Name: Cavaquinho.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Courses: Four Single Strings.
Country: Portugal & Many.
Region: Iberian Peninsula, Western Europe, Africa & South & America.

Description: The cavaquinho [pronounced as: kɐvɐˈkiɲu] in Portuguese] is a small Portuguese string instrument in the European guitar family, with four wire or nylon strings. It is found in Portugal and its respective territories and former colonies namely Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and Madeira, Azores and Capo Verde. More broadly, cavaquinho is the name of a four-stringed subdivision of the lute family of instruments. A cavaquinho player is called a cavaquista.

The Cavaquinho is featured throughout many different genres of music as a lead instrument of ensembles or bands owing to its small size and portability. It can be used as a soloists instrument but typically accompanied by others such as a guitar and electric bass. The

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

Cavaquinho Tunings
Name Tuning Used By / Regions
C G A D Portugal
Ancient Tuning D A B E by Júlio Pereira
A A C# E
G6 D G B E Solo Playing / Brazil
Mandoling Tuning G D A E
Ukulele Tuning G C E A

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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