Portuguese musical traditions are diverse and dynamic, they reflect multifarious historical, cultural, and political processes with influences from non-European cultures from both North and sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil.
Polyphonic music, employing multiple vocal parts in harmony, was developed in the 15th century. The Renaissance fostered a rich output of compositions for solo instruments and ensembles as well as for the voice.
In all the times and all places mankind always showed great ingenuity making sound and music from existing materials in its natural environment. The voice and the clapping of hands can certainly be considered the first instrumental forms used by man.
The Iberian Peninsula was home to a lot of different peoples and cultures, so its normal to these cultures to influence the others but still retain a little of their aspects - this happened with the Portuguese music. Even in the present one can find types of instruments from different places, such as the bagpipes and the Arab adufe, but they are now and forever a part of the Portuguese culture.
From the Pauliteiros de Miranda in the Terra de Miranda to the Corridinho in the Algarve, the traditional music and songs transpire a poetic character that tells the history of a community to other people and generations to come.
Here is a list of Portuguese traditional instruments.
Bombos are large bass drums that are played in a vertical fashion. They can be up to eighty cm in diameter. Usually the musician hits only one side of the skins, producing a deep and low sound.
The adufe is a square double skinned frame drum. The skins are sewn together, often with seeds between them. It is held with the thumbs of both hands and the pointer of the right hand, leaving the other fingers free to hit the instrument. This instrument was introduced in Portugal when Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula (see Al-Andalus).
The sarronca is a friction membranophone composed of a stretched skin over a jug that will serve as a resonance box. Sound is emitted when a stick or a reed is rubbed against the skin.
The Portuguese guitar is a 12 string instrument originating in the Middle Ages, based on the cittern and the Oud, the Arabic lute.
The Viola Braguesa is an instrument resembling the guitar strung with five steel strings. It is played using all five strings at the same time.
Viola de Arame:
Very similar to the Braguesa, it has a sound hole in the shape of two hearts. This kind of guitar is common on Madeira and Azores.
Almost extinct. Its sound hole has a horizontal oval shape and it has 12 strings organized in five orders. See also viola caipira.
The cavaquinho is a small string instrument of the European guitar family with four wires or gut strings. The Hawaiian Islands have an instrument similar to the cavaquinho called the ukulele, which is thought to be a development of the cavaquinho, brought to the island by Portuguese immigrants. The Hawaiian ukulele has four strings and a similar shape to the cavaquinho, which was introduced into Hawaii by Augusto Dias, Manuel Nunes, and João Fernandes in 1879.
The braguinha is a kind of cavaquinho that is usually found in Madeira.
Gaita de Foles (bagpipe):
Wind instrument consisting of two or more single- or double-reed pipes, the reeds being vibrated by wind fed by arm pressure on a skin or cloth bag. The pipes are held in wooden sockets tied into the bag, which is inflated either by the mouth or by bellows strapped to the body. Melodies are played on the finger holes of the melody pipe, or chanter, while the remaining pipes, or drones, sound single notes. The early bag was an animal bladder or a nearly whole sheepskin or goatskin. Bagpipes have been documented on the Iberian peninsula as early as the 13th Century, appearing in the illuminations of the Cantigas de Santa Maria. Bagpipes have always been folk instruments, but after the 15th century some were used for court music, and others have survived as military instruments.
The Palheta is a double reed woodwind instrument similar to the oboe.
Concertina is the name by which the diatonic button accordion is known in Portugal. It consists of a body in two parts, each generally rectangular in shape, separated by a bellows. On each part of the body is a keyboard containing buttons, levers or piano-style keys. When pressed, the buttons travel in a direction perpendicular to the motion of the bellows (towards the performer). Most, but not all modern accordions also have buttons capable of producing entire chords.