Viola Terceira

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

Description: The viola da Terceira [also viola Terceirense] is a stringed musical instrument of the guitar family, from the Portuguese islands of the archipelago of the Azores, associated with the island of Terceira.

History: The viola and other string instruments were brought during the Portuguese maritime expansion to the Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde, Brazil and other locales, becoming a common musical instrument among the populations. Due to its importance in Portuguese music it likely arrived in Angola, Goa and Macau, and as far as Hawaii by the 19th century.

The viola became the forerunner of the ukulele These early cordophones namely the violas, had characteristics identical to the modern instruments and great importance along the Iberian Peninsula. The Viola Terceira appeared in iconography, poems and diverse literature.

The chronicler Gaspar Frutuoso who identified it as just a “Viola”, suggested that it first arrived in the Azores in the second half of the 19th century, brought the first settlers. There is little documentation that dates the arrival of the Portuguese Violas de Arame in the islands of the Azores.

The Viola Terceira has 18 strings although the arrangement of the courses do differ. The viola Terceira is available in either 15-string / 6-course version and an 18-string / 6-course versions


E3 E3 E2 / A3 A3 A2 / D4 D4 D3 / G4 G3 / B3 B3 • E4 E4
The 18-string 6-course instrument has six triple-strung courses, tuned as follows:

E3 E3 E2 / A3 A3 A2 / D4 D4 D3 / G4 G4 G3 / B3 B3 B3 / E4 E4 E4
The 18-string 7 course instrument features: four triple-strung bass courses and three double-strung treble courses. It is tuned as follows:

C3 C3 C2 / E3 E3 E2 / A3 A3 A2 • D4 D4 D3 • G4 G3 • B3 B3 • E4 E4 – C-Tuning not standard although a commonly used alternate tuning

Citations: Bibliography: José Wellington do Nascimento 2012 p.18 ; Gaspar Frutuoso 2005, p.120-127 ; Almeida, José Lúcio Ribeiro de 19 July 2016, “Viola da Terceira”, Instrumentos Populares Portugueses [PDF file] in Portuguese Lisbon, Portugal, p. 11 ; José Wellington do Nascimento 2012, p.19 ;

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