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Kemp's Jig arranged for classical/ fingerstyle guitar - with notation, tablature and audio recording

Updated on January 13, 2016
Kemp's Jig
Kemp's Jig | Source

Kemp's Jig

Although it's an example of an Elizabethan popular song, Kemp's jig has found a place in the classical guitar student repertoire This has ensured its survival through the last 'four and a bit' centuries, although who composed it is now unknown. That's unfortunate but much better than the other way round.i.e., knowing the composer but the music having been lost. Many, if not most, popular songs of that period are lost, unlike early classical works, which were written down, reprinted and more carefully preserved.

This piece is popular nowadays because of the authentic 'olde worlde' 16th century feel that it conjures up in your mind. Think of elegant dances at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England accompanied by the sound of lutes and early harpsichords (rather than guitars and pianos).

As it's most often found in classical guitar publications, Kemp's jig is normally played on nylon string guitars, as is the case with this recording. However, music of that period also sounds great (often even better) on steel string acoustic guitars, so it's worth learning by acoustic guitar fingerstyle players too.

Kemp's Jig

Notes on the Score

  1. The Roman numeral II in bar 1 indicates playing in the second position i.e., with your first finger controlling the second fret. It doesn't indicate a barré shape with your finger across the second fret. That is often shown as, for example, CII or BII. In this case, it just means play in the second position. In bar 3, however, a full barré across the second fret with your first finger in order to play the notes F# and A on string 6 and string 3 together is suggested. Otherwise, you can play string 6 with your first finger and string 3 with your second finger, both at the second fret.
  2. Some of the E notes that would more easily be played on the open 1st string are shown played on string 2 at the 5th fret. This is to do with voicing and phrasing. The tone is more consistent with the other 2nd string notes of that 'figure' (mini phrase) when, like them, the E note is also played on string 2. If it's a problem, you can play the E as the 1st string open, but try to play it on the 2nd string if possible.
  3. Notes shown with upward pointing stems in the notation are melody notes; those with downward pointing stems are either bass notes or inner harmony notes.
  4. The duration of the bass notes shown in the notation can be extended to fill the bar despite being shown with a shorter duration. That's as a result of writing the score using just two voices to accommodate three distinct musical parts. That was my oversight.

Kemp's Jig Score

Kemp's Jig
Kemp's Jig

Kemp's Jig PDF

Click to open a page and download Kemp's Jig PDF file FREE for offline viewing and printing.

About Kemp's Jig

One thing that you may notice after hearing Kemp's Jig played is the misleading title. It's not a jig in the now commonly understood sense, as in Irish Jig with its hallmark triplet feel throughout. In fact, it's paying tribute to an event staged by William Kemp, (Kempe) a leading English actor, comedian and friend of William Shakespeare.

In an early example of a publicity stunt designed to revive his waning popularity, Kemp danced (jigged) all the way from London to Norwich, a distance of around 100 miles over several days. It's not clear if his publicity stunt paid off as there's little known of him or mention of the event after that - apart from this anonymous piece written in tribute and now more famous than the event it pays tribute to.

Copyright info
Being over 400 years old, Kemp's Jig is well and truly in the pubic domain for copyright purposes. The score that's displayed and played was arranged by me (chasmac).

Try some more pieces

If you like that old Elizabethan style, reminiscent of lutes and and courtly dances, here's another by John Dowland called Mr Dowland's Midnight. (or just Midnight for short


If you prefer music from the later classical period, try this simple waltz in A by Carulli

Waltz in A

or this famous guitar etude in A minor by Giuliani for pre-intermediate classical guitar students

Etude in A minor

© 2012 chasmac


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