In the SCA period, the music of the lute, vihuela and renaissance guitar was set to tablature, rather than staff notation. All of the remaining music for the renaissance guitar exists either as Italian tablature or French tablature. In general, music for the lute was written in French tablature (with some exceptions) and the vihuela music was recorded by Italian tablature. In general, both Italian and French tablature use lines to represent strings (courses) of the instrument. Italian tablature uses numbers to represent the frets of the instrument, whereas frets are represented by letters in French tablature. Some lute compositions also used German tablature, which depicted each fret/string combination with a unique character (letter or number). Each of the tablature systems used symbols to depict note duration or rhythm.
With the Five-Course guitar came a new notation system called alfabeto. Alfabeto books would typically have an alfabeto chart (guitar chord chart) where each chord was depicted as a letter or other character (such as a cross). On this one alfabeto chart, Italian-style tablature was used to depict the individual notes that made up each specific chord. The book would then use only those symbols to depict each chord in the subsequent musical selections. Early in the development of alfabeto, systems were devised to depict rhythm and strumming directions.
For more information on these notation systems, follow the links below: