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The Portuguese Guitarra: A Modern Cittern

The Portuguese Guitarra: A Modern Cittern

by Ronald Louis Fernández

Originally published in American Lutherie #27, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004

In Portugal, the word guitarra refers to a present-day cittern similar in appearance to and directly derived from the 18th-century English guitar. This instrument, typically accompanied by a Spanish-type guitar called viola or violão in Portuguese, is used in performing musical variations and in accompanying the fado, an urban Portuguese song form. Consequently, it is also known in Portuguese as the guitarra de fado.

While these instruments are not abundant in North America, luthiers do encounter them here, especially where Portuguese fishermen have come ashore or emigrants have settled — New Bedford and Fall River, Massachusetts; the Hawaiian Islands; Providence, Rhode Island; San Diego, San Jose, Tulare, Visalia, Artesia, and Chino, California; Newark, New Jersey; Seattle, Washington; Montreal, Quebec; Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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