Braguinha (or Braguinã) a.k.a. Madeira Cavaquinho*

Vintage Braguinha
fits all my ideals
Made in Madeira
so must be a Braguinã
Antonio Carvalho 555 Lisboa Cavaquinho braguinha Ukulele Corner
My Braguinha
but made by APC on the mainland so is it?
For the purposes of the history of the Ukulele the Braguinha can be considered as one of the two parent instruments, giving the Ukulele its basic 4 strings, shape and size, (the Rajao can be considered the other as this gave the Ukulele its tuning, including the re entrant idea). Defining its place is fairly simple but defining the instrument itself not so much.

So this instrument has 4 strings, a figure 8 body shape and a scale length of about 330mm (13 in); it is usually tuned D~G~B~D or G~G~B~D the same as a Cavaquinho. This is fine but can describe a great many instruments, not least the aforementioned Cavaquinho, so the first and simplest thing that sets it apart is its geographical setting; Braguinhas come from Madeira, a Portuguese archipelago in the mid Atlantic. The reason it was a parent instrument of the Ukulele and not the Cavaquinho is specifically because the immigrants on the Ravenscraig came from Madeira not mainland Portugal. I say all this because the Braguinha is a type of Cavaquinho and, apart from geography, saying what the differences are between it and a Lisboa Cavaquinho is very hard. Most of the instruments I have been told are Braguinhas are similar to a Lisboa Cavaquinho with a very narrow body, a 17 fret fret board that is raised over the top bout of the sound board going down to somewhere close to the round central sound hole. I was told once that the key difference between it and a Lisboa Cavaquinho was that the Braguinha has gut, (now nylon), strings whereas the Lisboa Cavaquinho has steel. This does best explain why the Ukulele uses gut or nylon strings, but since being told this most of the instruments I have seen and been told are Braguinhas are steel strung? Also I think it tricky to stick with this description when most of the early Ukuleles look much more like a Minho Cavaquinho that a Lisboa one?

So lets just say that a Braguinha is a subset of Cavaquinho that has been made in Madeira and can have gut or steel strings and leave it at that, (or go to the Braguinha section of the Museu Cavaquinho if you must know more)

* - In a lot of historical texts about Braguinhas there are a lot of other aliases like Machete, however I have never seen these names used outside of the academic texts so I am inclined to ignore them. What I do believe to be true though is the literal translation of Braguinha is "Little Braga" Braga being the area of Portugal where most of the Maderian settlers came from, and that the Viola Braguesa (trans Braga Guitar) being a lager 5 course chordophone that was popular throughout Portugal.

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