da Terra

Name: Viola da Terra.
Type: Lute > Chordophone.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Portuguese islands of Azores.

Description: The Viola da terra is a stringed musical instrument from the Portuguese islands of the Azores. It may have either 12 strings arranged in 5 courses, or 15 strings, arranged in either 5 or 6 courses.

Tuning: A3 A3 A2 • D4 D4 D3 • G3 G3 G3 • B3 B3 B3 • D4 D4 D4 or E3 E3 E2 • A3 A3 A2 • D4 D4 D3 • G3 G3 • B3 B3 • D4 D4

Construction: Scale length is about 540mm (about 21.3 inches), shorter than the modern classical guitar scale of about 655mm (about 25.8 inches). 22-24 metal frets are set into the fingerboard. One unusual distinguishing feature of the viola da terra is that the portion of the fingerboard which passes over the instrument’s body is set flush with the top face of the soundboard.

Another unique feature is the use of a pair heart-shaped sound holes, although the instrument is occasionally made with a single round sound hole. The instrument is much lighter in construction than the classical guitar, using thinner tone woods, which supports a considerable volume of sound, despite the instrument’s small size and light strings. There is also a smaller version (about three-quarter size) called a Requinto.