Name: Portuguesa Guitarra.
Type: Lute > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-sachs No#: 321.322.6
Region: Iberian Peninsula & Western Europe.
Description: The Portuguese guitar or Portuguese guitarra [Portuguese: guitarra Portuguese, pronounced [ɡiˈtaʁɐ puɾtuˈɣezɐ] is a plucked string instrument with twelve steel strings, strung in six courses of two strings. It is one of the few musical instruments that still uses Preston tuners. It is most notably associated with the musical genre known as Fado.
History: The Portuguese guitar has gone under considerable technical modification in the last century when it concerns the size, dimensions, tuning system etc. Although it has kept the same number of courses, string tuning and fingering technique of characteristic of this type of instrument. It is a descendant of the Medieval citole, based on evidence of its use in Portugal since the thirteenth century [then known as ‘cítole’ in Portuguese] amongst troubadour and minstrel circles and in the Renaissance period, although initially it was restricted to noblemen in court circles. Later it became popular and references have been found to citterns being played in the theatre, in taverns and barbershops in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in particular.
In 1582, Friar Phillipe de Caverell visited Lisbon and described its customs; he mentions the Portuguese people’s love for the cittern and other musical instruments. In 1649 was published the catalogue of the Royal Music Library of King John IV of Portugal containing the best known books of cittern music from foreign composers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which the complexity and technical difficulty of the pieces allow us to believe that there had been highly skilled players in Portugal. Fado, by José Malhoa 1910 The angel playing the cittern c.1680, a sculpture of large dimensions in the Alcobaça Monastery, depicts in detail the direct ancestor of the Portuguese guitar. In the first half of the eighteenth century, Ribeiro Sanches (1699–1783) had cittern lessons in the town of Guarda, Portugal, as he mentions in a letter from St. Petersburg in 1735.
In the same period there are other evidence to the use of the cittern alluding to a repertoire of sonatas, minuets, etc. shared with other instruments such as the harpsichord or the guitar. Later in the century c. 1750, the so-called “English” guitar made its appearance in Portugal. It was a type of cittern locally modified by German, English, Scottish and Dutch makers and enthusiastically greeted by the new mercantile bourgeoisie of the city of Porto who used it in the domestic context of Hausmusik practice.
This consisted of the “languid Modinhas”, the “lingering Minuets” and the “risqué Lunduns”, as they were then called. The use of this type of guitar never became widespread. It disappeared in the second half of the nineteenth century when the popular version of the cittern came into fashion again by its association with the Lisbon song (fado) accompaniment.
Tuning: The tuning chiefly employed on the Portuguese guitar was historically called afinação do fado or afinação do fado corrido. It was probably developed in the early 19th century, as it was already largely adopted by Lisbon’s fadistas by the mid-century. With the diminishing use of the natural tuning (see below) by players, this tuning came to simply be called either afinação de Lisboa, when tuned high, in D, or afinação de Coimbra, when tuned low, in C; this stems from the fact that while most Lisbon fado players tuned their guitars in D, in Coimbra the students came to tune theirs in C as standard practice, mainly through the influence of Artur Paredes. It is important to note, however, that regardless of the difference in pitch between the two variations of the tuning, in practice.
The latter still makes use of the former’s aural conventions, as such a C is called D, a D is called E, etc., by the players (essentially making a Coimbra-tuned Portuguese guitar a transposing instrument similar to a B-flat trumpet in that a given note is referred to by the note name a whole step higher than the note name that concert-pitch conventions would use). The natural tuning, inherited from the English guitar of the 18th century, was also very frequently employed up to the first half of the 20th century, being preferred to the former by some late-19th-century players; it was frequently tuned in E instead of C, as this simplified the change between the fado tuning for players who used both. Some variations of this tuning were also adopted, such as the afinação natural com 4ª, also known as afinação da Mouraria, or the afinação de João de Deus, also known as afinação natural menor (natural minor). The natural tuning and its variations have been for the most part, out of practice for several decades.
Citations: Caldeira Cabral, Pedro 1999. A Guitarra Portuguesa,. Portugal: Ediclube. ISBN 972-719-077-4. THE PORTUGUESE GUITAR Richards, Tobe A. 2009. The Portuguese Guitar Chord Bible: Lisboa Tuning 1,728 Chords. United Kingdom: Cabot Books. ISBN 978-1-906207-13-7. — A comprehensive chord dictionary for the Portuguese Lisboa Guitar Soares, Paulo 1999. Método de Guitarra Portuguesa Vol. 1: Bases para a Guitarra de Coimbra. Portugal: Paulo Soares. ISBN 972-97496-0-4. — Basic techniques for the Portuguese Coimbra Guitar [in Portuguese] Soares, Paulo 2007. Método de Guitarra Portuguesa, Vol. 2: Domínio dos Acordes. Portugal: Paulo Soares. ISBN 978-972-97496-1-2. — Chord building [in Portuguese] Cebolo, Eurico Augusto. Guitarra Magica Fado. Portugal: Unknown. ISBN 972-8019-07-6. — Basic techniques for the Portuguese Coimbra Guitar [in Portuguese].