The cavaquinho (pronounced [kɐvɐˈkiɲu] in Portuguese) is a small Portuguese string instrument in the European guitar family, with four wire or gut strings.

More broadly, cavaquinho is the name of a four-stringed subdivision of the lute family of instruments.

A cavaquinho player is called a cavaquista.

Portuguese cavaquinhos
String instrument
Other namesMachete, braguinha, manchete, cavaco
Classification String instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification
(Composite chordophone)
Related instruments
Ukulele, Viola Braguesa, Cuatro


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.


Portuguese cavaquinhos

The instrument’s name cavaquinho means “little wood splinter” in Portuguese.

The Venezuelan concert cuatro is very nearly the same instrument, but somewhat larger.

Cavaquinho Brasileiro, cavaco, and cuatro

2 cavaquinhos 3
Portuguese and Brazilian cavaquinhos

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.

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.

The cavaco is a smaller version of the Brazilian cavaquinho, similar in size to the Portuguese cavaquinho. It is part of a samba ensemble (see the international section, below). The name cavaco means “wood splint” in Portuguese – probably back-formed from the original name cavaquinho (“little wood splint”).

Machete and braguinha

The machete is a steel-string version of the cavaquinho from Madeira. It is a predecessor of the modern ukulele. The Machete de Braga (“Braga-style machete”) is called a braguinha.


The minhoto cavaquinho, associated with the Minho region in Portugal is similar to the viola braguesa. Its neck is on the same level as the body. Like the braguesa, the minhoto’s sound hole was traditionally shaped like a stylized ray (fish); the shape is called “raia” in Portuguese.


The most common tuning in Portugal is C G A D (from lower to higher pitches).

The standard tuning in Brazil is D G B D.

Other tunings include:

  • D A B EPortuguese ancient tuning, made popular by Júlio Pereira
  • G G B D
  • A A C E
  • D G B E – used for solo parts in Brazil
  • G D A Emandolin tuning
  • G C E A – ‘cavacolele’ tuning, the same as the soprano/tenor ukulele[1]
  • D G B E – the same as the highest four strings in standard guitar tuning, often used by guitarists, and the same tuning used for the baritone ukulele[2]

International use

Different forms of cavaquinho have been adapted in different regions. Varieties used outside of Iberia are found in Brazil, Cape-Verde, and Madeira. The locally iconic Caribbean region cuatro family and the Hawaiian ukuleles were both adapted from the cavaquinho.


Пандейру и каквако
A samba cavaco (right).

The cavaco – a small version of the Brazilian cavaquinho – is a very important instrument in Brazilian samba and choro music.

The samba cavaco is played with a pick, with sophisticated percussive strumming beats that connect the rhythm and harmony by playing the rhythm “comping”. Some of the most important players and composers of the Brazilian instrument are Waldir Azevedo, Paulinho da Viola, and Mauro Diniz.

Cape Verde

Two cavaquinhos in Cape Verde.

In Cape Verde the cavaquinho was introduced in the 1930s from Brazil. The present-day Cape-Verdean cavaquinho is very similar to the Brazilian one in dimensions and tuning. It is generally used as a rhythmic instrument in Cape-Verdean music genres (such as morna, coladeira, mazurka) but it is occasionally used as a melodic instrument.


Red Ukulele
A modern ukulele.

The Hawaiian ukulele also has four strings and a shape similar to the cavaquinho, although tuned differently – usually G C E A.

The ukulele is an iconic element of Hawaiian popular music, which spread to the continental United States in the early 20th century. It was developed from the braguinha and rajão, brought to Hawaii in the late 19th century by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira Island.[3]

The machete was introduced into Hawaii by Augusto Dias, Manuel Nunes, and João Fernandes in 1879, which further influenced the development of the ukulele.

Northern Latin-America and the Caribbean

The cuatro is a family of larger 4-stringed instruments derived from the cavaquinho that are popular in Latin-American countries in and around the Caribbean. Versions of the iconic Venezuelan cuatro are very similar to the Brazilian cavaquinho, with a neck like a Portuguese cavaquinho.


The origins of this Portuguese instrument are elusive. Author Gonçalo Sampaio holds that the cavaquinho and the guitar may have been brought to Braga by the Biscayans.

Sampaio explains Minho region’s archaic and Hellenistic modes by possible survival of Greek influences on the ancient Gallaeci of the region, and stresses the link between this instrument and historical Hellenistic tetrachords.

See also

Further reading

  • Richards, Tobe A. (2008). The Cavaquinho Chord Bible: DGBD Standard Tuning 1,728 Chords. United Kingdom: Cabot Books. ISBN 978-1-906207-09-0. – A comprehensive chord dictionary instructional guide for the Brazilian and Portuguese cavaquinho.


  1. ^ "The Brazilian phenomenom of Beirutando". Sounds and Colours. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  2. ^ "  C  ". The Stringed Instrument Database. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  3. ^ "History". Archived from the original on 2011-04-30.

External links

Arlindo Cruz

Arlindo Cruz (born September 14, 1958, birth name Arlindo Domingos da Cruz Filho) is a Brazilian musician, composer and singer, working in the genre of samba and pagode. Arlindo took part in the most important formation of Grupo Fundo de Quintal, and is considered one of the most important figures of the pagode movement.

Bau (musician)

Rufino Almeida (born 1962 in Mindelo, São Vicente), better known as Bau, is a Cape Verdean musician. His father, an instrument maker taught him how to make and play the guitar, the cavaquinho and the violin. In 1994, he joined the touring band of Cesária Évora and in 1996 became her musical director. In September 1999 he moved on and his song Raquel was featured in Pedro Almodóvar's 2002 film Talk to Her. He toured with several other singers including Hernani Almeida in 1999 and 2001. Some of his songs were written by Teófilo Chantre.

He also has a cousin who is also a famous singer Tito Paris.


Angenor de Oliveira, known as Cartola (Portuguese for top hat), (Portuguese pronunciation: [kaɦˈtɔlɐ]; October 11, 1908 – November 30, 1980) was a Brazilian singer, composer and poet considered to be a major figure in the development of samba.Cartola composed, alone or with partners, more than 500 songs.


Choro (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈʃoɾu], "cry" or "lament"), also popularly called chorinho ("little cry" or "little lament"), is an instrumental Brazilian popular music genre which originated in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Despite its name, the music often has a fast and happy rhythm. It is characterized by virtuosity, improvisation and subtle modulations, and is full of syncopation and counterpoint. Choro is considered the first characteristically Brazilian genre of urban popular music. The serenaders who play choros are known as chorões.

Cuatro (instrument)

The cuatro is a family of Latin American string instruments found in Central and South America, Puerto Rico and other parts of the West Indies, derived from the Spanish guitar. Although some have viola-like shapes, most cuatros resemble a small to mid-sized classical guitar.

Cuatro means four in Spanish; the instrument's 15th century predecessors were the Spanish vihuela and the Portuguese cavaquinho, the latter having four strings like the original cuatro (modern cuatros often have more than four strings).

Certain variants are considered the national instrument of some countries (e.g., Venezuela). The cuatro is widely used in ensembles in Jamaica, Mexico, and Surinam to accompany singing and dancing. In Trinidad and Tobago it accompanies Parang singers.In Saint Lucia the cuatro is used as an accompanying instrument in traditional Sewenal music at Christmas time. In Puerto Rico and Venezuela, the cuatro is an ensemble instrument for secular and religious music, and is played at parties and traditional gatherings.Modern cuatros come a variety of sizes and shapes, and number of strings. Cuatros can either have single-strings, like a guitar, or double- or triple-coursed strings like a mandolin, and vary in size from a large mandolin or small guitar, to the size of a full-size guitar. Depending on their particular stringing, cuatros are part of the guitar or mandolin subfamilies of the lute family.

Cuk (instrument)

The Cuk is a stringed musical instrument from Indonesia. It has 3 strings in 3 courses. It is tuned G4 B3 E4. The strings are made of thick nylon.

The instrument evolved from the Portuguese cavaquinho. The body is usually hollowed out of a solid piece of wood. It is mainly used to play Keroncong music along with the Cak.

Fala Mangueira!

Fala Mangueira! is a 1968 tribute album to the Mangueira Samba School founded by Cartola. The live album features several medleys and individual singles by five of the greatest traditional samba artists of the 1960s and '70s: Odete Amaral, Carlos Cachaça, Cartola, Clementina de Jesus, and Nelson Cavaquinho.


Giannini is a traditional fine musical instruments maker in Brazil.The company was founded in 1900 by Tranquillo Giannini, an Italian immigrant with luthier talents. Their first industrial plant was located at Av. Sao Joao in the city of São Paulo.

Today, Giannini's plant is located at Salto, a city in the state of São Paulo (not far from the capital). They currently produce nylon and steel stringed guitars, craviola, viola caipira, cavaquinho, mandolin, violins, electric guitars and basses and some accessories such as guitar tuners and guitar strings.

Jorge Aragão

Jorge Aragão (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈʒɔxʒi araˈɡɐ̃w], (b. March 1, 1949 in Rio de Janeiro), birth name Jorge Aragão da Cruz) is a Brazilian musician, singer/songwriter, working in the genres of samba and pagode. He is a multi-instrumentalist, and plays the guitar, surdo, cavaco and banjo, among other instruments. In performance, he usually plays the cavaquinho most of the show, and sometimes the banjo.

Mauro Diniz

Mauro Diniz is a Brazilian professional cavaquinist. He also has a career as a songwriter and singer.

Morna (music)

The morna (pronunciation in both Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole: [ˈmɔɾnɐ]) is a music and dance genre from Cape Verde.

Lyrics are usually in Cape Verdean Creole, and instrumentation often includes cavaquinho, clarinet, accordion, violin, piano and guitar.

Morna is widely considered the national music of Cape Verde, as is the fado for Portugal, the tango for Argentina, the merengue for Dominican Republic, the rumba for Cuba, and so on.

The best internationally known morna singer was Cesária Évora. Morna and other genres of Cape Verdean music are also played in Cape Verdean migrant communities abroad, especially in New England in the US, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, West Africa and parts of Latin America.

Music of Cape Verde

Cape Verde is known internationally for morna, a form of folk music usually sung in the Cape Verdean Creole, accompanied by clarinet, violin, guitar and cavaquinho. Funaná, Coladeira, Batuque and Cabo love are other musical forms.

Music of Madeira

The Music of Madeira reflects its cultural heritage, this can be seen in the local Folklore music, which in Madeira is widespread and mainly uses local musical instruments such as the machete, rajao, brinquinho and cavaquinho, which are used in traditional folkloric dances like the bailinho da Madeira.

Music of the Canary Islands

The music of the Canary Islands reflects its cultural heritage. The islands used to be inhabited by the Guanches which are related to Berbers; they mixed with Spaniards, who live on the islands now. A variant of Jota is popular, as is Latin music, which has left its mark in the form of the timple guitar.

There has been a strong connection with Cuban music, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican, and other Caribbean countries both through commerce and migration.

Popular dances from the Canary Islands include:



Baile del Candil

Baile de Cintas

Danza de Enanos

El Santo Domingo



MalagueñaOf these, the Isas, a local variation of Jota, are the best-known and most characteristic of the Canary Islands. They are graceful music, with a lot of variation among islands. In some places, a captain leads the dance and organizes others in a chain as the dance grows more and more complex.

Rondalla arrangements are very common. Instruments include charangas, timples (similar to a cavaquinho / ukulele), castanets, panderetas, lauds and guitars. A peculiar ensemble in El Hierro island is made of pito herreño players (a wooden transverse flute) and drums. Some ritual dances in Tenerife island are led by a tabor pipe player. Joyful music for carnival lies to a big extent on brass bands and Latin American patterns.

Nelson Cavaquinho

Nelson Cavaquinho (October 29, 1911 – February 18, 1986, birth name Nelson Antônio da Silva) was one of the most important singer/composers of samba. He is usually seen as a representative of the tragic aspects of samba thematics, with many songs about death and hopelessness. He was a prominent figure of samba school Estação Primeira de Mangueira.

Paulinho da Viola

Paulinho da Viola (born Paulo César Batista de Faria on November 12, 1942) (Portuguese pronunciation: [pawˈlĩɲʊ daviˈɔlɐ]) is a Brazilian sambista, singer/songwriter, guitar, cavaquinho and mandolin player, known for his sophisticated harmonies and soft, gentle singing voice.


Samba (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈsɐ̃bɐ] (listen)) is a Brazilian music genre and dance style, with its roots in Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions, particularly of Angola and the Congo, through the samba de roda genre of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, from which it derived. Although there were various forms of samba in Brazil with popular rhythms originated from drumming, samba as a music genre has its origins in Rio de Janeiro.

Samba is recognized around the world as a symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival. Considered one of the most popular Brazilian cultural expressions, the samba has become an icon of Brazilian national identity.

The Bahian Samba de Roda (dance circle), was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2005. It is the main root of the samba carioca, the samba that is played and danced in Rio de Janeiro.

The modern samba that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century is predominantly in a 2/4 time signature varied with the conscious use of a sung chorus to a batucada rhythm, with various stanzas of declaratory verses. Traditionally, the samba is played by strings (cavaquinho and various types of guitar) and various percussion instruments such as tamborim. Influenced by American orchestras in vogue since the Second World War and the cultural impact of US music post-war, samba began to use trombones, trumpets, choros, flutes, and clarinets.In addition to distinct rhythms and meters, samba brings a whole historical culture of food, varied dances (miudinho, coco, samba de roda, and pernada), parties, clothes such as linen shirts, and the Naif painting of established names such as Nelson Sargento, Guilherme de Brito, and Heitor dos Prazeres. Anonymous community artists, including painters, sculptors, designers, and stylists, make the clothes, costumes, carnival floats, and cars, opening the doors of schools of samba. There is also a great tradition of ballroom samba in Brazil, with many styles. Samba de Gafieira is the style more famous in Rio de Janeiro, where common people used to go to the gafieira parties since the 1930s, and where the moves and identity of this dance emerged, getting more and more different from its African, European, and Cuban origins and influences.

The National Samba Day is celebrated on December 2. The date was established at the initiative of Luis Monteiro da Costa, an alderman of Salvador, in honor of Ary Barroso. He composed "Na Baixa do sapateiro" even though he had never been in Bahia. Thus 2 December marked the first visit of Ary Barroso to Salvador. Initially, this day was celebrated only in Salvador, but eventually it turned into a national holiday.

Samba is a local style in Southeastern Brazil and Northeast Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador and Recife. Its importance as Brazil's national music transcends region, however; samba schools, samba musicians, and carnival organizations centered on the performance of samba exist in every region of the country, even though other musical styles prevail in various regions (for instance, in Southern Brazil, Center-West Brazil, and all of the Brazilian countryside, música sertaneja, music of the sertão, or Brazilian country music, is the most popular style).

Tudo Azul

Tudo Azul is an album recorded in 1999 by the Velha Guarda da Portela (Portuguese for "Portela's Oldest-Ones"). The album was produced by famous Brazilian singer Marisa Monte, which is featured in one of the tracks. Tudo Azul features tracks written from 1945 to 1972.

Valdir Azevedo

Valdir Azevedo or Waldir Azevedo (January 23, 1923 in Rio de Janeiro – September 21, 1980 in São Paulo) was a choro conductor and performer, considered to be the most successful musician of this genre.Azevedo was born in Rio de Janeiro. He played flute starting from the age of seven, and later switched to mandolin and to the cavaquinho. He first performed in public in 1933 at the Carnival, playing flute.He wrote 130 compositions during his lifetime, including the Brasileirinho. He is considered by many to be the first Brazilian cavaquinho shredder ever. One of his compositions, Delicado [Baiao], is a Latin American dance that has been arranged for piano.

He died in São Paulo, aged 57.



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