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The cavaquinho is a scion of the ukulele family. It developed from the same Portuguese instrument as the uke: the machete. The machete developed into the Cavaquinho in Brazil. Hence, today there are two distinct types of cavaquiho: the Portuguese cavaquinho and the Brazilian cavaquinho.

Like the uke, the cavaquinho has four strings but these are usually tuned D, G, B, D (creating an open G chord). This gives the strings the same relative pitch as the slack-key ukulele tuning. The strings go from low to high rather than being re-entrant and are usually steel strings.

If you’re used to uke chords, you can tune the higher D string up to E. Then all the ukulele chord shapes you know will work on the ukulele.

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  1. Thys February 3rd, 2014 3:33 am

    The cavaquinho actually has two distinct forms, the Portuguese and Brazillian Cavaquinho. The Ukulele is actually theorized to have develop from either the machete and the Portuguese Cavaquinho.

  2. Robert February 23rd, 2015 10:51 pm

    Thanks for the notes about the cavaquinho! I love choros/chorinhos and am interested in the instrument–might buy one in Rio in a couple of months. You say the cavaquinho has the same relative pitch as a slack-key baritone ukulele, I’m curious though, is it the same pitch or are the two intruments an octave apart and that is why you say the same relative pitch?
    Thanks again!
    Austin, TX

  3. Jasmyn September 5th, 2015 9:09 am

    What are the measurements of a Giannini cavaquino? Where can I purchase a fiberglass hardcase? Would the size be a concert or tenor or baritone uke?

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