Romanesca was a song form
Musical form
The term musical form refers to the overall structure or plan of a piece of music, and it describes the layout of a composition as divided into sections...

 popular in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was most popular with Italian composers of the early Baroque period
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

. It was also used by the vihuelistas
Vihuela is a name given to two different guitar-like string instruments: one from 15th and 16th century Spain, usually with 12 paired strings, and the other, the Mexican vihuela, from 19th century Mexico with five strings and typically played in Mariachi bands.-History:The vihuela, as it was known...

 including Narváez
Luis de Narváez
Luis de Narváez was a Spanish composer and vihuelist. Highly regarded during his lifetime, Narváez is known today for Los seys libros del delphín, a collection of polyphonic music for the vihuela which includes the earliest known variation sets...

, Mudarra
Alonso Mudarra
Alonso Mudarra was a Spanish composer and vihuelist of the Renaissance. He was an innovative composer of instrumental music as well as songs, and was the composer of the earliest surviving music for the guitar....

, Valderrábano
Enríquez de Valderrábano
Enríquez de Valderrábano was a Spanish vihuelist and composer. There is little biographical data on this composer of early music, but there is some from the prologue to his book of music, Libro de música de vihuela intitulado Silva de Sirenas, published in Valladolid, Spain in 1547...

, and Pisador
Diego Pisador
Diego Pisador was a Spanish vihuelist and composer of the Renaissance.-Life:Little is known of the details of Pisador's life, not even the exact dates of his birth and death. It is known that he was born in Salamanca around the years 1509 or 10. He was the oldest son of Alonso Pisador and Isabel...


Originating in Spain as O guárdame las vacas ("O let us put the cows to pasture" or, "look after the cows for me", occasionally known as Seculorum del primer tono in reference to the similarity between the a g f e d melody line and that of the chief termination, "Seculorum, Amen," of the first psalm tone), a romanesca is composed of a sequence
Chord progression
A chord progression is a series of musical chords, or chord changes that "aims for a definite goal" of establishing a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord. In other words, the succession of root relationships...

 of four chords
Chord (music)
A chord in music is any harmonic set of two–three or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously. These need not actually be played together: arpeggios and broken chords may for many practical and theoretical purposes be understood as chords...

 with a simple, repeating bass
Bass note
In music theory, the bass note of a chord or sonority is the lowest note played or notated. If there are multiple voices it is the note played or notated in the lowest voice. While the bass note is often the root or fundamental of the chord, it does not have to be, and sometimes one of the other...

, which provide the groundwork for variations
Variation (music)
In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.-Variation form:...

 and improvisation
Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or...

. A famous example is "Greensleeves
"Greensleeves" is a traditional English folk song and tune, a ground of the form called a romanesca.A broadside ballad by this name was registered at the London Stationer's Company in September 1580 as "A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves". It then appears in the surviving A Handful of...

", also the duple meter
Duple meter
Duple meter is a musical metre characterized by a primary division of 2 beats to the bar, usually indicated by 2 and multiples or 6 and multiples in the upper figure of the time signature, with 2/2 , 2/4, and 6/8 being the most common examples...

 Passamezzo antico
Passamezzo antico
The passamezzo antico was a ground bass or chord progression popular during the Italian Renaissance and known throughout Europe in the 16th century...

. The romanesca is usually in triple meter and its soprano formula
Reciting tone
In chant, a reciting tone is a repeated musical pitch around which the other pitches of the chant gravitate, or by extension, the entire melodic formula that centers on one or two such pitches. In Gregorian chant, reciting tones are used for a number of contexts, including the chanting of psalm...

A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

) resembles that of the passamezzo antico but a third higher.
I V vi iii I V vi-iii vi

Romanesca is also the name of two early music ensembles: one, La Romanesca, founded in 1978 in Australia by John Griffiths; and the other, Romanesca, founded in 1988 in England by Nigel North
Nigel North
Nigel North is an English lutenist and guitarist.-Student days:He studied guitar on a scholarship to the junior department of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama , taking up the lute in 1969, at the age of 15. He maintains he was more or less self-taught on the instrument...

. Both specialize in the performance of early plucked string instrument
Plucked string instrument
Plucked string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by plucking the strings. Plucking is a way of pulling and releasing the string in such as way as to give it an impulse that causes the string to vibrate...

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