Tiple (Puerto Rico)

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For other instruments also named Tiple, see Tiple.

Puerto Rican Tiple Doliente
A plan of the body shape of a Tiple Doliente.

The tiple is the smallest of the three string instruments of Puerto Rico that make up the orquesta jibara (i.e., the Cuatro, the Tiple and the Bordonua). According to investigations made by Jose Reyes Zamora, the tiple in Puerto Rico dates back to the 18th century. It is believed to have evolved from the Spanish guitarrillo. There was never a standard for the tiple and as a result there are many variations throughout the island of Puerto Rico. Most tiples have four or five strings and most tiple requintos have three strings. Some tiples have as many as 6 strings and as few as a single string, though these types are rare.

The main types of tiple in Puerto Rico are:

  • Tiple requinto de la montaña - a tiny version of the Tiple doliente with only three strings. It is usually smaller than 12 inches.
  • Tiple requinto costanero - a smaller version of the tiplón with only three strings. It is usually about 15 inches in length.
  • Tiple doliente - this tiple has 5 single strings and is the most common used today. It is usually about 15 inches in length.
  • Tiplón or tiple con macho - a larger version of the tiple with a fifth string peg like an American banjo, located on its neck. It is usually about 21 inches in length.
  • Tiple grande de Ponce - the largest version (about 21 inches in length) with 5 strings. It is considered to be the link between Tiples and Bordonuas. It is sometimes also called "Bordonua Chiquita" (or small Bordonua).

The tiple that is now most often played in Puerto Rico is the Tiple Doliente. It has recently acquired a more or less fixed body shape narrowing at the top and having 5 strings (see the accompanying photo). It is usually made like the cuatro, so either constructed like a guitar, or from one piece of wood hollowed out. The bottom half of the body is rounded like a guitar, however the top half is square, or triangular. All other features (like neck and bridge) resemble the construction of a normal Spanish guitar. The peghead has tuning machines either from the side or from the back.

The Tiple doliente is tuned with 5 metal strings: e a d' g' c.

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