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A tiple (English pronunciation: /ˈTIH pul/ ; Spanish pronunciation: /ˈTEE play/ , literally treble or soprano), is a plucked-string chordophone of the guitar family. A tiple player is called a tiplista. The first mention of the tiple comes from musicologist Pablo Minguet e Irol in 1752. Although many variations of the instrument exist, the tiple is mostly associated with Colombia, and is considered the national instrument.

A soprano[soˈpraːno] is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) = 880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) = 1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which often encompasses the melody. The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.

Chordophone class of musical instruments that makes sound by way of a vibrating string or strings stretched between two points

A chordophone is a musical instrument that makes sound by way of a vibrating string or strings stretched between two points. It is one of the four main divisions of instruments in the original Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification.

Guitar Fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the finger(s)/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.


Tiple family

Colombian tiple

Colombian Tiple Tiple.jpg
Colombian Tiple

The tiple Colombiano (Colombian tiple) is an instrument of the guitar family, similar in appearance although slightly smaller (about 18%) than a standard classical guitar. The typical fretboard scale is about 530 mm (just under 21 inches), and the neck joins the body at the 12th fret. There are 12 strings, grouped in four tripled courses. Traditional tuning from lowest to highest course is C E A D, although many modern players tune the instrument like the upper four strings of the modern guitar: D G B E. The outer two strings of each of the three lowest triple courses is tuned an octave higher than the middle string in the course (giving C4 C3 C4 • E4 E3 E4 • A4 A3 A4 • D4 D4 D4 in traditional tuning, or D4 D3 D4 • G4 G3 G4 • B4 B3 B4 • E4 E4 E4 in modern tuning). An 18 or 19 fret fingerboard give the tiple Colombiano a range of about 2-2/3 octaves, from C3 - G#5 (or A5). The tiple is used for many traditional Colombian music including bambucos and pasillos. It serves both as an accompanying instrument and for soloing. [1] One of the main composers of tiple music is Pacho Benavides.

Colombia Country in South America

Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a sovereign state largely situated in the north of South America, with land, and territories in North America. Colombia is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the west by the Pacific. It comprises thirty-two departments, with the capital in Bogotá.

Classical guitar acoustic wooden guitar with wide neck, strings made of nylon

The classical guitar is a member of the guitar family used in classical music. An acoustic wooden string instrument with strings made of gut or nylon, it is a precursor of the acoustic and electric guitars which use metal strings. Classical guitars are derived from the Spanish vihuela and gittern in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, which later evolved into the seventeenth and eighteenth century Baroque guitar and later the modern classical guitar in the mid nineteenth century.

Course (music) two or more adjacent strings on a musical instrument

A course, on a stringed musical instrument, is two or more adjacent strings that are closely spaced relative to the other strings, and typically played as a single string. The strings in each course are typically tuned in unison or an octave. Course may also refer to a single string normally played on its own on an instrument with other multi-string courses, for example the bass (lowest) string on a nine-string baroque guitar.

David Pelham says of the Colombian tiple: "The tiple is a Colombian adaptation of the Renaissance Spanish vihuela brought to the New World in the 16th century by the Spanish conquistadors. At the end of the 19th century, it evolved to its present shape. Its twelve strings are arranged in four groups of three: the first group consists of three steel strings tuned to E, the second, third and fourth groups have a copper string in the middle of two steel strings. The central ones are tuned one octave lower than the surrounding strings of the group. This arrangement produces the set of harmonics that gives the instrument its unique voice. [2] Outside of Colombia the "copper" strings are more often standard brass or bronze wound steel guitar strings.

Renaissance European cultural period, 14th to 17th century

The Renaissance is a period in European history, covering the span between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. The traditional view focuses more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argues that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the Middle Ages.

Vihuela guitar-shaped string instrument from 15th and 16th century Spain, Portugal and Italy, usually with five or six doubled strings

The vihuela is a guitar-shaped string instrument from 15th- and 16th-century Spain, Portugal and Italy, usually with five or six doubled strings.

Another variant, the tiple Colombiano requinto, is often simply called tiple requinto. This instrument is about 10-15% smaller than the tiple Colombiano, and the central octave strings of the larger instrument are tuned in unisions, giving either a C4 C4 C4 • E4 E4 E4 • A4 A4 A4 • D4 D4 D4 tuning (traditional), or a D4 D4 D4 • G4 G4 G4 • B4 B4 B4 • E4 E4 E4 tuning (modern). The tiple requinto is sometimes made in more of a violin or "hourglass" shape, than a guitar shape. These differences give it a generally thinner, higher-pitched sound than the tiple Colombiano, even though most of its tuning is in the same range as the larger instrument. [3]

Puerto Rican tiples

The tiple is the smallest of the three string instruments of Puerto Rico that make up the orquesta jibara (i.e., the Cuatro, the tiple and the Bordonua). According to investigations made by Jose Reyes Zamora, the tiple in Puerto Rico dates back to the 18th century. It is believed to have evolved from the Spanish guitarrillo. There was never a standard for the tiple and as a result there are many variations throughout the island of Puerto Rico. Most tiples have four or five strings and most tiple requintos have three strings. Some tiples have as many as 6 strings and as few as a single string, though these types are rare. [4]

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.


The Bordonua (Bordonúa) is a large, deep body bass guitar which is native to Puerto Rico. They are made using several different shapes and sizes.

The main types of tiple in Puerto Rico are:

Banjo musical instrument

The banjo is a four-, five-, or six-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator, called the head, which is typically circular. The membrane is typically made of plastic, although animal skin is still occasionally used. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by Africans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk, Irish traditional, and country music. Banjo can also be used in some rock songs. Many rock bands, such as The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. Along with the fiddle, the banjo is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.

Puerto Rican Tiple Doliente TipleDoliente.jpg
Puerto Rican Tiple Doliente

The tiple that is now most often played in Puerto Rico is the tiple doliente. It has recently acquired a more or less fixed body shape narrowing at the top and having 5 metal strings (see the accompanying photo). It is usually made like the cuatro, so either constructed like a guitar, or from one piece of wood hollowed out. The bottom half of the body is rounded like a guitar, however the top half is square, or triangular. All other features (like neck and bridge) resemble the construction of a normal Spanish guitar. The peghead has tuning machines either from the side or from the back. The strings of the tiple doliente are tuned: E3 A3 D4 G4 C5.

Tiple Venezolano

This tiple from Venezuela, looks like a smaller version of the Colombian Tiple. It has 4 pairs of triple strings and is also known as the Guitarro, Guitarro Segundo, and the Segunda Guitarra. There is another tiple played in Venezuela but is a member of the Venezuelan Cuatro family of instruments, also called a tiple and known as the Cinco y Medio or Cinco. It is very much like the Cuatro but it has 5 strings instead of four. [6]

Tiple de Menorca

On the Spanish Balearic island of Menorca, a tiple is an instrument with five single nylon strings. [6]

Tiple Cubano

A tiple Cubano, has five doubled courses of strings, ten in total. [6]

Tiple de Santo Domingo

The tiple de Santo Domingo, also known as tiple Dominicano or tiplet, also has five doubled courses, for ten in total. The strings are steel. It is tuned C4, F4, A#4, D5, G5. All of the courses are tuned in unison. [6]

Tiple Peruano

Peru has a tiple with four single or doubled steel strings. It is tuned A3, E4, B4, F#5. [6]

Tiples in Uruguay and Argentina

In Uruguay and Argentina, sometimes the requinto guitar is called a tiple. [6]

Other versions

U.S./American/Martin tiple

The American tiple was designed in 1919 by the American guitar company C.F. Martin & Co. for the William J. Smith Co. in New York and was most popular through the 1920s-40s ukulele craze. This tiple is close in length to a tenor ukulele, but with a deeper body. Unlike a ukulele, it has ten steel strings in four mixed-octave courses of 2, 3, 3, and 2 strings. Manufactured for a half century, the Martin tiple was used in jazz, blues and old-time country bands, and as a louder-volume ukulele. It was tuned similarly to a D-tuned ukulele:

A4 A3 • D4 D3 D4 • F#4 F#3 F#4 • B3 B3. (Wound octave-lower strings are indicated A3, D3 and F#3.) A more recent manufacturer of similar instruments recommends tuning a full tone lower, as mentioned below, similar to contemporary ukuleles.

Martin produced mahogany and rosewood bodied tiples, following a model-identification system similar to its guitars: T-15 and T-17, mahogany top, back and sides; T-18, spruce top, mahogany back and sides; T-28, spruce top, rosewood back and sides; T-45, spruce top, rosewood back and sides, fancy abalone inlay. Martin's tiple production continued off-and-on into the 1970s.

Martin tiple Martin tiple.jpg
Martin tiple

Similar instruments were made by Regal, D'Angelico and other companies during the early decades of Martin production.

In the 21st century, the Ohana ukulele company began manufacturing an all-mahogany tiple similar to the Martin, but calling it "a vintage ukulele inspired by the Columbian Tiple." The company recommended tuning with the lowest note a C. (G3 G4 – C4 C3 C4 – E4 E3 E4 – A4 A4)

Tiple strings and tuning: Guitar-style metal strings are used, and in addition to the original ukulele-style tuning (above) used, the American tiple is reportedly sometimes tuned like the upper four courses of the guitar, presumably with special sets of strings.

Martin tiple dimensions:

Overall length: 27 1/4"

Body length: 12 1/16"

Width, upper bout: 6 5/8"

Width, lower bout: 8 15/16"

Depth, body upper part: 3 1/16"

Depth, body lower part: 3 9/16"

Width at nut: 1 1/2"

Width of fingerboard at 12th fret: 1 3/4"

Diameter of sound hole 2 5/8"

Scale length 17"


Electric tiples

Electric tiples usually follow either the Colombian (12-string) or "Martin" (10-string) tuning and string arrangement.[ citation needed ]

Spanish tiples

In Spain there are similar instruments. This tiny guitar has four strings and is found in Menorca. Other types of small guitars in Spain are the guitarra, guitarro and guitarrico. [7]

Portuguese tiples

Related Portuguese instruments are the cavaquinho or braguinha and the rajâo. The braguinha and the rajâo taken to Hawai'i by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira are the forerunners of the ukulele.

Canary Island timple

Timple seen from front Timple Front.png
Timple seen from front
Timple seen from side Timple Side.png
Timple seen from side

Migrating from North Africa in the 16th century to the Canary Islands [ citation needed ] and then on to Murcia, the timple has become the traditional instrument of the Canaries. In Palma and in the north of the island of Tenerife some players omit the fifth string, tuning the timple like a ukulele, though nowadays this is often seen as non-standard by players in other regions where five strings are preferred. The popular timple tuning is GCEAD. [7]

Other instruments

The word "tiple" basically means "treble" or "high pitched", and has been used occasionally for the names of other instruments not directly members of the tiple-family proper. One such is the Marxochime Hawaiian tiple, which bears no resemblance to the traditional tiples, but looks like (and is) a variety of zither. It is played with a combination of plucking, strumming, and playing with a slide similar to a lap steel guitar. The instrument is one of many zither variants marketed within the United States during the early 20th century, of which only the autoharp ever achieved lasting popularity. The instrument, also known as the "Tremola", carries the "Hawaiian tiple" name solely for marketing purposes, as interest in Hawaiian music and culture was high in mainland America during the period when the instrument was marketed. [8]

Resources and sources

Colombian tiple:

Puerto Rican tiple:

Spanish tiple:

Timple Canario:

Tiple Cubano:

Tiple Dominicano, Tiple Argentino, Banjo Tiple, Tiple Uruguayo, and the Tiple Venezolano:

Marxochime Hawaiian Tiple:

Related Research Articles

Ukulele member of the guitar family

The ukulele or ukelele is a member of the guitar family of instruments. It generally employs four nylon or gut strings or four courses of strings. Some strings may be paired in courses, giving the instrument a total of six or eight strings.

Twelve-string guitar steel-string guitar with 6 double courses

The 12-string guitar is a steel-string guitar with 12 strings in six courses, which produces a richer, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar. Typically, the strings of the lower four courses are tuned in octaves, with those of the upper two courses tuned in unison. The gap between the strings within each dual-string course is narrow, and the strings of each course are fretted and plucked as a single unit. The neck is wider, to accommodate the extra strings, and is similar to the width of a classical guitar neck. The sound, particularly on acoustical instruments, is fuller and more harmonically resonant than six-string instruments.

The tres is a three-course chordophone of Cuban origin. The most widespread variety of the instrument is the original Cuban tres with six strings. Its sound has become a defining characteristic of the Cuban son and it is commonly played in a variety of Afro-Cuban genres. In the 1930s, the instrument was adapted into the Puerto Rican tres, which has nine strings and a body similar to that of the cuatro.

The term requinto is used in both Spanish and Portuguese to mean a smaller, higher-pitched version of another instrument. Thus, there are requinto guitars, drums, and several wind instruments.

The cuatro is a family of Latin American string instruments found in Central and South America, Puerto Rico and other parts of the West Indies, derived from the Spanish guitar. Although some have viola-like shapes, most cuatros resemble a small to mid-sized classical guitar.

Plucked string instrument belong to the group of string instruments

Plucked string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by plucking the strings. Plucking is a way of pulling and releasing the string in such a way as to give it an impulse that causes the string to vibrate. Plucking can be done with either a finger or a plectrum.

Mexican vihuela

The Mexican vihuela[biˈwe.la] is a guitar-like string instrument from 19th-century Mexico with five strings and typically played in mariachi groups.

Reentrant tuning effect that occurs with a break in the sequence of pitches to which the strings of a stringed instrument are tuned

On a stringed instrument, a break in an otherwise ascending order of string pitches is known as a re-entry. A re-entrant tuning, therefore, is a tuning where the strings are not all ordered from the lowest pitch to the highest pitch.

This is a chart of stringed instrument tunings. Instruments are listed alphabetically by their most commonly known name.

Guitarro (instrument) instrument

The Guitarro is a small, baroque, five-stringed guitar from Aragon, slightly larger than the requinto or cavaquinho. The instrument is also found in other regions of Spain, such as Andalusia, La Mancha, and Murcia.


A guitalele, also called a kīkū, is a guitar-ukulele hybrid, that is, "a 1/4 size" guitar, a cross between a classical guitar and a tenor or baritone ukulele. The guitalele combines the portability of a ukulele, due to its small size, with the six single strings and resultant chord possibilities of a classical guitar. It may include a built-in microphone that permits playing the guitalele either as an acoustic guitar or connected to an amplifier. The guitalele is variously marketed as a travel guitar or children's guitar. It is essentially a modern iteration of the Quint guitar.

The octophone is a stringed musical instrument related to the mandola family resembling an octave mandolin. It was marketed by Regal Musical Instrument Company, who introduced it 21 January 1928, as an "eight-purpose instrument".

Puerto Rican cuatro Musical instrument

The Puerto Rican cuatro is the national instrument of Puerto Rico. It belongs to the lute family of string instruments, and is guitar-like in function, but with a shape closer to that of the violin. The word cuatro means "four", which was the total number of strings of the earliest Puerto Rican instrument known by the cuatro name.

Colombian tiple 12-string guitar type with 4 triple courses

The Tiple Colombiano, or Colombian tiple (pronounced:tee-pleh), is a plucked string instrument of the guitar family, common in Colombia where it is considered one of the national instruments. About three-fourths the size of a classical guitar, it has twelve strings set in four triple-strung courses. It is played as a main instrument or as an accompanying instrument to the guitar.

Viola da terra

Viola da terra is a stringed musical instrument from the islands of the Azores, closely associated with the saudade genre of Portuguese music. Its 12 or 15 metal strings are arranged in either five or six courses.

Tiple (Puerto Rico) Smallest of the three string instruments of Puerto Rico

For other instruments also named Tiple, see Tiple.


  1. Zuluanga, David Puerta; Los Caminos del Tiple [The Evolution of the Tiple]; DamelPublishers; Bogota, Colombia: 1988. 208pp.
  2. Morales, Abadia; Instrumentos Musicales del Folklore Colombiano [Musical Instruments of Colombian Folklore]; Banco Popular; Bogota, Colombia: 1991.
  3. Davison, Harry C.; Diccionario Folklorico de Colombia: Musica, Instrumentos y Danza [Dictionary of Folklore in Colombia: Music, Instruments, and Dance]; Banco de Republica; Bogoto, Colombia: 1970.
  4. "Puerto Rico's Tiples" . Retrieved 30 November 2018.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  5. "A Bouquet of Tiples!" . Retrieved 30 November 2018.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Ficha del Tiple". pacoweb.net. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  7. 1 2 Sánchez, Juanma. "Instrumentos Tradicionales Ibéricos". www.tamborileros.com. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  8. "Marxochime Hawaiian Tiple". www.planetgaa.com. Retrieved 30 November 2018.