    • In English: I play classical guitar. I love Lauro’s music. That’s how I discovered your version of La negra, which shocked me a lot. From there I reached your page, and the impact is much greater because of the enormous capacity, talent, and versatility at a very high musical level, and the enormous capacity that you have to have in life that is so short to do everything done so far. by you So congratulations. I do not speak or write English, I know how to excuse the text in Spanish. The simplicity and beauty of your arrangement for carnival manha I like very much. That arrangement as you touch it is written? if so, I would like to acquire it. Thank you very much. And my most sincere congratulations

      Ese arreglo está en mi cabeza, no en una página. Lo siento.

  12. Phyllis Williams said:

    Would you please share the tab for your version of Norwegian Wood in modal D?

    • Hi Phyllis. I just made it up a few minutes before making the video, and haven’t played it since, so there is no tab. Just try working it out by ear – which is the way I learned when I was a teenager. It’s the best method of learning this stuff. Good luck.

  13. John Gilbert Colman said:

    Hi Rob, Can you tell me where to find the complete A.J.Weidt Tenor Banjo Method?


  14. Hey Rob!
    Great work! I was primarily interested in the DADGAD stuff and I really like the pieces you chose in the book for classical music.
    However, when I heard your examples on youtube I was missing the “basso tones” (not sure whether this is the right term, since I’m no native).
    Is there a reason you didn’t include them?
    I guess the pieces would be even more beautiful with those “basso tones”.

    Have a great time!

  15. Janice Mask said:

    Rob, watched an old vid of short scale, 60cm, classical guitar technique using no nails. Just what I need, loved it. Having trouble finding a store brand guitar with that scale length though. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thank you. Janice

    • Hi Janice. That was my wife’s guitar. The Spanish guitar business is quite sexist, so that instrument was called a lady’s guitar…It is no longer in production, however, so I suggest you do a search for a lady’s classical guitar, or señorita guitar or guitarra. I have to say it was fun to play, so much so I am now banned from touching it 🙂 Good luck!

  16. I have been told that The Tanbur Metodu Emin Akan and Tambur Method Murat Aydemir are not for the Yayli Tanbur and I don’t know what the reason is. Wondered if you could shed some light on this please Rob, otherwise will these books be defunct for me.

    • I don’t know, John. I thought they were the same tuning and fret placement, but perhaps they are different. I don’t speak or read Turkish, and, as you know, finding reliable information is extremely difficult. I know there were tanbur players who played both, so I made the assumption the skills were directly transferable. I’m afraid I can’t help you further. Best of luck! Rob

  17. Hello! I am a Malagasy guitarist and singer and I recently discovered your YouTube video where you play a piece by Bach on the banza gourd tenor banjo. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful and warm sound of that instrument and I am wondering where one could find such an instrument? Where did you buy it or do you make them yourself?
    Many thanks for a reply and all best

  18. Hello Rob, I recently purchased a fretless banjo, and ran across your videos playing tunes on one. I am a true beginner with now musical back, and would appreciate it very much, if you could suggest some beginner exercises I could practice to become more proficient on my instrument. Thanks, I love the videos and look forward to learning to play some of the tunes.



  19. Anonymous said:

  20. Steven Bentham said:

    Hi Rob

    I’m very new to DADGAD, and I bought
    your DADGAD Blues.
    Just thought I’d say thank you for the
    work you’ve put in.
    The book is a cracker, very easy to follow,
    I’ll be trying out a tune at Ramsey Folk
    Club in a few weeks. A good test.
    And plenty to keep me busy this Summer.
    Thanks again
    Isle of Man

  21. said:

    Thank you I will.

    Sent using Hushmail

  22. Daniel Vissi said:

    Thank you, Rob, for all your work and musical ideas!

    Dear Rob,

    A few days I beg to the Ning network if any member has the tablature file: Tomb[e]au sur la mort de Madame la contesse de Logi, Sarabande, and Menuet, attached by Hans Hockelmans (but now isnt upload). Any member answered me. Please, can you help me? Im working on transcriptions and I need a pic of the tablature: Tomb[e]au sur la mort de Madame la contesse de Logi, Sarabande, and Menuet.

    Thank you in advance!


  23. John Gilbert Colman said:

    Hi Rob,
    have there been British composers, contemporary to A.J.Weidt, who wrote pieces for solo Tenor Banjo?(there is definitely an American ‘twist’ to Weidt’s music. I wonder what Tenor Banjoists where playing in Britain around that time)


    • Hi John. Certainly, I would consider Emile Grimshaw as the English A. J. Weidt. I think I have one or two of his tenor pieces on video somewhere. I can’t think of anyone else, off the top of my head. His Method for tenor banjo is excellent.


  24. Marilyn Rigby said:

    Hi! I bought the Kindle version of 20 Spanish Baroque Pieces by Gaspar Sanz: Arranged for Uke. I was sight-reading Foliás, and noticed that p. 27 is missing from the book. Could that be the page where the strumming is indicated? How do I get a copy of that page? I have a MAC computer.

    • Hi Marilyn. Page 27 in the print version is deliberately blank in order to facilitate having no page turns in the middle of the following piece. Those blank pages have been removed for the electronic version. As for the chords, I just strum a basic Folias: Gm / D / Gm / F / Bb / F / Gm / D then repeat but ending on Gm.
      I hope that helps?

  25. said:

    Hi Rob, just downloaded ” 25 Scots Tunes arranged for Tenor Banjo ” Looking good. Will let you know how I get on. Thank You.

  26. Hi Rob – I can’t seem to get eMails thru to your address for private lessons. How else can I set something like that up?

    Thank you

  27. Simon McCreath said:

    Hi Rob, I love your work, your playing is always an inspiration to me, I return to your many videos repeatedly!
    Please can you tell me where I can purchase a set of genuine GUT strings for my classical guitar ?
    My kindest regards to you.

  28. Brent Bunker said:

    Hi Rob. I appreciate your demonstrations on the edward Light harp lute I own several of them but have been unable to get any music from Light for it. I would be happy to pay you For a copy of the pieces you pay. On you tube. I have been unable to find a copy on line for sale

    • Brent, as I said in my previous post, “The copy I used came and went with the instrument”. I had the instrument for four days, the music was in the case. I no longer have the instrument, case, or music. Sorry. The British Library will most certainly have what you seek. All you do is pay for photocopies.

  29. Anonymous said:

    Hi, I purchased 20 Easy Fingerstyle Studies for the Ukulele. According to the description on the Amazon site, it was supposed to come with a link for the audio. I can not find that link within the book. Please advise.

  30. Miles Dempster said:

    Hi Rob,

    I hope that you are keeping well and free of the ‘lurgies’!

    Long time it has been…

    I just happened on to your Youtube playing one of your Bach cello suite transcriptions on your theorbo tuned in D. Sounds wonderful.

    Just to let you know that I’m still around and have happy memories of our collaboration.

    All the best


  31. Cenk Beyhan said:

     I have a question, I would be very happy if you could answer to me.
     I play mandolin and I want to try playing lute. Is it possible to play the pieces in your book “Introduction to the Lute: For Lute and Guitar Players” with a seven course lute? Is seven course lute tuned as stated in the book?(The manufacturer’s recommended tuning for this instrument is A4, E4, E4, B3, B3, G3, G3, D4, D3, A3, A2, G3, G2)

    Thank you,
    Best Regards

    Cenk Beyhan

    • Hi Cenk. Yes, you can play everything from my book on a 7c lute. No problem.
      If the recommended pitch for your first string is A4, the string length must be quite short, which is okay. But remember that pitch was not fixed during the Renaissance, so players tuned their first to wherever it sounded good. Which is why they used tablature. Anyway, I talk about all of this in the book.
      Best wishes,

      • Cenk Beyhan said:

        Thank you very much for your reply. I am very happy to start my new music adventure with your book!
        With my best wishes and best regards.

  32. Edgar Neukirchner said:

    Hi Rob,

    I purchased your “20 Spanish Baroque Pieces” for Uke – these pieces sound really great on the ukulele! You are playing so many instruments with different tunings. Do you recommend working with tablature or conventional scores? I play guitar, but when changing to ukulele, sight reading scores becomes quite a challenge for me.

    Best wishes,

  33. Karol Steadman said:

    Hello, I found your webpage by chance. I work for The Governor’s Musick, Colonial Williamsburg’s early music ensemble. We have a copy of an 18th-century English Guitar with a Preston watchkey tuning mechanism. It won’t stay in tune, and no guitar people we’ve contacted know how to repair it. Any information you could give me would be so helpful.

    • Hi Karol. These old watch-key tuners are magnificent when they work right – not so good when they don’t. I don’t think you’ll find a guitar tech willing to take them on, but I took mine to a guy who repairs old watches, and he cleaned it out and fixed it up good. He is in Scotland, though, and actually the store has closed down. But hopefully you will be able to find someone is the US. Good luck!

      • Karol Steadman said:

        Thank you so much for getting back to me. I’ll take it to a watch repair place and see what they say!

  34. Jeffrey D Graf said:

    Mr. MacKillop,

    I’ve played guitar for more than 40 years (mostly blues and jazz) but recently, in “retirement” I have converted to banjo which I have long loved. I love all things banjo, and also all things stringed, including lute and oud. Through my deep dive into banjo, I have come to you and finding you has been one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received. What you do is truly beautiful. Let me admit it right off: if there is such a thing as a future life, I would like to be you. The gift you have given and continue to give, through your explorations of stringed art is nothing short of brilliant. I am in awe of what you do.

    I understand that you have recently battled with Covid and am hopeful that you will make a full recovery. And to those of us, and I must think that there are many, who are reverent of what you give, I can only hope that you will continue to explore and to to document your explorations.

    What a gift you are to humanity! I am not a religious person but the closest I ever get to being there is in experiencing what you give.

    Tell me, please, how can I donate to you without the middlemen?

    Yours truly,

    Jeffrey Graf
    Binnewater, NY, USA

    • Dear Jeffrey, thank you for your comments, which are dear to me. I appreciate what you are saying. I am not a religious person either, that just confuses things.
      As for the banjo – it is a much maligned instrument, capable of the most subtle nuances, something I’ve attempted to demonstrate. Keep exploring its riches, and if you need a particular score, I’ll give it to you if I still have it. Sadly I do not have a decent banjo these days, having been forced to sell quite a few instruments, but that’s just life, and I still have enough to keep me going.
      I never got Covid bad enough to be hospitalised, but it has left me with longer-term recovery, reducing my teaching to one hour in the morning, one in the afternoon. The rest of the time I am usually sleeping. My body is exhausted, and brain too. I have almost zero creative energy, which is really difficult for me to deal with. But I am in no pain, and hopefully things will improve shortly. Sometimes during some days I feel perfectly normal, which is a wonderful feeling, and I get some work done before the exhaustion returns. That’s just how it is.
      I used to have a Patreon site for people to donate to, but I got embarrassed about that and closed it. It seemed like begging, which isn’t me. But if you do want to donate something to the cause, then a PayPal donation to robmackillop at gmail dot com would be a simple transaction. Thank you.

      • Jeffrey Graf said:

        Dear Mr. MacKillop,

        Since we last corresponded at the beginning of August, I’ve purchased your album of Romantic Spanish Guitar. It is a beautiful album.

        As I’ve been listening to it, I can’t help but wonder after your health. You had mentioned in August how low in creative energy you had been since Covid. I’m hoping your health has improved.

        Please advise.

        Hoping for improved health,


        Jeff Graf

        On Sat, Aug 1, 2020 at 2:14 AM Rob MacKillop ~ Musician wrote:

        > Rob MacKillop commented: “Dear Jeffrey, thank you for your comments, which > are dear to me. I appreciate what you are saying. I am not a religious > person either, that just confuses things. As for the banjo – it is a much > maligned instrument, capable of the most subtle nuances, som” >

      • Thanks, Jeffrey. I’m definitely getting better, though not quite there yet. You’ve cheered me up with your comment! Glad you like the album! Rob

    • Thank you, Jeffrey. Much appreciated!

      • Jeffrey D Graf said:


        My pleasure. A small payback for what you give us.

        I should mention that here I am, an American, getting turned on to an almost forgotten part of American banjo history. And that revivification of what has slept for more than a hundred and fifty years, through what you have given, is truly a great gift.

        I’ve gotten your book Early American Classics for Banjo and first decided to tackle one of the simpler pieces (not so simple, at first, for this newbie to the form), Buckley’s Waltz with Variations. I feel like I am drinking from the very fount of Americana. Again, thanks. And the funny thing is that this resurrection of really old-time American music comes not from some American, but from a Scotsman! Brilliant.

        So, again, I thank you. And I hope you gain strength and the zeal to further your explorations.

        One final question: have you studied, transcribed or recorded any of the work of the mostly mandolin-playing but also exquisite Sicilian banjo player Giovanni Gioviale who was recorded in 1929? If you’ve recorded anything he wrote/played, I should be very interested to hear about it because he was the bomb!

        Get well because we need you back to full form.

        Jeff Graf
        Binnewater, NY, USA

      • Giovanni Gioviale’s music doesn’t appear to have been published, at least I haven’t come across it, but his playing was absolutely virtuosic. Good luck to anyone who takes him on! I haven’t tried.
        Best wishes,

  35. Jay Forsythe said:

    Hello Rob, I love your recordings of the Scottish lute music, and I wanted to ask if you know of any keyboard manuscripts or sources with similar repertoire — I want to play and study these pieces but I am a pianist and not a baroque-lutenist.

    (My first thought was to make transcriptions from the tablature, but it doesn’t appear to be available for free online, and I will have to wait until the pandemic is over before I can request a copy from the NLS.)

  36. Peppe Privitera said:

    Hi I have read your Method for Lute and currently use a 6 string classical guitar with G tuned to F#
    I am considering to buy a 8 string classical
    Do you recommend it and which tuning ?
    I saw for Lute pieces That David Estrem uses a capo probably G To F# but only on 6 strings
    Not sure what he tunes to the 2 Low strings
    I play jazz too and wanted to use as well the 8 string to experiment chords and bass lines
    I guess for That i should tune B F# the 2 low strings

    I mainly wonder how to tune the 8 string to play Lute tunes as well to play classical pieces
    Thanks for suggestions!
    Ps mindblowing what you show om ukulele too it opened an entire World (mandolin tuning and Renaissance guitar tuning ! Great !)

    Peppe Sweden

    • Hi Peppe. I had an 8-string once, and used various tunings. I think you will need to experiment a bit, find out what is best for your music and playing style. A capo isn’t necessary, but can occasionally be useful, just to give some variety to the sound.

      A 8 string lute also used different tunings for the bass. On a guitar, D and C would be the equivalents, with the C sometimes going down to an A.

      Yes, the ukulele in 5ths tuning surprised me too! 🙂


  37. Steve Barry said:

    Good evening Rob, I am planning to buy some Aquila Rayon 800 Basses on the strength of some of your videos. Do you have a suggestion for trebles to accompany them? What about the Aquila Rubino trebles? I have a worry that they only come in high tension and possibly that they are too brilliant. My sound preference is dark and subdued, not brilliant. My guitar is somewhat dark-sounding as well, and I love it. Would Nylgut be an option to pair with the Rayons? And if so, who makes them? I buy my strings from a distributor in the States, and the prices are good, so money is not really a concern. By the way I have ordered some Aquila sugar strings. They are on back order. Thank you for your time.Steve

    • Steve, every guitar is different, and so is the player. I’m afraid you will have to do some experimenting yourself. Nylgut is made by Aquila Corde. On their website you can find a page comparing all their guitar strings, with sound files. They also have a distributor in the US.

  38. Anonymous said:

    Many thanks Rob, I guess experimenting is half the fun. I will report back with my findings.

  39. I have your book “20 Spanish Baroque Pieces” and I don’t understand the tab or notation fo Canarios.

    Measure 4 isn’t a full measure and has a double bar line and that’s followed by another half measure then a single bar line. This is repeated at measure 8?? and many times more throughout the score.

    I have to admit I’m not the greatest reader of sheet music. Can you please explain what is going on here. I didn’t find any explanation in the book.

    After all that whining I need to say that I find the recordings wonderful and want to sound just like that:-)

    Ken Sheller

    • Hi Ken. Nice to hear from you. The notation is the same as in the original. Although the piece is in 6/8 timing, which usually means two groups of three notes (123,456) with accent on the first and fourth notes, there are times when it goes into 3/4 without changing the time signature, in which case (12, 34, 56) the accents are on 1,3 and 5. Get used to beating out a rhythm of 123/123/12/12/12. This moving between 6/8 and 3/4 is very common with Spanish music (flamenco, for instance, has many dances based on this contrast) and often, as here, you have to be alive to it.
      So, to sum up, there is nothing wrong with the notation, but if you are not used to it you can be excused for getting confused.
      Any further “whines” just be in touch 😉 And if you want to take it further, I teach many students across the world via Zoom.

    • Actually, what I describe above is for measure 8. The double bar lines in measure 4 are to delineate the first phrase from the second. You have the option of repeating the first phrase if you want to.

  40. said:

    Hi Rob, No problems at the moment re music, when the notification came up in my email box Just thought I would say Hi and hope you are keeping well at this particular time. I don’t do an awful lot on either Guitar or Uke at the moment All I do on guitar at the moment is self accompaniment of Folkie Songs.
    Oh and I have found that to find the new comments one has to scroll down such a long way . Would it not be easier to have the most recent at the top : ) Hope you are all well . Take care. Glad you are still there .

  41. Timothy A Twiss said:

    Nice work on the Baur book

  42. Hello Rob,
    I’m not sure how else to contact you, and I wanted to inform you of a new YouTube video by professional guitarist Brandon Acker on his experiment of playing without nails. He presents a very thorough comparison of the two techniques and the differences in tone are quite clear in the audio. Near the end of the video he mentions you as a major source of information and thinks very highly of your encouragement for those of us who use flesh. Here is the link:

    John Stroman

  43. Cenk Beyhan said:


    I come back for a new question!

    Last year I asked some questions about your book “Introduction to the Lute for Lute and Guitar Players” and you wrote an answer that was very helpful to me. Thank you once again for your answer. I bought your book and my first lute at the same time because there was no one around me who could teach me the lute. At first I wasn’t sure I could play lute, but within a few months I made great progress. Your book is really great! The book has great information, exercises and a great repertoire. I found a treasure trove of music in your book that I hadn’t noticed before, as well as information about playing an instrument.

    My lute love is getting more and more every day. I recently ordered an archlute (14 c, short neck diapozon is 60 cm and long neck diapozon is 132 cm). Actually I was unsure between theorbo and archlute, but since the archlut is tuned like a Renaissance lute, I thought I could switch to this instrument more easily. What I want most is for the instrument to have impressive bass sounds. But the compositions that I like very much and want to play are mostly written for theorbo. For example, works by Robert de Visée (especially the A minor suite). I think these works need to be transposed in order to be played with archlute. I can’t do this because I’m not a really musician. Are there any archlute arrangements for these compositions? Would it be better to change my order and buy a theorbo?
    Also, the diversity in the sizes of these instruments is very confusing for an inexperienced person like me. There are very large and smaller theorbos. Some arclute players use single strings instead of double strings. One article states that the achlute is more suitable for some Italian works composed between the second half of the 17th century and the early 18th century.
    I really like how the subject is so complex and deep but I want to choose the right instrument now.

    Thank you in advance for your answer.

    Kind regards.

    Cenk Beyhan

    • Hi Cenk. Luckily for you, Nigel North has written a book which answers all your questions, and many more you might have about these instruments in the future. It is called, “Contunuo Playing on the Lute, Archlute and Theorbo: A Comprehensive Guide for Performers. You should definitely buy this excellent book.

      As to which instrument, theorbo music does not transpose well to the archlute. So if you want to mainly play the theorbo music of Robert de Visee, then I suggest you get a theorbo, but one small enough to play the solo repertoire. The French had a small theorbo for solos and lessons, as opposed to continuo playing with an orchestra. So, some luthiers will make a small French théorbe which can be re-strung as an archlute, if you want to do both.

      If you do not have a luthier in mind, I suggest Jiri Cepelak: – he will understand what you are saying in English. His prices are very good, and the quality is high.



      • Cenk Beyhan said:

        Thank you thousands for taking the time to answer my question. I’ve never had the opportunity to try and compare Theorbo and Archlut at the same time yet . I get a new experience every time when I buy an instrument. The information you provide is extremely valuable and instructive. I know Jiri Cepelak’s website, I’ll visit again for theorbo. I found Nigel North’s book on the internet, there is also a book by Francesca Torelli called “A Tutor for Theorbo”, I will buy both of them together.

        Thanks for your great music (I couldn’t count how many times I listened to Visée- Suite in Dm for lute!)

        Kind regards.


  44. Mr. MacKillop, I work for Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA, and we’re about to post a video about an English Guitar that Jefferson bought for his granddaughter. I found a video of you playing an instrument similar to hers (though a little smaller) and am hoping you might grant us permission to use in the background in exchange for appropriate credit.

    Here’s the video of you playing that has the song we’d like to use:

    And here’s the latest version of our video:

    • Hi Chad. Thanks for asking. Yes, you have my permission to use that video. Do check out my writing on the subject: and you might also be interested in Doc Rossi’s essay on the guittar in Colonial America: ‘Citterns and Guitars in Colonial America.’
      Gitarre und Zister: Bauweise, Spieltechnik un Ges chichte bis 800
      . 22. Musikinstrumentenbau-Symposium Michaelstein, 16 bis 18. November 2001. Ed. Monika Lustig. (Dossel, Germany: Stiftung Kloster Michael stein and Verlag Janos Stekovics, 2004) 155-168. and ‘The Cittern or English Guitar in Colonial America.’
      Proceedings of International Conference on the Cittern and Guitar. (Università di Evora, Portugal, 2003) 83-94.
      Best wishes,

      • cwollerton said:

        Thanks, Rob. Very much appreciated! How’s this for a credit line?

        “I Love My Love in Secret” performed by Rob MacKillop, guittar
        Permission granted courtesy of Rob MacKillop

        I’m guessing this a traditional tune, but if you know the composer, please send that along.

    • That’s fine, Chad. Yes, a traditional tune.

  45. cwollerton said:

    Mr. MacKillop, I work for Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, VA, and we’re about to post a video about an English Guitar that Jefferson bought for his granddaughter. I found a video of you playing an instrument similar to hers (though a little smaller) and am hoping you might grant us permission to use in the background in exchange for appropriate credit.

    Here’s the video of you playing that has the song we’d like to use:

    And here’s the latest version of our video:

  46. Nate Breidenbaugh said:

    Hi Rob,

    Hope you’re well. I recently purchased my first lute, and I immediately grabbed a copy of your book ”Introduction To The Lute For Lute And Guitar Players.” It came today and I can’t wait to dig in. Exploring this delightful instrument has been a dream of mine for over a decade. Thanks for providing a map for the journey.


  47. Dear Rob
    I have been trying to make contact with you from Melbourne Australia
    I hope that you are safe and sound and able to respond to my message
    With thanks
    Ros Hallyburton

  48. Jay Forsythe said:

    Hi Rob,

    I’m the one who asked you about a transcription of the Balcarres manuscript a while ago— even though the book was expensive, I was able to get it from the library fairly easily, and it was fascinating to peruse.

    I am in an undergraduate music program and have elected to write a senior thesis. In preparation for possible graduate work in musicology or early music, I have been thinking of doing my thesis on the Scottish lute music of the 17th century, and making a transcription of one of the manuscripts as part of this.

    Do you have any insight on which, if any, of the manuscripts have enough avenues for original research for my purposes, while also being not completely obscure? I was thinking the Lady Margaret Wemyss book could be a good one, but of course I wanted to get your input first as to whether this general idea is a good one at all. I’m in my 3rd year now, and have some time to think about it.

    Thanks and hope all is well,


  49. Stanislaus Veiga said:

    Hi Rob! Trust you and your fingers are keeping in good health. Sorry, IVe been out of touch for the last few months.

    Love your lifetime of musical work!

    Dr. Stanley, Goa

  50. Ja’nice said:

    Got The Bach Book. High g standard uke/Baritone uke duets finger style. Are there others in maybe folk or Americana music? Love, love, love the Clasics. But, need more choices.

    Thanks Ja’nice

  51. Hello, Rob.

    I get tired of tuning multi-string courses, but have you tried the sound of unison courses, with 5ths tuning on 8-string ukulele? I am interested but don’t wish to buy the 8-string instrument just to find out I don’t enjoy the sound 😉.

    Thanks, John.

  52. Hi Rob, Nice to see you are still around. I dug out your DADGAD book just the other day and have tuned my travel guitar ( a bit lighter for me now than the big one ) to that tuning. Just discovered Pentatonic scales the other day and thinking I might just make up ( wont say compose ) a few little tunes using those. Take care, hope to keep seeing you around . Sylvia

  53. I saw a video of yours filmed a couple of years back where you gave an update mentioning… but it appears that is not your site any longer. Am I accessing it incorrectly, or is there a new address?

    • Hi John. Thanks for asking. I got about one visit per month to that site, and it cost money to have, so I eventually let it go. I liked it, though, and am pleased you were interested in it. Best wishes, Rob.

  54. Hello, Rob MacKillop:

    Thanks for your YouTube presentation “Play the Ukulele in 5ths Tuning.*” It encourages me to know that others in the world besides myself appreciate this style of tuning, and that you appreciate it enough to even produce a video presentation and book about it. If the book presented tunes in treble-clef notation (rather than in tablature), I’d buy it.

    The leader of a local ukulele club referred me to your video because he knows that I tune my tenor ukulele in fifths. This tuning is familiar to me, as I grew up playing violin in youth orchestras, and as an adult I inherited my father’s mandolin.

    However, a classic mandolin with its 14-inch scale length and 8 steel strings, is not as comfortable or fun for me to play as is a tenor ukulele with its 17-inch scale length and 4 nylon-type strings.

    I use classical guitar strings that I’ve chosen based on calculations involving scale length, string frequencies and string tensions. I tune the strings to the same frequencies as an octave mandolin, G2-D3-A3-E4 from low to high. I refer to my re-strung, re-tuned instrument as my “mandolele” or “octave mandolele”.

    If you ever print an edition of your book “Play the Ukulele in 5ths Tuning” in treble-clef notation, you’d be welcome to let me know.


    • Hi Leslie. Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you don’t need my book, which is really an introduction to the tuning. Just read the original violin/cello/mandolin scores in either treble or bass clef. Most of the stuff is available through imslp.

  55. James Stewart said:

    Mr. MacKillop,

    I have a question about the cittern and wanted to know your expert opinion on the subject. What do you think is the proper scale length for a cittern to be historically accurate?

    Best Regards From The USA,

    James Stewart

  56. Hi Rob,
    Recently discovered your lovely music. Well done! Do you think a 4 string cello banjo can be tuned GCEA with gut or Nyla gut strings? What string gauges would you recommend?

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