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Puerto Rico's Tiples

The jíbaro's oldest instrument and the
early soprano voice of the old jíbaro orchestra

Prof. Orlando Laureano is a distinguished tiplista who has elevated the small instrument from its rustic origins to a high level within modern music. The photograph show a tiple made by Aurelio Cruz Pagán of Morovis

The tiple is the most ancient member of the family of Puerto Rican native stringed instruments. Tiples were used predominantly in the Island's most isolated communities, usually to accompany sacred songs. It is derived from the tiny Spanish guitarrillos of the the 16th century and of the similarly-derived timples of the Canary Islands, brought to the Island during early colonial times. During the centuries different tiples have evolved, some with three, four and five strings, tuned in numerous ways and configurations according to the custom of each region. During the end of the 19th century jíbaros combined the tiple with a cuatro and a bordonúa in an ensemble called orquesta jíbara antigua to play their own adaptations of European salon music, such as the waltz, the minuet, the mazurka, that they overheard emanating from fancy salons of the day. The tiple would have completely disappeared during the second half of the twentieth century had it not been for the efforts of the Institute of Puerto Rican culture and concerned players and researchers such as Alexis Morales Cales, José Reyes Zamora, Vicente Valentín, Juan "Kacho" Montalvo, Orlando Laureano and the Puerto Rican Cuatro Project, among others who have vigorously strived to rescue the instrument from oblivion.


We see here a Puerto Rican tiple made during the 19th century, housed in the Teodoro Vidal collection currently found at the National Museum of American History in Washington DC. This example, and a jíbaro guitar in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City are the only two samples of 19th century traditional Puerto Rican instruments that we have been able to find in perfect condition.

What does a Puerto Rican tiple sound like?

Sacred music played on a tiple and guitar, recorded by Juan "Kacho" Montalvo for his CD, "Adoradores del Fuego"

Maso Rivera plays a tiple on the guaracha "Llevame Contigo." The great Ernestina Reyes, "La Calandria" sings.






























We recently found a very old Puerto Rican tiple!

The Cuatro Project recently came upon a tiple requinto belonging to the family of the late tiplista  Celestino Santiago (Don Lute) of Coamo--its original owner--probably made between 1910 and 1925. He played single-note melodies on it with a pick. From the notches in the nut and the number of pegs, the tiple appeared to be disposed for three double or single courses. The approximate measurements are:

Lower bout, 7’’

Upper bout, 4.75’’

Waist,  3’

Soundbox Depth, 2"

Soundbox length, 16’’










A bouquet of tiples!

Tiple Doliente    
Tiple Requinto    
Three-string tiple: "Tres"    
Tiple Quinto    
Tiple con Macho o Tiplón    
Tiple Mayor