Name: Cavaquinho.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Many Portugal, Angola & Brazil.
Region: Iberian Peninsula, Western Europe, Africa & South & America.

Description: The cavaquinho [pronounced [kɐvɐˈkiɲu] in Portuguese] is a small Portuguese string instrument in the European guitar family, with four wire or nylon strings. More broadly, cavaquinho is the name of a four-stringed subdivision of the lute family of instruments. A cavaquinho player is called a cavaquista.

Etymology: The word “cavaquinho” alone usually refers to the Portuguese cavaquinho. The instrument’s name cavaqu-inho means “little wood splinter” in Portuguese.

Varieties: There are several forms of cavaquinho used in different regions and for different styles of music. Separate varieties are named for Portugal, Braga [braguinha] Minho [minhoto], Lisbon, Madeira, Brazil, and Cape-Verde; other forms are the braguinha, ‘cavacolele’, cavaco, machete, and ukulele. The Venezuelan concert cuatro is very nearly the same instrument, but somewhat larger.

a.] The Brazilian cavaquinho is slightly larger than the Portuguese cavaquinho, resembling a small classical guitar. Its neck is raised above the level of the sound box, and the sound hole is usually round, like cavaquinhos from Lisbon and Madeira.

b.] The Venezuelan concert cuatro is very nearly the same size and shape, but has its neck laid level with the sound box, like the Portuguese cavaquinho.

c.] The cavaco is a smaller version of the Brazilian cavaquinho, similar in size to the Portuguese cavaquinho. It is part of a samba ensemble [see the international section, below]. The name cavaco means “wood splinter” in Portuguese – probably back-formed from the original name cavaquinho [“little wood splinter”].


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