Jose Alvarez Dulcet baritone ukulele

kincaid999

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Hi all,

I recently acquired my second ukulele, a Jose Alvarez Dulcet baritone ukulele from the 1930s.

Try as I might, I can't find anything at all about baritone ukuleles made by Jose Alvarez.

Does anyone have any information about them? I picked it up in a music shop, started playing

it and fell in love.

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Yes, that's what I've read too. The label inside seems to correspond to other Dulcet Ukuleles made around the time of the Spanish civil war though. I'm a little confused.
 
Yes, that's what I've read too. The label inside seems to correspond to other Dulcet Ukuleles made around the time of the Spanish civil war though. I'm a little confused.

History changes more quickly and more often than you might think! Some folks bristle at the concept of "revisionism", but hey, that's what research is for! To update old assumptions with newly discovered facts. It's certainly worth using the weight of historical insight to balance new discoveries while the record gets sorted out, but the possibility of not just making new discoveries, but documenting them, is why historians bother at all.

Who knows? This ukulele and its label might be the thing that motivates someone to update Wikipedia and other sources with the information that you're bringing to light! We're a long way from filling in all the gaps we're missing in the ukulele's relatively short history, so I'm really curious where this might go!
 
Yes, that's what I've read too. The label inside seems to correspond to other Dulcet Ukuleles made around the time of the Spanish civil war though. I'm a little confused.
It would be fun to see the label!
 
That's a cavaquinho, a type of 4 string lute - a relative of the machete which eventually evolved into the ukulele. It's entirely possible that someone from Favilla saw one, of course.

As to Jose Avarez (they were called "Dulcet" when they were imported for Rose Morris), they made guitars too. The ones I've tried are only medium quality. It is still a nice thing though.
 
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So the cavaquinho is basically a baritone ukulele under another name? Same tuning etc. I don't know a lot about Dulcet ukuleles,
but apparently George Formby had one in his regular line up so I figure they must have been reasonable quality for the time. My one
was advertised as a baritone Ukulele. Here's the label, headstock and case;



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I've looked up cavaquinhos and they don't look very similar to my one. One notable difference seems to be the fixed bridge on the cavaquinhos, whereas mine has a floating bridge and strings secured in a different way. Jose Alvarez was Spanish rather than Portuguese and I can't find any record of the brand making anything but guitars and ukuleles.
 
@kincaid999 It's interesting that your instrument has a tailpiece that the strings attach to. Are they tied in knots at the tailpiece?
 
That is something I haven't seen before on a uke, though I'm by no means an expert (far from it). Thanks for posting, it's a fascinating instrument you've got there. Congrats.
 
I've looked up cavaquinhos and they don't look very similar to my one. One notable difference seems to be the fixed bridge on the cavaquinhos, whereas mine has a floating bridge and strings secured in a different way. Jose Alvarez was Spanish rather than Portuguese and I can't find any record of the brand making anything but guitars and ukuleles.
I hope it doesn't sound that I'm writing off the thing you've bought. It doesn't matter what it is or it isn't, provided you like it. But I don't think it is a baritone ukulele and neither of the things you've said convince me otherwise

"Cavaquinho" is actually a family of instruments, not just the one instrument. If you wanted to be pedantic, you might call a Spanish cavaquinho a "guitarrico" but actually either name is correct. As to the instrument and its country of origin - they were made for export by a luthier called Telesforo Julve - As I understand, there was never a a luthier called Jose Alvarez who made instruments for export (the Alvarez that still makes ukuleles and guitars is a different company again, they're American/Japanese). Julve would put different makers labels on his instruments depending on who he was making them for.

Consistent with instruments of this kind, Jose Alvarez soprano ukes of a similar age have a similar floating bridge arrangement. The presence or absence of such a thing doesn't really help you classify it. There are lots of luthiers who make archtop ukuleles, both now and historically. Toby Chennell springs to mind now but there are many others.

So the cavaquinho is basically a baritone ukulele under another name?
No - they are different instruments. Superficially, cavaquinhos look similar and have similar scale length to a baritone uke, but they commonly had a different tuning and the music is very different to what you or I would associate with the music people would now associate with baritone ukulele. And as you've seen they are built differently to ukuleles.

As to quality, they were mass-produced for export at low cost. The three I have played were not things I'd want to own myself and they aren't built like a "decent" ukulele, but that means nothing. Out of a batch of mass-produced ukuleles one will be better than the others.

TL: DR; It doesn't really matter about the quality or otherwise or what either of us choose to call your new (old!) instrument. If you like it, it's good.
 
I think we are all confused. As far as I'm aware, a Cavaquinho is similar in size to a soprano ukulele and was in fact the ukuleles predecessor.
Maybe its a Baritone Cavaquinho. Maybe its an early tenor guitar.
I'm guessing too.

This instruments narrow neck and proportions are saying tenor guitar to me, rather than baritone ukulele.
 
I think we are all confused. As far as I'm aware, a Cavaquinho is similar in size to a soprano ukulele and was in fact the ukuleles predecessor.
Maybe its a Baritone Cavaquinho. Maybe its an early tenor guitar.
I'm guessing too.

This instruments narrow neck and proportions are saying tenor guitar to me, rather than baritone ukulele.
I saw a tenor guitar when I observed the first picture.
 
Interesting point about it possibly being a tenor guitar. The tailpiece at the very back of the instrument allows for longer strings than ukulele strings. Though I have to say, that tailpiece looks like it might have been added on, rather than part of the original manufacture.
 
I think we are all confused.
As I said, actually there is more than one type of cavaquinho, they're a family of instruments. If you want to be pedantic a Spanish luthier at the time might have called that instrument a guitarico.

I don't see it being a tenor guitar. The neck is too wide. I have a John Grey soprano uke with a similar neck - very narrow by modern uke standards.

Of course, I could be wrong. I've never claimed to be an expert, just a collector.

Put steel strings on it and tell us if the neck twists!
 
Hi all,

I recently acquired my second ukulele, a Jose Alvarez Dulcet baritone ukulele from the 1930s.

Try as I might, I can't find anything at all about baritone ukuleles made by Jose Alvarez.

Does anyone have any information about them? I picked it up in a music shop, started playing

it and fell in love.

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What a great find, @kincaid999 . Regardless of the technical name for it, it sounds like you're enjoying the instrument, and it sure is a fascinating specimen.
 
Guitarrico would be a more contemporary name for these instruments - small guitar.

In the 1910s to 1930s several Spanish guitar workshops also built smaller instruments. Typically they had golpeadores-pickguards, broad saddles without a bridge, a spanish heel and 11 or 12 frets. Save for the heel, this one seems to be an exception, and could be meant for a tenor guitar tuning.

The guitar workshops were Enrique Gonzáles (Madrid), Telesfor Juve (Valencia), Juan Goméz (Barcelona), Manuel Lopéz (Madrid), Martinéz (unknown), Salvador Ibáñez (Valencia), José Serratosa (Barcelona), Vincente Tatay and 7 of his 8 Hijos de Tatay (Valencia) and José Alvaréz (Barcelona).

The Spanish Civil war put an end to that production. In the 1930 several British instrument distributors discovered you could sell than as ukuleles by a different name: Windsor made a deal with Gomez, Dallas made one with Lopéz en Ibáñez (perhaps Lopéz was just a brand name used by Ibañéz) and John Grey with Alvaréz. Very often they replaced the friction tuners with metal geared tuners. Even George Formby travelled around with an Alvaréz guitaricco...
 
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