Viola caipira

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Viola Caipira
Traditional viola caipira with fine marquetry work
String instrument
Other namesViola
Classification String instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification
(Composite chordophone)

The viola caipira, often simply viola,[1] (Portuguese for country guitar) is a Brazilian ten-string guitar with five courses of strings arranged in pairs.[2] It was introduced in the state of São Paulo, where it is widely played as the basis for the música caipira, a type of folk-country music originating in the caipira country of south-central Brazil.


It has its origins in Portuguese violas. Violas are direct descendants of the Latin guitar, which, in turn, has an Arabic-Persian origin derived from instruments such as the lute. The Portuguese violas arrived in Brazil and along with other instruments began to be used by the Jesuits in the catechism of the indigenous people,[3] and naturally, for Portuguese-Brazilian settlers and ranchers entertainment and company. Later, guitars began to be built with noble wood from the land, which has always been available in large quantities in Brazil. It is likely a descendant of one of the many folk guitars that have traditionally been played in Portugal. The viola braguesa and viola amarantina, for instance, are two types of ten-string guitars from the north of Portugal,[4] which are closely related to the viola caipira.

Some have described the viola caipira as Brazil's national instrument,[5] but others argue that the tambourine-like pandeiro has a stronger claim.[6][7][8][9] The Brazilian Embassy in Washington lists a national flower among the official symbols of Brazil, but no national musical instrument.[10] What is undisputed is that the viola caipira was introduced in São Paulo before the violão, and is the basis for the música caipira, or São Paulo's folk music, as Inezita Barroso states.

Tuning and playing technique[edit]

A large number of tunings are used; open tunings are common.[11] Unlike most steel-string guitars, its strings are plucked with the fingers of the right hand similarly to the technique used for classical and flamenco guitars, rather than by the use of a plectrum.


Violas are present in nearly all Brazilian music forms, anywhere in the country (although it is declining in some places). It most often associated with Caipira Music (Brazilian country music), with some forms of North-Eastern music and with folkloric music. It was once used to play urban music, like choro, samba and Maxixe, but has been replaced by the acoustic guitar.

Well-known players of Brazilian viola include Zé Côco do Riachão (composer from Minas Gerais), Toninho Ramos (composer from Minas Gerais live in France) and Almir Sater (successful singer-songwriter from Mato Grosso do Sul).

A National Association of Viola Players (Associação Nacional dos Violeiros) has been founded in 2004 and the Ministry of Culture has declared the preservation of the Viola tradition as of national interest.

Notable performers[edit]

The Guitar Player, by Almeida Júnior

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Moura, Reis (2000). Descomplicando a Viola: Método Básico de Viola Caipira (in Portuguese) (by the author ed.). Brasília. p. 62. ISBN 85-901637-1-7.
  2. ^ Corrêa, Roberto (2000). A Arte de Pontear Viola (in Portuguese) (by the author ed.). Brasília. p. 259. ISBN 85-901603-1-9.
  3. ^ 1
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ See for example Brad Hoyt's essay which also includes some photos of the viola caipira
  6. ^ [2][dead link]
  7. ^ [3][dead link]
  8. ^ [4][dead link]
  9. ^ "Programming natural sounding percussion parts". Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  11. ^ Rosso, Piede (2009-02-08). "The Jazz Guitar Blog: Tuning". Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  12. ^ "Tião Carreiro- Portal". 1993-10-15. Retrieved 2014-03-30.

External links[edit]