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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A New Approach to Guardame las vacas? I have several arrangements of this piece, and I found it puzzling that some arrangers and performers include anywhere from one to three extra variations beyond the four that I learned when I started playing guitar guardqme Frederick Noad’s books. 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.

I read a nice article in Soundboard by Nelson Amos Vol.

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: The approaches to solving this problem have been varied.

Segovia borrows only the first variation from the otra parte and places it in the middle of the first four, which works pretty well, though he transposed it to A minor to make it fit better musically.

Diaz guarxame all three variations from the otra parte and places them in the middle fuardame the first set, again transposed to A minor, which vcas to work even better than Segovia’s approach, because it gives the guitarist the opportunity to perform all seven variations as a satisfying whole in a way that makes musical sense.

Yepes plays all variations in order, but instead of transposing the otra parte into A minor, he went the other way and transposed the first four variations into D minor.

To my ears, the otra parte sounds better yuardame the guitar in D minor, so I can understand Yepes’ choice. 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 guarfame lyrical qualities.

Yepes’ and Romero’s approaches just don’t work for me, though, with the otra parte at the end, even gacas they seem to be more in harmony Narvaez’s intent.

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. I’ve asked myself, “What was Narvaez thinking? It seems to me that while performing the otra parte after the first four variations is unsatisfactory from a modern musicological perspective, it also seems that both parts simply sound better in their respective keys on the guitar at least, i. A minor and D minor, respectively. Could the answer be that simple?

Is it possible that Vacxs simply felt that vacass otra part sounds considerably better in the key he chose for it and that the first four variations sound better in the key he chose it them, and so he opted to simply let them be performed back to back in different keys? I assume that the original four were in Gb minor on the lute, and the second three were in B minor on the lute, is that correct? Having said all of that, I would like to turn to the question that prompted this post.

I’d like your feedback lass a new approach that came to me last week as Lss was contemplating this wonderful work, namely a performance in the following order: Variation 1 of first 4 strong statement 2.


Variation 1 of otra parte somewhat pensive, more lyrical statement 3. Variation 2 of first 4 strong statement guardae. Variation 2 of otra parte somewhat pensive, more lyrical statement 5. Variation 3 of first 4 strong statement 6. Variation 3 of otra parte somewhat pensive, more lyrical statement 7. 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.

Am I lae in that assumption, or could we get away with a strong statement in A minor, followed by a more pensive, lyrical one in D minor, another strong statement in A minor, followed by lws more pensive, lyrical one in D minor, etc.?

As a side note, I would opt for an arrangement that doesn’t take liberties with octaves unless doing so were necessary for some reason.

I can sympathize buardame Nelson Amos’s pet peeve a little taking liberties with this historically important piecebut a it really is musically unsatisfactory, to my ears at least, to perform the otra parte after the first set of variations, yet b the otra parte is beautiful and really enhances the attractiveness of the work. So, for me, the otra parte should be performed, but in a way that makes musical sense. Diaz’s approach is pretty good the best among the approaches I’ve seenbut I wonder if mine might not afford the guitarist an equally satisfactory alternative?

What do you think? Granted, my approach will seem jarring at first, as we’re not used to hearing the piece that way. However, aside from Amos’s guarxame peeve, are there any other musicological considerations that argue strongly against it? I can’t be the only person who’s ever thought of this, yet apparently I’m the only one promoting it!

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. Terribly astylistic to do this, but modern audiences are not so familiar with 16th century compositional practices and it usually doesn’t make a fuss with them.

People bring out the old philosophization of “If Narvaez were around today, what would HE think of how I am playing it? I’m glad to see that I’m not the first to consider playing Guardame as a sort of musical conversation, and that guardae else has not only considered it, but actually done it that way. So, if I understand you correctly, you didn’t transpose one of the sets into a key that corresponds with the other, but played them in their original keys, while alternating them?

I’m quite certain that you’re right about Narvaez response were he around today: Can someone help me to translate the title? Should it be “guard my vacad or “keep my cows”? You can over think this stuff, probably not a good idea. Rob MacKillop has a nice Guard my Cows on his website video section. Also consider playing Otro Parte first as a prelude instead of mixing them together.

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. Listening to recordings makes certain interpretations imprint on the mind of the public.

I don’t guaedame being kicked out of that imprinting if gacas player has juice guardamr poetry.

Diferencias sobre ‘Guárdame las vacas’ (Narváez, Luys de)

I don’t like to feel calculating. It was a popular song with a double entendre meaning. The king would leave to go on a hunt or to battle, or who knows to visit his mistress at the guardamee palace, and he would entrust the safety and honor of the ladies of the court to a valiant and honest court official.

Oh today we have a hard time with the off feminist title and intent of the song, but it is what it is. An old song and we can look at it as guarda,e instrumental piece without getting mired into the feminist critique of the sexist text content. I think today we all, men and women, can have a giggle at the old song and what they gyardame.


There are probably some links going way back to Troubadour poetry of the middle ages, those kinds of themes are common in the sung a spoken to music prose poems of the Troubadours. In that realm of poems and stories there are a lot of themes that are not socially correct in our standards, and thankfully no Bowdlers have tried to correct or morally update the guard my cows songs of that age.

Art should be mostly a bit naughty and transgressive, not clean. 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.

He translated Latin poems into the Spanish of his day so he was a conduit for all kinds of ancient Spanish Roman themes and poems.

He also dabbled in Troubadour poems and recorded that work. I’ve heard and read different versions of the text, the one with double meaning about the king entrusting the ladies of the court to his right hand man, which also could have been the joke.

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

Is he really going to guard them? Or bed them while the king if off doing kingly duties? It seems the double and triple entendre piles up. This version turns the whole thing around as it is spoken in a woman voice: Translates something like this; Keep the cows for me darling boy, and I will kiss you; or you kiss me and I will save the cows for you So the meanings are rife with coquettish teases as well as male sexual bravado.

Of course somewhere there is probably some dreary earnest version about a poor boy actually herding some prosaic old milk cows. But it seems like by the time this song makes it into court and makes the rounds of the entertainers of the vihulela age, among the intelligentsia who hired them it was a song of mild dirty double meanings.

Which one of the text versions was the source of inspiration to Narvaez remains us unknown. Nevertheless the melody was indeed very popular and a set with variations was not only made by de Narvaez but also by Mudarra, Pisador and Cabezon.

Vesa Kuokkanen Antonio Marin nr. Spanish romances could go on and on for more than a hundred verses so that a song could last an hour and more. To make this musically interesting they improvised a lot of ornaments and variations. The professionals of course improvised as always. The scores published were not meant for professionals and for public performance – the intended audience was the ignorant amateurs who could not improvise. This way they could learn Narvaez “best of”-improvisations.

Another misunderstanding astonishes me: What key that was nobody knows for two reasons: 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. As far as otro parte being a second instruments score, have you ever tried lining them up and playing them? 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.

First of all ; I think that the first four variations are a perfect well rounded whole. Secondly these days I perform the piece on a vihuela which incidentally I will do in a concert in a few hours. Thirdly I don’t think they neither belong nor work together.

First one example in one key and then another in another key. He may be wrong, of course, but my approach is based on the assumption that he got it right, whether this is valid or not. Last edited by Altophile on Sun Jul 31, Board index All times are UTC.