Renaissance Jam: A Deeper Look

Over the weekend, I have been taking a deeper look into a piece that I wrote a while back that I like to call “Renaissance Jam” or “Renaissance Orchestra”. As the name implies, it sounds like something that could have been written in the 16th century. It is also a fun and hypnotic progression that I always thought would make it fitting for players to improvise (hence the word “jam”).

Peculiar Progression

I don’t know how in the world I imagined such a piece because there are aspects of the progression that remain mysterious to me to this very day. The basic outline of the chord progression is as follows: A minor, G major, Bb major, and D major. At the end (at D major), there is a turnaround of F major and G major, which can bring us back to the beginning (A minor), A major, or can take us to D major.

Renaissance music is known for having some peculiar chord progressions. Mainly guided by voice leading (i.e. the melodic direction of the individual pitches), music from the renaissance did not always fit into the nice “boxes” that chord progressions typically have since the 1600’s. In other words, by focusing on the individual (and most often singable) melodies, crafting beautiful lines first, and only then finding places for all the voices to converge “as chords”, musicians of the renaissance created unique progressions that are unimaginable if one takes a “chord first” approach.

The reason why the chord progression in my piece is peculiar is because there are no keys to which A minor, G major, Bb major, and D major are all native. In fact, G major and Bb major both have two different kinds of B pitches–the former a natural and the latter a flat. These two chords, being only a measure apart, “should” result in a terrible sound. However, what keeps it sounding good is how the notes are approached and introduced (i.e. voice leading).

Examination of Voice Leading

So how did I get away with such a peculiar progression? Let’s examine the voice leading, but first let’s see what we can learn from some examples of pieces from the renaissance.

The following example is Ricercare #3 by Francesco DaMilano, also known as “Il Divino” or “The Devine” for his amazing command of the lute. In the following example, the voices alternate between D sharp and D natural. Although the motion can sound unfamiliar to the modern ear, none of the voice leading sounds like it has “violated the rules”. In other words, nothing about this section sounds bad. The D natural pitches tend to bring us to the C# in an A major chord, and the D sharp pitches tend to bring is to the E in an E major chord. There are two times that the D natural brings us up to the E in an E major chord (mm. 106 and 119), but the motion does not sound contrived.

Example of Renaissance (Ricecare #3) Piece by DaMilano
Example of Renaissance (Ricecare #3) Piece by DaMilano

Try the following example for yourself. It is taken from measures 116-119 above.

As for my piece, it has its own peculiar cross relation. Other than the B to Bb motion described above, the following occurs in the F –> G –> D turnaround.

You can even have a little fun with it with added embellishments as well. Try the following

A “Renaissance Jam” Version of Giant Steps?

One way that I often describe this piece is like a Renaissance version of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Similar to Giant Steps, Renaissance Jam is meant to be a jam piece, an improvisational work for performers. Also similar to Giant Steps, and mentioned earlier, the chord progression is unusual. In John Coltrane’s work, there are unique turns that take one chord into the next. The name “Giant Steps” is said to come from the minor third movements from one group of chords to the next. (Note: a minor third is one half step higher than a major second, hence a “giant” step”). In my work, a similar “stretch” brings one chord to the next (e.g. G major –> Bb Major, the latter a minor third higher than the former).

“[T]he bass line is kind of a loping one. It goes from minor thirds to fourths, kind of a lop-sided pattern in contrast to moving strictly in fourths or in half-steps.”

John Coltrane, quoted from Album Liner Notes

Next Steps for Renaissance Jam

I plan to create a “concert version” (i.e. highly embellished, virtuosic version) of this piece. 20th century composer, JoaquĆ­n Rodrigo, wrote many new and original works based on older pieces from the 16th and 17th centuries. In this vein, I plan to take the “jam” piece I wrote, and create a new concert version. Watch the video below for a sneak peak of the latest developments.

Renaissance Jam

Interested in studying the original version? It is available in the shop. Special thanks to all my members/patrons for making posts like this possible, and supporting my future work.

Performance with Gallery@57

Last October, Gallery@57 in Malden, MA graciously invited me to perform as part of their “Artists at Work” event. Today, I found the video of myself performing at the event, as recorded by MATV/UMA (thanks — you did great!). I am posting the video here for you to enjoy.

"Chiisai Aki" performed by Devin Ulibarri
"Chiisai Aki" performed by Devin Ulibarri

"Chiisai Aki" performed by Devin Ulibarri

For the event, I performed three arrangements of Japanese folk tunes, all of which are about the autumn season. The arrangement in this video is “Chiisai Aki ga Mitsuketa”, which roughly translates to “I found a small autumn”. The arrangements are published by Gendai Guitar. The melody, in e minor, is beautiful and mysterious.

I hope that you enjoy. If you like it, please add a comment below. Thanks!

Interested in hearing more? Please check out my media page for more videos.

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A Few New Changes for the New Year

We have just entered a new year — hurrah!

First of all, please congratulate yourself on your accomplishments in 2020. Let’s face it, 2020 was not an easy year. On the bright side, we could say that, because 2020 was so incredibly challenging, that you will just that much more benefit from your 2020 accomplishments. Small achievements count as big achievements, big achievements as huge achievements. You get the idea.

As for the updates on this website, I have the following to announce:

  • We have been live for less than a week’s time and we have already greeted our first two members. Congrats to our new members.
  • I have implemented an automatic shop discount for all membership levels. Narrative members receive 7% off everything in the shop. Supporter members receive 27% off. Super-supporters receive 47% off. Personal Patrons receive 77% off. “Three Lucky Sevens” and above tiers receive 100% off everything in the shop. Please see the Membership Levels page to see the updated verbiage.
  • We now have a new “Observer” tier. For a one-time fee of $5, you can have 5% off everything in the shop and access to exclusive offers. Please check out the description for Observer tier for more info.

As this website is very new, I am still building things out. I encourage all new members to give me feedback for how to make this site a fun place. For those reading this who are not members, please remember that you may always contact me. I receive the message just as if you were sending me a direct message.

Thank you again, and Happy New Year!

Website Debut Today

Hello folks! I have been working on the newest version of my website, which you can read a little bit about in previous posts. There is still work to be done, but I have decided to debut the website today so that I can share my work and my process with the various stakeholders.

Website Features

I did my best to make the website fun. Features are fun, so I put as many features on the website as would make sense without (hopefully) creating too much clutter.

This website does a lot of things. It has an in-house newsletter feature thanks to the work of The Newsletter Plugin. The Newsletter is very nice. In fact, if you sign up for it you will receive an automated series of emails with news and discounts.

The other thing the website does, is it has a membership features. In fact, if you become a member today you will get instant access to member-only posts and pages. Paid Memberships Pro is the engine for this feature.

The website has its own store, which is run with WooCommerce. There, you can find a selection of original music and arrangements.

There is more going on under the hood as well, which I will detail in later posts. There is also more to come.

I hope that you enjoy the site, and if you have any questions or requests please do not hesitate to contact me. (Contact form is thanks to Ninja Forms. Gotta’ give credit where credit is due.)

Image Reference:

Why not Patreon?

If you are wondering why I chose not to use Patreon, this is why.

Patreon has certain pitfalls, such as requiring patrons to run non-free software and the inability to accept checks/cash. Plus, Patreon takes an additional cut on top of already-existing payment processing fees, which means a larger portion of your payment will go to the artist (me).

The membership features on the site are thanks to Paid Memberships Pro WordPress Plugin (licensed as free software). I manage the plugin and all the data on the site, so you are working more directly with me than if I had chosen a 3rd party (better privacy). Also, if you want/need to pay with check or cash, contact me, and I will accommodate (complete privacy).

Lastly, and I mention this because I am benefiting as we speak from this, because it is free software (free as in freedom) I am able personally benefit from the ability to copy and modify the source code. This gives me greater control over how I present myself, and how I operate myself as a professional musician.

If you are a musician and you are reading this, and thinking “I want a site with some/all of these features”, please contact me and we can discuss the possibilities. And for those musicians who already have a Patreon page, and want to at least have the freedom of control that comes with WordPress, there is a Patreon plugin for WordPress that integrates the two.

Become a Member and be Rewarded

Choosing a career as an independent musician with a mission to contribute to the community, has required me to make a financial sacrifice. However, I know that sacrifice is worth it because I have seen how our work has transformed communities, and would love your support to make it sustainable.

To thank you for your support, I’ve created a tiered membership community, where members get exclusive access to audio and video of my compositions, and sheet music. You can find some of this material for sale on this site, but members get special access as part of their membership. Certain tiers also include a free guitar/music+code lesson.

You are contributing to more than my music, you are also contributing to my journey. I’m deeply grateful for this, and will be sharing member-only essays about my life as an independent artist, including both the triumphs and heartaches. I hope you find this both rewarding and inspiring, especially for anyone who has considered quitting their day job and going ‘all in.’

What tiers are available?

Tiers start with narrative, supporter, super-supporter, and personal patron, and go all the way up to “Quarterly Original with Dedication”. The tiers start from $7/month.

So, what are you waiting for? Become a member and start receiving benefits today!

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Hello world! Website 2.0

Welcome to the website for the music, education projects, advocacy, social, and opinions of Devin Ulibarri. (Yes, I really plan to do all those things on this site.)

How is this website a “2.0”?

For those reading this who have visited this site before, the difference will be obvious.

For those reading this who never saw the old site before, this is what it looked like.


I am sure you will agree that this was a very simple website. I purposely made it simple. One reason is because I decided to use Register4Less’ free storage. 10MB of storage comes free with the price of the domain. (For those of you who are wondering how much space “10MB” is, it is about the size of of one or two high-definition photos. In other words, not very much space at all.)

Why did I do confine myself to 10MB? I will admit that part of the reason is because it was kind of fun. I had to come up with workarounds, and I could not use a CMS like WordPress because it would take too much space.

So, my site ended up looking like it was created in the 1990’s. I suppose it was probably a bad idea for marketing myself, but it was kind of fun.

Meanwhile, I did get a few websites up and running with WordPress. I will share all my adventures in learning WordPress in future posts, but what working on all these sites gave me is experience in creating websites.

This new version of is created with WordPress and is the culmination of years of work tinkering on other sites (and, of course, all the hard work of the various WordPress and plugin developers). I plan to take full advantage of what WordPress can do, so that anyone can come to this site and leave with music, guitar tips, new ideas, and/or a new friend.

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