Ukulele & Languages

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Classical Uke : Herman Vandecauter’s variation on La Folia

12 2010

Herman Vandecauter has done a beautiful ukulele arrangement based on the La Folia variations written for Viola da Gamba composed by French Marin Marais, who was appointed musician to the royal court of Versailles under king Louis the Fourteenth.

The arrangement looks very tricky to play so I have asked Herman for some technical details about it. Here is the information he gave me :

Although most of the arrangement was based on the variation written by Marin Marais, I added the last two myself.

It was common for Baroque composers to write their own variations on La Folia, a very popular theme of  Spanish or Portuguese origin. The only famous composer that didn’t do so was J.S. Bach.

Other famous  versions include those from CorelliScarlatti, Vivaldi, Mauro Guiliani (romantic guitar), François LeCocq (Baroque guitar). The variations have been played on all kind of instruments. I played the variations on the mandolin years ago. This renaissance dance can be found under the name Folies d’Espagne.

I did a lot of research on the interpretation of ancient music and especially French baroque guitar music (jeu inégal) and this is reflected in the way I am playing the piece today.

Another aspect of the arrangement is the use of trills. A trill is a type of ornament usually played on one string with the fingers from the left hand.

In my video, I play the trill with the right-hand fingers on two strings, just like a harpist. You need to have a good tremolo technique in order to manage to play it correctly  as it is very tricky, but it does sound much nicer. This method for playing trills is rather recent, a few guitarists started using it in the 80’s.

Variations on La Folia, masterfully played and arranged by Herman Vandecauter on his Honu concert rope ukulele.


  1. Pierre on the 12th of March 2010 @ 19:14

    It’s also possible to listen Herman Vandecauter on this SoundCloud page :
    A real treat for the ears, good listening ;-)

  2. Armelle Europe on the 13th of March 2010 @ 11:12

    Pierre : Thanks for adding the info for everyone to enjoy Herman’s music.

  3. Claude on the 30th of August 2011 @ 15:21

    For anyone who wonders why J. S. Bach didn’t do a variation on La Folia, look for “Cantate des Paysans”. C.P.E. Bach also did “12 variations on Folías de España”.
    I’m becoming addicted to the Folia variations.

  4. Armelle Europe on the 30th of August 2011 @ 21:16

    Claude: I know Bach’s “Cantate des Paysans”. I have a CD with “Cantate du Café” and “Cantate des Paysans”.
    It is quite natural to become addicted to the Folia variations.

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