Tiple Explained

Tiple (pronounced as :tee-pleh) is the Spanish word for treble or soprano, is often applied to specific instruments, generally to refer to a small chordophone of the guitar family. A tiple player is called a tiplista.

Tiples

Colombian tiple

See main article: Colombian tiple. The Colombian tiple is an instrument of the guitar family, similar in appearance although slightly smaller than an acoustic guitar. Tiples usually have 12 strings grouped in four tripled courses, although some tiples have only ten strings. The four courses of metal strings are tuned to the same pitches as the four upper strings of the guitar: DGBE. The outer two strings of each of the three lowest triple courses is tuned an octave higher than the middle string in the course.

This tiple is associated with Colombia, and is considered the national instrument. Tiple virtuoso David Pelham has this to say about 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."

Puerto Rican tiples

See main article: Tiple (Puerto Rico). 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.

The main types of tiple in Puerto Rico are:

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 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 Tiple doliente is tuned with 5 metal strings: e a d' g' c.

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.

Tiple de Menorca

On the Spanish Balearic island of Menorca, there is an instrument called a Tiple which has 5 single nylon strings.

Tiple Cubano

There is a Tiple Cubano, which has 5 doubled courses of strings, for 10 in total.

Tiple de Santo Domingo

The Tiple de Santo Domingo, also known as Tiple Dominicano or Tiplet, also has 5 doubled courses, for 10 in total. The strings are steel. It is tuned C4, F4, A#4, D5, G5. All of the courses are tuned in unison.

Tiple Peruano

In Peru, there is a Tiple with 4 single or doubled steel strings. It is tuned A3, E4, B4, F#5.

Tiples in Uruguay and Argentina

In Uruguay and Argentina, sometimes the Requinto guitar is called a Tiple.

Modern versions

American tiple

The tiple was redesigned in 1919 by the American guitar company C.F. Martin & Co. for the William J. Smith Co. in New York. This tiple -- generally pronounced "tipple" -- has ten steel strings in four courses, tuned similarly to a D-tuned ukulele: AadDdf#F#f#BB. Many similar instruments were developed by other companies around the same time.

Tiple strings and tuning: A ukulele-style tuning can be used (this is the original) or the tiple can be tuned like a guitar.

Electric Tiples

Electric Tiples that have been designed usually follow the Colombian or Martin tuning and string arrangement.

Related instruments

Spanish tiples

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

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

See main article: Timple. Migrating from North Africa in the 16th century to the Canary Islands 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.

Trembulo

See main article: Trembulo. The trembulo and its modern cousin the trembulo fusao are similar to the tiple and may well have evolved from a common ancestor.

Unrelated instruments

Marxochime "Hawaiian" tiple

The Marxochime Hawaiian tiple bears no resemblance to the traditional tiples, instead resembling a zither. it is player 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 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.

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: