Portugeuse Viola de Braguesa

Viola Braguesa

Viola Braguesa

The term ‘viola’ may be a bit of a misnomer to our ears, since this is clearly some type of parlour guitar or large mandolin — or ‘chordophone’ if you want to be picky.

It has five courses (pairs) of strings and originated in Braga, North-western Portugal. It’s used in traditional Fado music but the tuning is anyone’s guess; I’ve seen at least five different suggestions online.

The top is lime, with a mahogany neck and sucupira fingerboard (that’s a Brazilian hardwood).

Overall, it’s an incredibly light instrument — lighter than a lot of classical guitars — and the tone is bright and chiming. A beautiful way to experiment with chorus-like tones and textures, much sweeter than a 12-string guitar.

The most unusual aspect is the unique Portuguese traditional headstock, with a shield scroll top and fanned tuning pegs. Beautiful as this arrangement may be, I must recommend getting the standard tuners.

The fan tuners are delicate and worse still, require those infamous and elusive double-loop end strings. I spent many hellish hours making my own set of these when I couldn’t get factory-made ones. There’s a special technique — I now realise. My advice: don’t do it.

Viola de Braguesa headstock

Viola de Braguesa headstock