Giles Farnaby was born in 1563 in Truro, Cornwall, England. Although born into a family of joiners (artistic carpenters), Farnaby pursued a music career early on, and graduated with a degree in music from Oxford in 1592. He made his living by teaching music (most notably at Aisthorpe, near Lincoln) and writing psalms - most notably for Ravenscroft.
In his lifetime, Farnaby wrote over 50 imaginative keyboard pieces. They are wrought with playful melodies, bouncing chromatic arpeggios, and many lovely harmonies. His most famous works were his virginals, which he titled rather fancifully for early 17th century England: some examples include "A Toy," "Giles Farnaby's Dream," and "His Humour." All of his works were very evocative of specific moods - a major precursor to the modern opera. He also wrote many canzonets and madrigals, some of which he published in 1598. This was a rare instance in the dawning age of mass printing - Farnaby's works have survived down (including several of the original editions) to even today.
Farnaby's most noted work during his day was an almande (a lively dance piece) written for King James I.
Farnaby never married, but had one son, Richard, who himself was a moderately successful composer.
Giles Farnaby, noted keyboardist and early one of the first composers whose work was preserved in writing, passed away November 24, 1640 in London, England.