Guárdame las vacas is a villancico more than half a millennium old. Its basic structure consists of a repeating bass part overlayed with a descant. A villancico. Here’s the music notation and TABs for Guardame las Vacas by Luis de Narvaez for Classical Guitar. Please feel free to download, print, and share it. Last weekend I spent some time trying to solve something that has puzzled me about Guardame las vacas for a while now. I have several.

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I can’t be the only person who’s ever thought of this, yet apparently I’m the only one promoting it! It’s not that difficult to use a capo to set one guitar in the same key as the one playing open even though the scores are two different keys. Today, quatro is spelled cuatro. Confusion arises because the immediately following work in the original manuscript, Otras tres diferencias hechas por otra parteis not listed on the title page or index.

As a side-point, every arrangement I have has differences in certain measures that suggest that pretty much everyone has taken some minor liberties with octaves.

Secondly these days I perform the piece on a vihuela which incidentally I will do in a concert in a few hours. A New Approach to Guardame las vacas? I suppose that my idea would probably require that either a the 3 variations from the otra parte be arranged in A minor for it to work musically, just as Segovia and Diaz had done, or b the first 4 variations be arranged in D minor, just as Yepes had done.

The new fingering uses the thumb more and is more playable.

Guárdame las vacas by Luys de Narváez

Of course somewhere there is probably some dreary earnest version about a poor boy actually herding some prosaic old milk cows. The king would leave to go on a hunt or to battle, or who knows to visit his mistress at the summer palace, and he would entrust the safety and honor of the vacws of the court to a valiant and honest court official.


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The scores published were not meant for professionals and for public performance – the intended audience was the ignorant amateurs who could not improvise. Changed beaming buardame match metrical changes.

Diferencias sobre ‘Guárdame las vacas’ – Hyperion Records – CDs, MP3 and Lossless downloads

The remaining music comprises villancicos, romances, and a Baxa de contrapunto. Variation 1 of first 4 strong statement 2. This version turns the whole thing around as it is spoken in a woman voice: Oh today we have a hard time with the off feminist title and intent of the song, but it is what it is.

I don’t mind being kicked out of that imprinting if the player has juice and poetry. Angel Romero also plays all variations in order, and while his performance of the first four variations is exquisite, I think he plays the otra parte a bit too fast, which doesn’t fully develop its lyrical qualities. I go back and forth on tempo, sometimes it sounds good slow and dreamy and almost with rubato, other times like brisk march and whatever is in between.

The first two volumes contain fourteen polyphonic fantasias, modelled after Italian pieces of the same kind.

It seems the double and triple entendre piles up. Or bed them while the king if off doing kingly duties? I’ve also played it as Diaz did, with the three transposed variations placed in the middle this is my preferred approach at the moment. First one example in one key and then another in another key. BTW, I think I found the reference to Amos’ article along with some insightful comments on this forum, so I should thank the folks here for their part in helping me solve history’s greatest mystery involving a song about cows: It was a popular song with a double entendre meaning.

Apart from melodic variations, there are also two sets on ostinato harmonies: But I doubt it is his original work, he was a writer who was promoting Spanish literary styles in Spain instead of the popular Italian styles, for example sonnet. It consists of a set of variations on a Spanish folk theme.


Over time we’ve come to associate the piece with the bass part only, which in A minor would be: Lute- vihuela knowledge is pretty easy to get to today because in the last 20 years there has been a lot of research published about music in the times of the lute.

Guárdame las vacas by Luys de Narváez –

Granted, my approach will seem jarring at first, as we’re not used to hearing the piece that way. I’m glad to see that I’m not the first to consider playing Guardame as a sort of musical conversation, and that someone else has not only considered it, but actually done it that way.

I’d like your feedback on a new approach that came to me last week as I was contemplating this wonderful work, namely a performance in the following order: What I’ve learned is that Narvaez wrote two sets of variations, the one with four, that everyone plays, and then another, the otra parte, with three more in a different key.

The second of the two songs is wrongly attributed to Gombert, it is a work of Jean Courtois. This way they could learn Narvaez “best of”-improvisations. Which one of the text versions was the source of inspiration to Narvaez remains us unknown. Changed some fingering in measures 30, 32, and 33 to match original tablature.

Could the answer be that simple? I’ve heard and read different versions of the text, the one with double meaning about the king entrusting the ladies of vaccas court to his right hand man, which also could have been the joke. Variation 1 of otra parte somewhat pensive, more lyrical statement 3. Having said all of that, I would like to turn to the question that prompted this post.