Saturday, January 24, 2009

The violas (Amarantina & Caipira)

Here they are, the two violas. The one on the right is the Amarantina and the other one is the Brazilian.

The tuning I use is the one I learned in Portugal: from the bottom up, a fifth, a major second, a fourth and a fourth. I am giving the intervals, because as the viola sizes are different I actually tune them in two different keys. The Brazilian is in A: A,E,F#,B,E. The Amarantina, being smaller sounds brighter and better if tuned in C: C,G,A,D,G. However, I think in Portugal they tune it in A,to go with the other instruments of the groups it is used in.

This tuning is quite nice and gives good scope for the full open-string modal treatment, while also making some simple tonal chord sequences easy (in two or three keys). Interestingly, while the Brazilian viola has several different tunings in use, this particular one, which feels just right to me, is not known (or at least not mentioned anywhere) amongst the violeiros ('viola-players'). I must also say that while this tuning seems to be OK on the Portuguese instrument, there are a few intonation issues in the Brazilian one. I wonder if that is because the instrument is 'tempered' to go with the more usual Brazilian tunings. Or it might be just that it was not built that well (it is a factory one, with a fixed bridge, while the Portuguese has an adjustable 'floating' bridge). I have not investigated this matter
too deeply, though.

Tuning is an interesting subject, which I shall come back to later on.

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