I am not a classically trained guitarist. However, over the years my interest in classical guitar has grown stronger, just as it has for a number of other genres including jazz, funk, doom, stoner rock and many more. I remember when I bought an instructional book for classical guitar 20 years or so back in Germany. There was one particular song that always fascinated me which was originally composed by the great John Dowland – so with a slight delay of a little over two decades, I’m proud to present my first tutorial: “Classical Guitar For Beginners – How to play Mr. Dowland’s Midnight on Guitar”.
I strongly encourage you to download and print out the guitar tab for Mr. Dowland’s Midnight. This will help you to learn the song faster and it will allow you to follow along with my video instructions. Further below I share a little bit more about John Dowland and his life. Chances are that you already heard of him, even if you’re not per se into classical guitar – because not too long ago, a guy who goes by the stage-name “Sting” (and I bet you heard of him..;-)..) did a whole production around interpreting Dowland material. And he actually did a nice job on it in my opinion.
As far as the tuning is concerned: all strings are in standard tuning, except for the G-String which you need to tune a half step down to F# (E-A-D-F#-B-E).
Okay, here is my video tutorial on ‘How To Play Mr. Dowland’s Midnight On Guitar’:
Again, use the tab alongside the video. While this is commonly considered a beginners classical guitar piece, I must admit it was a bit of a challenge to me. So don’t get frustrated, take your time and don’t rush. Speaking of timing, there is no set-in-stone speed or beats per minute. It really depends on your mood and your own interpretation of the material. As far as the use of the capo is concerned: you can totally play the whole thing without a capo, it sounds great either way. However, by now I’m just so used to putting the capo in the 3rd fret, because it resembles the sound of the traditional lute, which is the instrument Mr. Dowland’s midnight was composed for.
A lot of interpreters use their fingernails as they pick the strings, especially on the second part of the song. I wouldn’t worry too much about that at this point. For now, just use your regular picking-technique, in other words your fingertips.
John Dowland lived from 1563-1625 and is to this day considered as one of the most influential classical guitarist of the Renaissance. Unlike many of his fellow composers, Dowland actually managed to become recognized as an authority in his genre and his compositions were played in the Westminster Church to entertain the Queen. Mr. Dowland’s Midnight” is filled with melancholy, which is rather typical for that specific period of time. But as you start getting acquainted with the piece, you will realize that he also managed to add a good degree of “playfulness”, so I personally wouldn’t consider it to be a sad composition.
Okay, I hope you enjoyed my modest attempt in covering foreign terrain. But as I said, this tutorial is especially good for beginners of classical guitar. If you have any questions, as always, don’t hesitate to contact me.