Viola Da Terra

Name: Viola Da Terra.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Azores, Portugal.
Region: Iberian Peninsula & Atlantic Ocean.

Description: The Viola da terra [guitar of the land] it is also known by other alternate names as Viola de arame [The wire of viola] and or Viola de dois corações [Viola of Two Hearts]. It is a stringed musical instrument from the Portuguese islands of the Azores. It is believed the Viola da Terra had emerged in the Azores at the second half of the 15th century.

It was introduced by the first settlers who migrated to Azores. During this time the Viola Da Terra would have been different from the current model. The viola da terra is used in performing folk music, dances and derricos or desgarradas, desafios, despiques [singing battles]. In recent times a revival of the Viola Da Terra has taken place.

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

A / D / G / B / E

A / D / G / B / D

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.


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