Tablature in the "Harmonie Universelle" by Mersenne

Mersenne introduces a 6-lined tablature system which assigns numbers to finger-holes of the musette. These numbers correspond to notes as used in normal staff notation, and this is clearly shown by Mersenne in a small diagram. Thirty-six years later, Borjon employs a similar tablature to that of Mersenne.

The diagram of the tablature and the normal staff notation depicted in Mersenne's book implies that his instrument has a C chanter, and that it has a range of 11 notes.

I am not sure whether the chanter in the diagram is a closed-fingering system or not:

The closed-fingering system : On the musette, normally all of the holes on the chanter (except the lowest one which is often a double-hole), are covered by fingers and keys, and in order to sound a note, the necessary hole has to be opened by a single finger or key. (see the chapter on Execution.)

If the diagram is for the closed-fingering chanter, it would be necessary to add 2 more keys in order to execute the highest 2 notes. On the other hand, if it was for the open-fingering chanter the 2 highest notes would have been executed by over blowing in combination with cross-fingering.
The diagram, however, does not seem to suggest cross-fingering, because the 2 highest notes on the the normal staff notation correspond the number "0" on the tablature. Therefore I tentatively conclude that Mersenne intended this tablature for a musette chanter with the closed-fingering system with an additional 2 keys for the high notes, but such chanter is not shown in his book.

There is a sample piece for the musette entitled "Chanson pour la Musette" in the same section that the tablature was mentioned. This piece was only printed with the normal staff notation without the corresponding tablature. The required compass of the scale for this piece is c' to d'', which is playable on the C chanter with closed-fingering and without additional keys for high notes.

Tablature in the "Traité pour la Musette" by Borjon

Borjon also describes a tablature which is similar to that of Mersenne, with corresponding normal staff notation. Mersenne's tablature doesn't specify a symbol for the use of keys, whereas Borjon who shows both the C major mode and c minor mode (the latter with permanent B flat and E flat accidental notes) gives the symbol # for each note where it is necessary to use a key.

Borjon's tablature
major mode

minor mode

The sample pieces in the last part of Borjon's method with both tablature and normal staff notation were printed on two facing pages.
Borjon also created new symbols for the 6 keys of the petit-chalumeau, however those symbols do not appear in the tablature because of the required compass of the pieces which is playable only on the grand-chalumeau.

Symbols for the petit-chalumeau

A flat


B flat




More details of the fingering etc.

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Copyright: Naoki Ueo 2000