Violas Tradicionais Portuguesas


Viola da Terra – Micaelense
The Viola da Terra, or Viola de Arame Micaelense, from the Azores island of São Miguel, was brought from the continent when the islands were first settled. The Viola da Terra thus acquired, with time, great social and cultural relevance in the lives of the inhabitants of the Azores, where it accompanies songs in several traditional festivities, and holds a privileged place in popular poetry. The soundhole usually comes in the shape of two hearts, pointing in opposite directions, that, according to a popular legend, represent the love between two people who are physically separated, yet connected by the same feeling of saudade, a word denoting melancholic yearning. As with baroque guitars, the fingerboard is flush with the top. The decorative bridge extensions depict two birds, while beneath the bridge is an inlay of either a floral or harp motif. As with nearly all violas, the bridge is in two parts: the strings run first over a thin piece of wood which acts as a floating saddle sitting directly on the soundboard, then pass through holes in the glued-on bridge, and are finally turned back and looped around pins or screws on top of the bridge. The number of screws is not necessarily the number of strings, but is usually six. It has five courses of strings in which the highest three are double and tuned in unison, while the two lowest courses are triple and tuned in octaves: A3A3A2 D4D4D3 G3 B3 D4 from low to high.


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The Viola da Terceira, or Viola de Arame Terceirence, or Viola da Terra Terceirence, comes from the Azores island of Terceira, most likely arriving there in the second half of the 19th century. The most guitar-like viola, it can have 15 strings arranged in six courses (three triple and three double), or 18 strings arranged in seven courses. It also features a raised fingerboard that extends to the soundhole, widening its possibilities in the execution of the demanding musical themes found in the tradition of the Terceira. Rather than the more usual decorative bridge extensions, it features decorative square end-blocks, with stylized flower inlays beneath the bridge. As with nearly all violas, the bridge is in two parts: unlike other violas, on this instrument ball-end strings pass through holes in the glued-on section of the bridge, then run over a thin piece of wood which acts as a floating saddle sitting directly on the soundboard. The six-course Viola Terceirense is tuned like the modern guitar, the three highest courses are double and tuned in unison, while the three lowest are triple and tuned in octaves. The seven-course version has an extra bass course tuned as the player wishes.


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Viola Caipira (Brasil) The Viola Caipira, from Brazil, is known by several names, depending on the geographic location, and it is very common in the Brazilian interior, where it is considered one of the icons of popular Brazilian music. It all started with the interbreeding between the indigenous peoples and the Portuguese. The dance Cateretê mixed with the sounds of the Portuguese Violas de Arame, was taken by the Jesuits and used in indigenous catechism, giving rise to the Viola Caipira. There are several tunings for this instrument, depending on player, violeiro and/or region:
Cebolão B2 E3 G#3 B3 E4 (or one tone lower throughout)
Rio Abaixo G2 D3 G3 B3 D4
Boiadeira G2 D3 F#3 A3 D4
Standard guitar tuning without the lowest string A2 D3 G3 B3 E4
All tunings from low to high


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