Antonio Carvalho Acoustic Cavaquinho

My Minho Cavaquinho

apc ray mouth cavaquinho
APC portuguese cavaquinho back
Antonio Carvalho APC 103 cavaquinho at Lardy's Ukulele Database

Publicity Photo of a 103

I have had to put Picanto Black Nylon Strings on it and tune it to g~C~E~A - still sounds interesting though

Antonio Carvalho Model 103 Minho Cavaquinho

The Cavaquinho (a.k.a. Machimbo, Machim, Machete, Manchete or Marchete or Cavaco, (though apart from history books the only place I have seen any of these other names used is in Brazil the Brazilian Cavaquinho is often called the Cavaco) is believed to be the grandmother of the Ukulele. It comes from Portugal via Maderia, (where the mother is the Braguinha, or Madeira Cavaquinho) and is exactly the same size as a Soprano Ukulele so can be strung tuned and played as a Soprano, however as an instrument in its own right it has two major differences to the Ukulele. The first is it usually has steel strings, and the second is, as a Cavaquinho it should be tuned D~G~B~D (Slack G but it can be tuned D~G~B~E like a Baritone but an octave higher). This Antonio Carvalho was manufactured, partly by hand, in Braga, Portugal and the sound hole design is pretty traditional and know as "Ray Mouthed"

Mine came with steel strings that I was told were Cavaquinho strings though it always seemed odd as they all appeared to be pretty much the same gauge? I tried tuning it to DGBE and it made a very interesting sound but I always had trouble tuning it as the D sting did not stay in tune as you progressed down the neck. As I suspected the strings I got a new set of D'Addario Cavaquinho strings and found these strings were noticeably different in gauge size. In trying to restring the Cavaquinho however I found two issues. Firstly, it is definitely hand made but on close inspection not particularly well and second it is tricky to string a Cavaquinho and I broke one of the new strings! The not well made was by far the biggest issue though, and this is exacerbated by the softwood Pine soundboard used on Cavaquinho's (that is why they have Golpeadors, though mine is fake and just wood stain. The bridge was not very well set up and it was very difficult to string at all - at one stage I thought I wasn't going to manage it but in the end I have managed to get a set of black Picanto nylon stings on. I don't think I will try and change them now and it tunes up fine as a Soprano with a gCEA tuning. Even though it no longer has steel strings on it still has quite a distinctive tone and a lovely pine smell.

Now I have other Cavaquinhos with the steel strings on so I can set them for D~G~B~E and for D~G~B~D - and I could always get another Minho Cavaquinho especially if I went to Portugal and saw a nice local one.