Tag Archives: Lutes



Name: Rajao.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Courses: Four / Five Strings.
Country: Madeira Portugal.
Region: Iberian Peninsula > Western Europe.

Description: The rajão [in Portuguese: machete de rajão] is a 5-stringed instrument from Madeira, Portugal. The instrument traces back to the country’s regional folk music, where it is used in folklore dances of Portugal in addition to other stringed instruments from the same region.

History: There is little information of the origins of the rajão, but it is often associated with traditional folklore dance of Madeira and the origins of the ukulele of Hawaii. In 1879 Portuguese immigrants who also owned business in musical instruments brought the rajão, viola and raga to Hawaii. Where the rajao was given the nickname “tarro patch fiddle”.

Tuning: The instrument is about 70 cm about 2 feet and 3 inches in length. The rajão is tuned to D4 / G4 / C4 / E4 / A4, a re-entrant tuning with the third string the lowest pitch. When it has 6 strings, the tuning becomes D4 / G4 / C4 / E4 / A4 / A4. The rajão also comes with all five courses doubled, though these are less common.

Rajao Tunings
Names Tunings
Five String D G C E A
Six String D G C E A A

Citations: Bibliography: Websites:


Name: Timple.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Tuning: G C E A D
Courses: Four / Five Strings.
Country: Canary Islands.
Region: West Africa & Atlantic Ocean.

Description: The timple is a five-stringed lute of the Canary Islands. In La Palma island and in the north of the island of Tenerife, many timple players omit the fifth [D] string. Prior to the addition of the D string the Timple had only four strings. There is a debate among musicians as to the use of the D or the omission of the D string.

Advocates state they are playing timple in the old-fashioned way. The fifth string being introduced during the 19th or early 20th century. Timple players [timplistas] of note are Benito Cabrera from Lanzarote, José Antonio Ramos, Totoyo Millares, and Germán López from Gran Canaria and Pedro Izquierdo from Tenerife.

Tuning: The G / C / E / A / D tuning as used on the timple is very similar to the charango tuning the use of the tuning although the fifth string was added in the 19th to 20th century. The tuning G / C / E / A / E can be attested, on instruments such as the charango date much earlier. There is no direct contact between the two tunings despite them being similar at least by a difference from a single note on the bottom string.



Name: Cavaquinho.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Courses: Four 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 Nomenclature Tuning *
C 6 C G A D Portugal
Ancient Tuning D A B E by Júlio Pereira [B].
G 6 D G B E Brazil
Cuk G G B D Indonesia
Mandolin G D A E Brazil
Ukulele 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. The cavaco is the lead instrument of the samba ensemble. The name cavaco means “wood splinter” in Portuguese – probably back-formed from the original name cavaquinho [“little wood splinter”].

d.] The cavaco is found in Indonesia since the introduction of the ukulele in the form of cavaco was changed the first instrument having only thee strings plays the first downward beat. In a Keronchong ensemble the cak [three stringed] and suk [four stringed] are two lead instruments. The two instruments played together provide a rhythmical accent when performing the melody.

e] The ukulele as found in Hawaii and the South Pacific was introduced by Portuguese settlers when they arrived to Hawaii. The tuning we use and associate the ukulele with, has its origins in the baroque guitar tradition, called “Temple Nuevo” or “New Tuning”.



Name: Charango.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitars > Guitarillos.
Hornbostel & Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Specimens: 3 in collection.
Country: Bolivia, Peru, N. Chile, N. W. Argentina & Ecuador.
Region: South America.

Description: The charango is a 10-stringed 5 course lute whose some strings may very up to 14 strings 8 courses. Having a small body and short neck. It is a lead instrument in ensembles from both Bolivia, Peru, North Western Argentina and Northern Chile.

History: The charango was conceived by Indigenous peoples during the first contacts when they were forbidden by the conquistadors to play their own traditional instruments. It has been suggested the charango was the a creation of the first successful attempt at building a small enough lute that could be concealed under the poncho.

Origins: The Bolivian charanguista, composer and musician Ernesto Cavour presents evidence from murals and sculptures in Bolivia from as long ago as 1744. Citing an example being the Church of San Lorenzo in the city of Potosi. The facade of the church depicts two mermaids playing what he believes to be a charango.

The first published historic information on the charango may be that gathered by Vega, going back to 1814, when a cleric from Tupiza documented that “the Indigenous used with much enthusiasm the guitarillos mui fuis… around here in the Andes of Bolivia they called them Charangos”.

Turino mentions that he found carved sirens representing playing charangos in some Colonial churches in the highlands of Bolivia. One of the churches to which Turino refers may well be that mentioned by Cavour. The construction on the San Lorenzo edifice began in 1547 and wasn’t completed until 1744.

Charango Tunings
Name Nomenclature Tuning
Am7 C G E A E
AmBb7 B F Eb Ab Eb
Balitzar, Peru A Major G C# E A E
E Minor C G E G E
2nd Kimsa E G# E A E
Runa G D E A E
Jalq’a F# A C# B E
Easter F# B E A E
False E G C A E
Sucre Noº2 A D G C E
Tuning Noº4 G A C# A E
Small & Large D G E A E
Small Noº2 A D F# B F#
Small Noº3 C F A D A
En Fa / In F G C F A F

The cuatro tunings aka. the four tunings is a tuning for the charango devised by Victor Mena.

Distribution: Although is a provenance for the the origins of the charango to point to what is today Potosi, Bolivia. This region was once apart of the Royal Audiencia of Charkas which included its neighbours, Peru, North Western Argentina and Northern Chile. Several varieties of the charango exist from region to region.

Varieties: There are several varieties of charango that exist in Bolivia and it’s neighbours. Including the Charango De Caja having 6 paired courses of double strings. The arrangement of the strings of the charango de caja is no different than the 12 string guitar. Accept the charango de caja is tuned three octaves above the guitar.

Charango De Caja Tunings
Names Tunings
Standard E A D G B E
Comuncha G B D G B E
Diablo G Bb D G C E
Arpa F# A D F# B E

Construction: The charango was originally built with the use of armadillo shells from the 9 banded Armadillo. A neck and head stock were added during the assembly process. The body of this particular type of charango was boiled to remove the remaining hair and while still warm.

The body is then moulded into shape by a mallet around a wooden mould. Today it is common place to find the charango whose body and neck are carved from the same piece of wood [as featured on my Bolivian made charango for example].

The bracing, perfloring and sound board are glued into place than the basic shape of the instrument forming its over all profile. Once the basic body-shape is established, the fingerboard and frets are then installed. Machine gears are installed to the left and right sides of the head stock.

The typical amount of strings usually nylon are added on the charango near the last phase of the build. The result is a portable instrument with a small vaulted-backed instrument that can produce quite a tonal projection despite its size.

Citations: Biography: Ernesto Cavour, Turino, Stanley Sadie – New Grove Dictionary Of Music @ Vol  1, Book A to C, Page ; Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, South America ; Pacoweb.net [now archived by the waybackmachine]


Name: Chillador.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitars > Guitarillos > Charango.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Tuning: G C E A E
Country: Many, Peru, Bolivia.
Region: South America.

Description: A flat backed guitar like lute in the same size, size and scale length of the charango. The chillador has 10, 12 or up to 14 strings in total. Each string course is doubled or paired.  The chillador shares the same tuning and can use the same alternate tunings as charango.