Thomas Robinson (composer)

Thomas Robinson (c. 1560 – 1610 (Christian calendar)) was an English Renaissance composer and music teacher, who flourished around 1600. He taught and wrote music for lute, cittern, orpharion, bandora, viol, and voice.


Very little is known about Robinson's life, but it is possible to draw conclusions from the dedicatory pages of his works. He and his father were in service of the Cecil family: Robinson's father worked for the 1st Earl of Salisbury, Robert Cecil, and Robinson was in the service of the 1st Earl of Exeter, Thomas Cecil, who was Robert Cecil's brother. The Cecil family fostered several artists in these days, amongst others William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons.

It was before 1589 that Robinson became Princess Anne's (1574–1619) and Queen Sophie's (1557–1631) private music teacher at Elsinore, Denmark. Princess Anne was the daughter of the King of Denmark, Frederick II (1559–1588). It is presumed that Robinson must have been in his twenties then, so that his birth can be dated back to around 1560.

The Court of Denmark, like other courts, employed many well-recognized musicians from Denmark and other countries, like England, France, Germany and the Netherlands. It is known that John Dowland – the most famous Renaissance lutenist nowadays – worked as a court lutenist in Denmark from 1598 to 1606. Besides Robinson's own mention of his employment there, no official record of it exists.

In 1603, Robinson published his first book, Medulla Musicke, of which no copy survived. It was even suggested (Ward JM, see "Literature"), that it was never published at all, although Robinson seems to be referring to it in the first pages of his second book: Right courteous Gentlemen, and gentle Readers, your fauourable acceptance of my first fruits from idlenesse, hath eccited mee further to congratulate your Musicall endeauours. [...] From: "The Schoole of Musicke", 1603

Also in 1603, Robinson brought out his second book, The Schoole of Musicke, a tutor for lute and other instruments. It displaced John Alford's book A Briefe and Easye Instruction from 1574 (an English translation of Adrian Le Roy's Briefve et facile instruction pour apprendre la tabulature) as the most important lute tutor in England from then on.

In 1609 Robinson's third book, New Citharen Lessons, was published. It was a cittern tutor for beginners and advanced learners.

Robinson's works for the most part consist of his own compositions. But there are also arrangements of other pieces of music, some of which are still rather popular: for instance "My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home" (in: The Schoole of Musicke) or "Can she excuse my wrongs?" (in New Citharen Lessons) – both originally composed by John Dowland.

There is no further information available about Robinson's life after 1609.


Medulla MusickeEdit

Medulla Musicke (The Stationer's Company, London, 1603) was a music tutor now presumably lost. It is supposed[1] to have included 40 canons on the then popular plainsong Miserere after arrangements by William Byrd and Alfonso Ferrabosco.

The Schoole of MusickeEdit

The Schoole of Musicke, (Tho.[mas(?)] Este, London, 1603), was a tutor for lute, bandora, orpharion, viol, and singing.


  1. The Queenes good Night (for two lutes)
  2. Twenty waies upon the bels (for two lutes)
  3. Row well you Marriners
  4. A Galliard
  5. A Galliard
  6. A Plaine Song for 2 lutes (for two lutes)
  7. Grisse his delight
  8. Passamezzo Galliard (for two lutes)
  9. A Fantasie for 2 lutes (for two lutes)
  10. A Toy for 2 lutes (for two lutes)
  11. A Galliard
  12. Merry Melancholie
  13. Robinson's Riddle
  14. Goe from my Window
  15. A Toy
  16. A Gigue
  17. An Almaigne
  18. An Almaigne
  19. A Toy
  20. A Toy
  21. Robin is to the greenwood gone
  22. A Toy
  23. The Queenes Gigue
  24. Ut re mi fa so la: 9 sundry ways
  25. My Lord Willobies Welcome Home
  26. Bell Vedere
  27. The Spanish Pavin
  28. A Gigue
  29. A Gigue
  30. Walking in a country town
  31. Bony sweet boy
  32. A Gigue
  33. Lantero
  34. Three parts in one upon a[n old]ground
  35. Sweet Jesu who shall lend me wings
  36. A Psalme
  37. O Lord of whom I do depend
  38. O Lord thou art my righteousness

Furthermore, The Schoole of Musicke contains eight short pieces, seven of them called "A Psalme" in the chapter "Rules to instruct you to sing".

New Citharen LessonsEdit

New Citharen Lessons, (London, 1609), was a cittern tutor for beginners and advanced learners. It included 53 compositions, the first 47 for four-course cittern (tuned e' d' g b), pieces 48 to 53 for fourteen-course cittern (tuned e' d' g bb f d G F E D C BBb AA GG).


  1. My Lord Treasurer his Paven
  2. The Galliard to the Pavin before
  3. A Fantasie
  4. Wades Welfare
  5. Powles Carranta
  6. O Cupid looke about thee
  7. For two Citherens in the unison (A Jigge for two Citherens)
  8. A Ground
  9. Pipers Galiard
  10. A Psalme
  11. Philips Pavin
  12. A Galiard
  13. A Galiard: Can she excuse my wrongs
  14. A Galiard
  15. A Psalme
  16. Passamezzo Paven
  17. Oft I have forsworne her company
  18. Galliard to the Quadron Pavin
  19. An Almaine
  20. A French Toy
  21. Excuse me
  22. Robinson Idelsbie
  23. Shepard shoot home
  24. Ioan come kisse me now
  25. A Psalme
  26. Passamezzo Galiard
  27. The new Hunts up
  28. Souches March
  29. Whetelies wheat-sheafe
  30. O Hone
  31. An Almaine
  32. An Almaine
  33. Robinsons modicum
  34. An Almaine
  35. Farewell deare love
  36. Alexander Chezum his Curranta
  37. Robarts Request
  38. The Quadro Pavin
  39. For two Citharens
  40. What if a day
  41. Ah, alas, thou God of Gods
  42. Now Cupid looke about thee
  43. Pauuana Passamezzo
  44. Mr. North his Novell
  45. Fantasia
  46. Fantasia 2
  47. Fantasia 3
  48. Fantasia 4


There are some further pieces and arrangements from Thomas Robinson in other manuscripts:


  • Lumsden, David (pub.) Thomas Robinson: The Schoole of Musicke. Paris, Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1971, ISBN 2-222-01343-7
  • William Casey (pub.), Alfredo Colman (pub.), Thomas Robinson: New Citharen Lessons (1609), 1997 Baylor University Press, Waco, Texas, ISBN 0-918954-65-7
  • John M Ward, Sprightly and Cheerful Musick: Notes on the Cittern, Gittern & Guitar in 16th- & 17th-Century England in: The Lute Society Journal 21 (1979–81): 69–70
  • G. Doc Rossi, Cittern Music of Thomas Robinson, 2007 Cetra Publishing, Michigan, USA. Contains New Citharen Lessons plus all known pieces in manuscripts. 2 volumes – Vol. I Tablature. Vol. II Commentary and transcriptions. Available in print and as eBook.


  1. ^ William Casey, Alfredo Colman

External linksEdit