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Brazilian Guitar Makers

Brazilian Guitarmakers

by Roberto Gomes

Originally published in American Lutherie #33, 1993 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004

The guitar has been the main musical instrument in Brazil since it was brought by the Portuguese colonizers centuries ago. In those times, Baroque guitars were the most common string instruments. They had five courses of gut or wire strings. Since then it hasn’t changed much, as we can see in the “Brazilian viola” which is used for a kind of Brazilian country music called musica sertaneja (countryside music). The shape of the soundbox of this viola today resembles more a small classic guitar. Unfortunately there are very few records of those times, making it difficult to make a better study of those guitars and their makers. It’s known that most of the instruments were made in Portugal, Italy, and France.

The first decade of this century brought three immigrant families from Italy: the Gianninis, the DiGiorgios, and the DelVecchios. These families were luthiers in their country of origin and later they founded the main Brazilian guitar factories which became the backbone of Brazilian-made guitars for nearly eighty years. They made mostly classic guitars and some violins, along with Brazilian violas. They also made mandolins, first with vaulted backs like lutes and later with flat backs, which are used to play choro music.

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