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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?

  4. Rudy Frommhold July 24th, 2016 12:23 am

    I have a cavaquinho with an unusual tuning apparatus.
    It does not have standard tuning pegs that we see on our ukuleles in North America.
    It is hard to describe – a steel plate with hooks that can are screwed in and out on the same plane as the neck.
    The strings are steel and are all the same gauge.
    The literature says it can be tuned to standard C tuning, but in trying to do so, the G and A string will tend to break and the C string is too floppy.
    I have different gauges of steel strings that I want to use to replace the ones that come with the instrument.
    (Nylgut strings just don’t sound right).
    Because of the tuner structure, I am not sure how to put new strings on.
    Has anyone done this and can you give me some advice?


  5. Karen McGavock June 17th, 2020 11:43 am

    Wondering if a cavaquino can be strung and played with ukulele strings GCEA?

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