Europe West ATLAS of Plucked Instruments

guitars early
guitars modern
Europe West
Europe East
Europe South
Middle East
Central Asia
Far East
S.E. Asia
America N
America C
America S

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Europe (West)

Here is the first page of Europe - the Western side :
Spain, Portugal, Canary islands, Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde, Ireland.

We start with the important guitar countries of Spain and Portugal, together with their islands in the Atlantic Ocean, on which similar instruments are played (including the Portuguese speaking Cape Verde, which would otherwise have been in the Africa page). Both Spain and Portugal "exported" in the 17th century via sailors their plucked instruments, which by then still had only 4 and 5 courses. This is the reason why so many South American instruments still have 4 or 5 (double) courses.
Also included on this page of Western Europe is Ireland.

Of course all countries in Europe use the normal guitars, lutes, banjos and mandolins, which can be found on the general instrument pages. For more ethnic folk instruments of Europe see also dulcimers (on page steelguitars).

Go to Europe East for the countries in the East :
Russia, Hungaria, Croatia

Go to Europe South for the area of the South :
Albania, Greece, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica




top Spain
flamenco guitar
example :
bought via eBay from Spain 2012
L=100 B=375 H=105mm
scale 650mm
You Tube
flamenco guitar

The flamenco guitar is usually quite similar in size, tuning and appearence to the classical guitar (see guitars early). In general the difference will be that it is slightly lighter and therefore sounds a bit sharper (less sustain).

The typical flamenco guitar will have "golpeadors" - some kind of protection (scratch plate) of the front, because part of the playing is tapping with the right hand ringfinger on the front. This scratch plate can be bright white, or nowadays just clear plastic. The placing of the golpeadors is not standard : sometimes more around the top of the soundhole, and sometimes on both sides of it (left and right).

To make the guitar lighter, friction pegs were prefered to the normal guitar machines, but are now rare. The sides and back of the body are often made of lighter coloured wood, like cypress (or sycamore).

The playing is usually quite virtuous, with left hand pulling-off and hammering-on for superfast passages, and right hand rolling fingers, damping with the hand, tapping on the front, etc.

Often a capodastre is used, to ease the use of open strings when playing in other modes to ease the singers voice.

Flamenco is a style of singing and dancing, which seems to have origins in Indian ragas, but also with lots of Arabian influence.

For more information about Spanish instruments, see Tamborileros (in Spanish).

example :
bought via internet from Musicasa, P.d.Mallorca, 2009
L=650 B=170 H=70mm
scale 430mm
You Tube
guitarro / guitarrico

The guitarro is a small sized instrument with the shape of a guitar, like a cavaquinho or ukulele. The guitarro is used in the areas of Aragon, La Mancha, Andalusia and Murcia, and on the Baleares. They all belong to the same type, but there are small local variations and much depends on the maker.
Sometimes it is called guitarrico (in Aragon) or tiple (on Menorca); on Palma de Mallorca : guitarró Mallorqui.

The guitarro is made like a miniature guitar, and properly varnished, not rustic like some ukuleles.
The fretboard is flush with the front. Often the top of the front has an overlay of different wood. It can have tuning machines or tuning pegs from the back.

Although originally the strings were made of gut, nowadays nylon is used.
The guitarro may have just 4 or 5 single strings, but sometimes the 3 middle courses are double.

The tuning is often like a guitar/ukulele :
b' f#' d'' a'' e'', or : d" g" c" e" a".

See for the local varieties in Spain : Tamborileros.

example :
bought via eBay, 2010

L=520 B=165 H=55mm
scale 330mm

For more information about Spanish folk instruments see

example :
bought in Granada, Spain 1986
L=615 B=290 H=95mm
scale 260mm
You Tube

The bandurria is a small mandolin-like instrument, but differently tuned, and used for the popular Spanish Rondalla music. The bandurria can also be found in other countries - mainly in South America, but surprisingly also on the Philippines (see S.E.Asia).

The bandurria is made like a guitar, but in a teardrop shape, with a flat back.
The neck is very short and the strings run over a saddle on the glued-on bridge (in guitar-style), but then continue to a metal stringholder on the edge of the body.

It has 6 double metal courses, and is tuned in 5-5-5-5-5 (frets):
g#g# c'#c'# f'#f'# b'b' e''e'' a''a''

It is the smallest instrument of the Rondalla group, which also includes a (normal 6-string) guitar, a standing bass and a laud (bigger, and tuned an octave lower than the bandurria - see under).

Playing is with a plectrum, mainly playing the melody lines.



example :
bought in Malaga,
Spain 1986
L=850 B=320 H=90mm
scale 475mm
You Tube

The laud is the bigger size bandurria, used to play in Rondalla music. The shape is very typical for this instrument. A similar instrument is played on the Philippines (see S.E.Asia) and Cuba (see AmericaCentral).

The laud is made like a guitar, with a flat back. The body has often a wavy outline on the sides, but you can also find them in a teardrop shape. The soundholes are usually two f-holes with a central teardrop, but nowadays they also make them with a guitar-like round soundhole.

As with the bandurria the strings run over a saddle on the glued-on bridge, then through holes in the bridge to a metal stringholder on the edge of the body.

The string length of a laud is about double that of the bandurria, so it is one octave lower. It has 6 double metal courses, tuned in 5-5-5-5-5 (frets) :
G#G# c#c# f#f# bb e'e' a'a'

The laud is played with a plectrum, playing chords and riffs in the Rondalla.




right : a teardrop shaped laud (picture from Todocoleccion)


top Portugal

In Portugal the (Spanish) guitar is quite popular; however here it is called viola de fado (when played with the guitarra portuguesa) or guitarra classica (in solo concerts). In Brazilian Portuguese it is called violão. The electric guitar is always called guitarra.

Besides these six-string guitars, there exists another guitar-like instrument, which is also called viola - but this instrument has 5 metal courses. It comes in several different types, with as many different names, refering to the locality where it is in use - see under.

A typical detail for ALL Portuguese instruments is the lack of purfling to protect the edge of the soundboard : the decorative inlay lines are always a bit away from the edge, leaving the edge itself unprotected.

For information and pictures of all kinds of Portuguese plucked instruments see the nice website of
José Lucio (in Portuguese). Many pictures here come from that website and from his book.

guitarra portuguesa Coimbra
example : bought in Coimbra, Portugal 1987
L=840 B=375 H=100mm
scale 470mm
You Tube
Coimbra type
guitarra portuguesa Lisboa
example : bought via internet from Acousticmelo, Portugal 2015
L=790 B=400 H=90mm
scale 445mm
You Tube
Lisboa type
guitarra portuguesa

The (Spanish) guitar is in Portugal called the viola (see under). The guitarra is a mandolin shaped instrument, which is a descendant of the English guitar (see page cittern). The special - very typical - peghead with tuningmachines is based on the ones used by the 18th century English guitar maker Preston, and by some German Waldzittern.

The guitarra is made like a guitar, but in a wide teardrop shape. It has a flat back, which is slightly smaller than the front, so the sides are slanting near the neck joint. The fingerboard is raised above the front, and usually quite rounded. It may have a small scratchplate next to the large round soundhole.

The tuninghead is always made with a special type of tuning machines (almost solely found on Portuguese instruments). By turning the top screw, the hook (on which the end of the string is fastened) slides up and down to tune the string. From the back of the machines the peghead has a kind of sickle shape.

The metal strings run from the loop on the tuning machines over a rather high loose bridge (made of wood or plastic) to a row of pins on a metal stringholder at the edge of the body.

There are nowadays two main types of guitarra :
- the Lisboa and the Coimbra type.
The difference is the tuning, size and the end of the peghead.

guitarra de Lisboa :

- violin like scroll head
- stringlength 450mm
- tuning :
dD aA bB ee aa bb

- older

guitarra de Coimbra :

- flat teardrop head
- stringlength 480mm
- tuning :
cC gG aA dd gg aa

- more modern

The guitarra is plucked using only the thumb and forefinger, on which often "plectrums" are tied. The tone is made to "sing" a lot by left hand vibrato.
It is mainly used for the famous Fado music (with a viola de fado - see under), in which it plays arpeggio chords to accompany the emotional singing, but there are also many solos.

For more info about the guitarra portuguesa see .





viola de fado
example :
APC model 503,
bought via internet from APC, Portugal 2015
L=1000 B=370 H=100mm
scale 650mm
You Tube

viola de fado

Besides the guitarra portuguesa the Portuguese Fado is also accompanied by a normal looking classical guitar, called a viola de fado.
Notice that all the other Portuguese violas (see under) are quite different : they are smaller and have double strings.

The main difference with a normal classical guitar is that the viola de fado does not have nylon strings, but steel strings. Also : the rosette is often different from the spanish-style rosette. Sometimes it has a small narrow piece of pickguard at the right side of the strings between soundhole and bridge.

The tuning of the viola de fado is like a normal guitar.
The player plays (without a plectrum) the chords and especially the typical bass riffs.


Sometimes a 4-string acoustic bass guitar (violão baixa) is also part of the instruments to accompany the Fado singer (man or woman).


Besides this viola de Fado, there are in Portugal some other guitar-like instruments called viola. However these violas are a bit smaller, and have 5 metal courses.
There are five types of viola, each with a different style and name, refering to the area where it is mainly in use.
These folk instruments were almost extinct, but quite recently there seems to be a revival and all the types of violas can now easily be bought again.

You will notice that it is sometimes difficult to establish the name of a specific viola, as (apart from the decoration) the peghead may be different/similar, the soundhole may be different/similar, and the shape of the bridge may be different/similar. Usually only the number of strings and the arrangement of the thickness of strings makes it clear which viola it is. Some alternative models are shown.

The peghead of most violas (but also of Portuguese mandolins and cavaquinhos) can be either flat (with friction pegs or machine-tuners from behind) or slotted (like a guitar), or with a special tuning machine like the guitarra portuguesa. It usually depends on the maker, but the cheaper versions usually have the guitar-style slotted head.

All violas are made like a normal guitar, but the fretboard stops at the edge of the body, and is flush with the soundboard.

The bridge is very typical for all violas : the strings run first over a loose thin piece of wood (the actual saddle), then through gaps in the glued-on bridge and are then turned back and fixed with loops to pins (screws) on the bridge.

The number of pins is not necessarily the number of strings, but is usually six.

Most violas are strummed to accompany singing.

Notice that all violas have a 3/4 size equivalent, called requinto.

viola braguesa
example : bought in Lisbon, Portugal 1987
L=900 B=315 H=100mm
scale 500mm
You Tube
viola braguesa

The viola braguesa is the most well-known viola of Portugal. It is typical of northwestern Portugal around the town of Braga, between the Douro and Minho Rivers. So it is also called viola da Braga.

The sound hole of a viola braguesa is usually a half circle with two teardrops on top (like a smiling face), but some may have a normal round soundhole. The bridge has a decorative "mustache", with two glued-on leaves on both sides.

The tuning head could have the vague shape of a three-foil, but (as with all Portuguese instruments) it can also be made either like the guitarra portuguesa (Coimbra-style, with its typical tuning machines), or with friction pegs, or slotted with normal guitar-like tuning machines. It all depends on the maker.

Tuning of the viola braguesa is in 5-courses: c'c, g'g, a'a, d'd', g'g'
(this is like the Coimbra-style guitarra tuning, omitting the highest course).
viola amarantina
example :
bought via internet from Acousticmelo, Portugal 2012
L=840 B=305 H=80mm
scale 440mm
You Tube
viola amarantina

The viola amarantina is called after the northern town of Amarante in Minho Province.

This viola has two heart shaped soundholes, and is the only viola with the fingerboard continuing in the soundboard (but still flush with it). The frets above the tenth fret are shorter, and are only under the highest strings.

The bridge is similar to the viola braguesa, with two glued-on leaves on both sides. This makes it different from the similar looking viola de dez cordas of Cape Verde and from the viola da terra used on the Azores, which both have a straight bridge. Usually there is also some inlay decoration beneath the bridge, in the shape of a flower with leaves.

The tuning of the 5 metal strings of the viola amarantina is in 5 courses :
d'd a'a b'b e'e' a'a' (like the guitarra tuning - see viola braguesa).

viola toeira
example :
bought from Acousticmelo, Portugal 2012
L=860 B=265 H=90mm
scale 510mm
You Tube
viola toeira

The viola toeira is from the area of Beira Litoral and is especially used around Coimbra. The main identification points are the horizontal oval shaped soundhole, a rather slender body shape, and the 12 strings. Three strings are made of brass (12, 11 and 5th) and two are wound (10 and 7th). Courses 4 and 5 are triple.

The bridge often has some glued-on leaves on both sides, and some inlay beneath the bridge - but neither seems standard.

The 12 strings of the viola toeira are in a guitar-like tuning with 5 courses :
a'a'a d'd'd g'g b'b' e'e'.



viola beiroa
example : bought via internet from Salã, Portugal 2005
L=900 B=320 H=90mm
scale 520/260mm
You Tube
viola beiroa

The viola beiroa is from the area of Castelo Branco, and can be easily identified. It has a very tight slim waist, with 10 strings on the tuning head and 2 extra (drone) strings fitted to the left side of the neck (near the body).

right :
the two extra strings on the side of the neck, with the extra nut

The viola beiroa usually has a bridge with "upturned" moustaches and not much extra decoration.

The tuning of the 5 courses of the viola beiroa is :
d''d'' (shorts) aA d'd g'g bb d'd'.

viola campaniça
example :
bought via Leiloes from Primetime, Portugal 2011
L=900 B=285 H=80mm
scale 550mm
You Tube
viola campaniça

The viola campaniça is from the area of Baixo Alentejo, mainly in the region of Vila Verde de Ficalho.

The viola campaniça has a tight slim waist and 10 strings, so it looks much like the viola beiroa, but it misses the two short strings. It usually has some decoration of three stylised leaves under the bridge. The bridge has some extensions, ending in a square star shape. Nowadays the round soundhole is decorated with star-like inlay.

The tuning head is flat, with friction pegs or machine tuners. Often there are still 12 of them, but only 10 are used for the 5 double courses (originally the 4th and 5th course were triple).

The tuning of the 5 double courses of the viola campaniça is quite special : c'c f'f c'c' e'e' g'g'.

Playing is usually picking with only the thumb, and mainly to accompany singing.

The viola campani seems to be still in popular use.



example : bought in 2000 from friend
L=530 B=170 H=60mm
scale 335mm
You Tube

The cavaquinho [pronounced : kah-vah-keen-you] is the small guitar of Portugal. It is made like a small Spanish guitar, but the soundhole, bridge and tuning head may follow any of the types mentioned above under the violas and guitarra.

The fingerboard is flush with the front. Sometimes the top of the front is covered with different coloured wood, like the Spanish guitarrico.

Although it is the same size as a ukulele, notice that the 4 strings are made of metal, and tuned sometimes like a' a' c#'' e'', or like d' b' g'' d''.

The cavaquinho is the grandfather of the ukulele : it first went to Madeira (in 1854, to become the braguinha) and then on to Hawaii (in 1879) to become the ukulele.


Cavaquinhos are also used in Cape Verde and Brazil (see there).


example :
bought from (maker) Violino, Lisbon 2011

L=650 B=250 H=70mm
scale 360mm
You Tube

The bandolim is the Portuguese mandolin. It comes (like the mandolin) in different sizes : bandolineta / bandolim / bandoleta / bandoloncelo / bandola.
It is popular both in Portugal itself, and on the islands of Madeira and the Azores.

The body shape is often more teardrop than the Italian types of mandolin, and it has always a flat back. The tuning head can be of all different types used for the violas, but usually it is a slotted head with machines.

The bandolim has the normal 4 double courses of metal strings, and is tuned and played like a normal mandolin.

banjolim (trompete banjo)
example :
bought via internet from Acousticmelo, Portugal 2012
L=580 B=180 H=40mm
scale 330mm
You Tube

The banjolim is the Portuguese banjo and comes in different sizes and with a different number of strings (often also with different names, like viola banjo / banjolim / banjola / banjo de acordes / banjo trompete.

There are banjos of cavaquinho-size with 4 single strings;
a larger one with 4 single strings is a kind of tenor banjo : (banjo de acordes).
With 4 double strings and the size of a mandolin : the banjolim; a larger one with 4 double strings, the size of a mandola : the banjola.
With 6 strings as a guitar-like banjo : the viola banjo.
They are all used for folk music.

Usually the body of these banjo's is made of a round wooden box (side and back), in which the "drum" with the metal rim and the skin front, are fixed with a screw. The body of the banjo trompete (which is about the same size as the banjolim,) is made of metal (front and side together), with a wooden back.


top Canary Islands
example : bought in Barcelona, Spain 1993
L=575 B=150 H=80mm
scale 360mm
You Tube

On the west coast of Africa (near Morocco) are the (Spanish) Canary Islands. Here a special kind of cavaquinho exists : the 5-string timple. It is mainly made and used on the island of Lanzarote, and has similarities with the 16th century renaissance guitar.

The timple has a strong vaulted back (which can also be found on the Mexican vihuela and some South American charangos). Usually the flat peghead is with friction pegs or tuning machines from the back.
There are only 7 frets, and the fingerboard is flush with the front. It has a glued-on bridge.

The 5 nylon strings are tuned like a renaissance lute :
5-4-5-5 (frets) : g' c'' e' a' d''.

It is played by strumming chords, to accompany singing, usually in large folk groups, with guitars.

the vaulted back of the timple
top Madeira

example : custom made by Oficina Carlos Jorge,
bought via internet from Madeira-in-a-box, 2010

L=510 B=185 H=50mm
scale 335mm
You Tube

On the Portuguese island of Madeira (just north of the Canary islands, more towards Portugal) they use three typical guitar-like instruments, that differ from the mainland Portuguese instruments. Note especially that the extra saddle in front of the bridge is not used on the Madeira instruments.

The smallest of these instruments is a type of cavaquinho, with the name braguinha (or braguinã) - in fact "little braga" (see viola de braga). It is also called machete, or machete de braga. It seems to have arrived on the island from Portugal in 1854 and was taken to Hawaii in 1879, where it became the ukulele (but with the tuning of the rajão - see under).

The construction of a braguinha is like a tiny guitar, with a flat back and 4 metal strings. The tuning head can be flat with friction pegs from the back, or double slotted like a guitar, with tuning machines. Sometimes the top half of the front is covered with different wood, like a scratchplate, but often it looks like a small rajão, so also with a raised fingerboard. The guitar-like bridge is glued to the front.

The tuning of the 4 metal strings is d' g' b' d'' (the 5-string banjo tuning).

The braguinha is played by strumming chords, to accompany folk singing.



example :
bought in Madeira, 1997
L=710 B=215 H=75mm
scale 425mm
You Tube

The rajão is the slightly bigger relative of the braguinha, with 5 courses.

The rajão is made like a small guitar, with a raised fingerboard. It has a flat tuning head with friction pegs from the back or a double slotted tuning head with normal guitar-like tuning machines (2x3). The guitar-like bridge is glued to the front.

It has 6 metal strings in 5 courses : the first course is double. The tuning is guitar-like : d' g' c' e' a'a' .

The rajão is played by strumming chords, to accompany folk singing.



The short story about the birth of the ukulele is that both the braguinha and the rajão sailed in 1879 to Hawaii. Here the ukulele developed, by getting its size from the braguinha, and its tuning from the rajão.
For the full story see : Coolhanduke, and for the ukulele see AmericaNorth.

viola de arame
example :
bought via eBay from Folkreps, 2011
L=845 B=270 H=70mm
scale 520mm
You Tube
viola de arame (da Madeira)

On Madeira they use besides the normal guitar (called violão) the viola, here with 9 metal strings in 5 courses (the second course is a single string).

The viola de arame (or viola da Madeira) looks quite a lot like a normal spanish guitar (but a bit smaller and more slender), with a raised fingerboard and a glued-on bridge (so no separate strip, although you may see them on some older models). The tuning head can be flat, with friction pegs from behind, or double slotted like a guitar, with tuning machines on both sides. The guitar-like bridge is glued to the front.
Around the soundhole is sometimes star-like inlay decoration.

The 9 strings are tuned in 5 courses in open G tuning : gG dD gg b d'd'.
Sometimes all the courses are double.

top Azores
viola da terra
example :
bought via internet from Acousticmelo, Portugal 2012
L=970 B=325 H=95mm
scale 550mm
You Tube
viola da terra

On the Portuguese islands of the Azores (northwest of Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean) two special violas exist. One is the viola da terra, mainly found on the island São Miguel, so another name for it is viola Micaelense.

With the two heart shape soundholes the viola da terra looks quite similar to the viola amarantina, but it has 12 strings (not 10). The separate fingerboard is inlayed in the soundboard and the bridge ends in bird-like figures. It has a flower-like (or the more expensive models : a harp-like) inlay beneath the bridge. It has the extra thin bridge like on the mainland violas.

The tuning head can be any shape of a viola, and sometimes it has a narrow strip of mirror in the middle.

It has 12 metal strings, in 5 courses in a kind of open g-tuning :
aaA d'd'd gg bb d'd'.

The viola da terra is mainly used to accompany singing in large groups with other stringed instruments. When played solo, only the thumb is used to pluck.


Left is an example I saw in a shop in São Miguel in 2011.

I was told that due to the high humidity of the Azores, the better instruments are nowadays made on mainland Portugal.

Right another (older) viola da terra I bought via eBay in 2004. This example instrument was probably made in USA, where many Azoreans emigrated to.

For lots of information see this weblog (in Portuguese).
Note that a quite similar viola is used on the Cape Verde Islands (see under).

viola da terceira
example :
bought from shop Bibelot, Terceira, 2011
L=1000 B=335 H=90mm
scale 545mm
You Tube
viola da terceira

This viola is typical of the Azorean island of Terceira, and thus called viola da Terceira, or viola Terceirense. It comes in a version with 15 strings and one with even 18 strings. This viola is the only one with more than 5 courses.

The viola da Terceira is very much like a guitar, (also in size and tuning) with a raised fingerboard. Tuning is with friction pegs from behind, or with normal guitar-like tuning machines.

The bridge has no "mustaches" , but decorative square blocks on both sides. Other decoration on the front is inlay flowers beneath the bridge.

The strings are with end-balls and so are not fixed with a loop to screws on the the bridge.

15-string viola da terceira
Tuning is in 6 courses in the guitar-tuning : eeE, aaA, d'd'd, g'g, bb, e'e'.

18 string viola da terceira
Tuning is the same as the 15-string instrument, but a lower extra 7th course (with 3 strings) is added, which is tuned depending on the player.

The viola da terceira is used to accompany singing in large groups, with more stringed instruments.


Apparently, due to the high humidity of the Azores, the better instruments are nowadays made on mainland Portugal.

top Cape Verde

The republic of Cape Verde ("Cabo Verde") is a collection of small vulcanic islands off the coast of west Africa; therefore it should have been on the Africa page. However, I have put it on this page of West Europe, as it has more a relation with the Portuguese instruments than the African ones.

Music on Cape Verde (which sounds very much like Brazilian and/or Portuguese music) is made in small groups with a guitar (violão), a violin, a (10 string) viola and a small cavaquinho. All the instruments are locally made, mainly on the island of São Vicente with the main town Mindelo.

example : bought in Mindelo, São Vicente,
Cabo Verde, 2006
L=660 B=270 H=75mm
scale 370mm
You Tube

example : bought from the maker Marcos Costa,
Ponta do Sol, Santo Antão, Cabo Verde, 2006
L=560 B=180 H=75mm
scale 360mm

The cavaquinho on Cape Verde is usually more like the bigger size cavaquinho from Brazil (or even larger !), than the slender one from Portugal (although the string length for all is more or less the same). On the island Santo Antão I saw some smaller ones (see the example) which are more the size of the Portuguese cavaquinho.

The cavaquinhos are made like a small guitar, and have 4 metal strings with the tuning : d g' b' d'' (so no re-entrant tuning).

Most of the instruments have white lines around the body and around the soundholes. Just a few also have scratchplates (like the example). The bridge is not like the Portuguese cavaquinho with an extra strip of wood, but like the spanish guitar. The neck is much wider than the cavaquinhos from Brazil or Portugal.

The cavaquinhos are used to accompany singing by strumming and occasional a short solo.

Selection of instruments by the local maker Aniceto Gomes (in Mindelo) :
a 12-string guitar, a cavaquinho, a viola de 10 cordas, two violãos;
in the back: two bandolims, a cavaquinho, and a banjolim.
(picture from his website)

The relative size of different cavaquinhos:

left to right :
- from Portugal
- from Brazil
- from Santo Antão CV
- from São Vicente CV

The Portuguese one is the same size as a soprano ukulele - the string length for all is about 37 cm.


viola de dez cordas
example :
custom made by Aniceto Gomes, Mindelo,
Cabo Verde, 2019

L=950 B=330 H=90mm
scale 550mm
You Tube
viola de dez cordas

Music on Cape Verde (which sounds very much like Portuguese and/or Brazilian music) is made in small groups with a guitar (violão), a violin, a (10-string) viola and a small cavaquinho. All the instruments are locally made. The rhythm strumming of chords in this group is done by the cavaquinho and the viola de dez cordas, both with thin metal strings.

The viola de dez cordes ("10-string guitar") is made like a slightly smaller guitar.

It has two heart-shaped soundholes, so it looks very much like the viola da terra from the Azores; however it has only 10 metal strings in 5 courses, instead of 12.
The difference with the similar looking viola amarantina from Portugal (also with 10 strings) is the shape of the bridge ends, which resemble a bit the one of the viola da terra, but with a kind of fishtails.

The edge of the front has real purfling on the corner, so not the Portuguese type. The fingerboard runs into the front, but is on the same level. The bridge has a separate bone loose saddle in front. Below the bridge is some decoration of a flower. The entire instrument (including front and fingerboard) is varnished.

The tuning is guitar-like : aa dd' g'g' bb e'e'.

The viola de dez cordas is only used for strumming.

Notice that in Brazil violas are sometimes also called viola de dez cordas.

top Ireland
Irish bouzouki
example :
bought in London, 1993
L=940 B=310 H=750mm
scale 660mm
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Irish bouzouki

In Ireland folk music is very popular, and is often played in pubs; mainly using all kinds of acoustic instruments that are easy to carry about, like violins and flutes.
The plucked instruments include (of course) the mandolin, the small tenor banjo (in mandolin tuning) and the (steelstring) guitar.

From the Greek bouzouki developed (with some influence from the long neck cittern) the irish bouzouki. Sometimes also called Irish cittern, or Celtic cittern, but nowadays those names refer to a 5 course instrument (see page cittern).

The irish bouzouki is made with the body of a flat back mandolin. It has a long guitar-neck, and a small loose bridge.

The 8 metal strings in 4 courses run over a loose wooden bridge to a mandolin-like string fastener at the edge of the body.

Tuning varies between players : guitar-like, or mandolin-like, or some open tuning (like A D a d), etc.

The irish bouzouki is used (like all other plucked instruments in Irish music) to accompany each other and occasionally get a solo part.

For a discussion about the confusion of the names of all related mandolins and cittern - see thesession).

For lots of information about the Irish bouzouki see Han's website.

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