James Tyler (music)

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James Tyler
Born August 3, 1940
Origin Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Died November 23, 2010
Occupation(s) musicologist, author and composer
Instruments lute, cittern, mandora
Associated acts The Early Music Consort, Julian Bream

James Tyler (August 3, 1940 Hartford, Connecticut, USA– November 23, 2010 Los Angeles, California, USA) was an American lutenist, banjoist, guitarist, composer, musicologist and author, who featured on over sixty early music recordings.[1][2][3]

He was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and initially studied the banjo (classic 5-string and tenor) and Mandolin with Walter K. Bauer, then the lute with Joseph Iadone - he also played the cello. As a lutenist, he performed and recorded with New York Pro Musica, and also toured and recorded as a banjoist with 'Max Morath and the Original Rag Quartet'. In 1969, his interest in early music took him to London where he married Joyce Geller. [1][2]

During the 1970s and 1980s, he performed and recorded in London with Anthony Rooley, Musica Reservata, the Consort of Musicke, the Julian Bream Consort and the Early Music Consort of London under David Munrow. He then founded his own ensemble, the 'London Early Music Group' in 1977, which lasted until 1990. He composed music for BBC television productions of Shakespeare plays, and also made an appearance as a lutenist in the 1971 film, Mary Queen of Scots.[1][2]

In 1986, he became professor of music and director of the master's and doctoral degree programs in early music performance at the University of Southern California (USC), a post he held until retiring in 2006.[4] Apart from the instruments mentioned, he was considered expert on the Renaissance and Baroque guitars. As a musicologist he travelled around Europe and the US researching and transcribing hundreds of early music works. He authored several books on early plucked instruments and their music (see bibliography), and wrote articles for various publications.[1][2]

James Tyler died on November 23, 2010, after a short illness, aged 70.


  • James Tyler. The Early Guitar: A History (Oxford University Press, 1980).
  • James Tyler & Paul Sparks. The Early Mandolin (Oxford University Press, 1992).
  • James Tyler & Paul Sparks. The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era (Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • James Tyler. A Guide to Playing the Baroque Guitar (Indiana University Press, 2011).


  1. ^ a b c d James Tyler obituary (The Guardian, 2 Dec 2010).
  2. ^ a b c d Lutenist, James Tyler (University of Southern California - 4 Dec 2010).
  3. ^ James Tyler obituary (The Lute Society - Dartmouth CS).
  4. ^ MA & DMA in Early Music Performance (USC Thornton School of Music).