Colombian Tiple (aka Andean Tiple)

modern columbian tiple by bastidas
Bastidas of Colombia
Musikala of Italy
vintage columbian tiple requinto
Tiple Requinto
The Tiple Colombiano (Colombian tiple) is considered the national instrument of Colombia though it is also quite common in western Venezuela too. It's history is that it was brought to this area by early Spanish settlers in the 16th century as a Vihuela, a guitar-shaped string instrument popular in 15th and 16th century Spain. It is believed the name change came about as slang to differentiate the poorer quality locally made instruments from the imported Spanish ones. In time though the Vihuela fell out of favor and the locally made instruments became the popular chordophone of the masses. This is also the time at which the instrument went from being a double string 5 or 6 course chordophone to a triple string 4 course instrument, (historically there were 5 course Tiples but no one has made them for a long time).

The instrument itself is usually about the size of a Terz Guitar or a 3/4 Classical Guitar having a figure "8" type waisted body shape with a central round soundhole. It is fretted and the neck joins the body at the 12th fret, but continues down the body to the sound hole. It has a scale length of about 550mm (21½ in), so the same as a large Baritone, 12 strings in 4 courses and traditionally its tuned C~E~A~D though increasingly it is being tuned G~D~B~E, (like a Baritone Ukulele). As it has 3 strings per course, the middle of the 3 is usually tuned an octave lower than the outer 2, apart from the highest course, so cCc~eEe~aAa~ddd (or gGg~dDd~bBb~eee if your using a Baritone tuning) and this gives it quite a full tone. The strings themselves are metal, traditionally steel outer strings with copper central ones, (apart from the high course which is all steel), however these days the copper is replaced with brass or most usually a wound steel string.

The only size variant of this chordophone is the slightly smaller Tiple Requinto with a scale length of around 470mm (18¼ in - so the size of a small Baritone Ukulele). This again has 4 courses of 3 strings and is traditionally tuned C~E~A~D, but with this variant all 3 strings are in unison so ccc~eee~aaa~ddd, and all the strings are steel. this gives it a seemingly higher but thinner tone.

Though not a very common instrument outside of Colombia it is gaining in popularity and is made in a number of other places, most notably Mexico, Italy and the Iberian peninsula

As you can see this is historically, a very distant cousin of the Ukulele but it has left a mark on Ukulele history by being one of the root instruments for the Tiple Ukulele; and increasingly being an alternative / addition to the Baritone Ukulele

Finally tiple is pronounced tee-pleh not tipple

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