Who was the first to change key? It may well have been the blind visionary Gorzanis in 1567 who made lute improvisations on popular dances, one in the minor and one in the major, shifting up one fret at a time. In that era each popular dance had its own chord sequence which the musicians jammed on, like todays rock and jazz musicians. The dancers recognised the chord sequence of each dance. As there was no recording of these pieces I asked a luteneist well aquainted with Gorzanis’ work, Michele Carreca, to record them. With support from the National Early Music Association his beautiful rendition is now available on a CD which can be ordered online by clicking on the link below.

Lutenist Michele Carreca

There is so much similarity between the improvisations of the Renaissance musicians and today’s rock and jazz musicians that I thought it would be interesting to show the chord sequences Gorzanis chose on iReal Pro, an app that all today’s jazz musicians carry on their mobile phones and ipads which can conjure up the chord sequences of most of the jazz standards that are likely to be “called” on a gig.

Here’s a video

Ardent fans of iReal Pro can click the link below to download the Renaissance Jam Session file. Click below.

There is more background to Gorzanis Dances on Every Fret on the music theory page.

Curious to know a bit more about Corzanis? Here are links to Michele’s other recording of his work


and this link will take you to a CD of Gorzanis songs made by Pino de Vittorio


It may be true to say that Gorzanis was the first person to transpose in Europe but not in the world. There is a long tradition of transposing in 12 steps in China and Japan going back 2,000 years. Whereas Gorzanis transposition was linked to popular dances the Chinese transposition is performed to create a link between the monarch and the heavens by linking the transpositions to the 12 moon cycles in the year or to the Chinese Zodiac.

Transposition to follow the 12 moon phases of the year was also adopted by Japanese aristocracy. Around 700 CE Empress Wu had a hall built in which the leader would, each lunar month, move clockwise to a different set of rooms, change clothing, food and music, thus establish harmony with the heavens and their authority on earth.

see Wolpert, R. F. (2013) “Tang music theory of ritual calendric transposition applied”. In Chime 18-19 pp 67-82

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