You can’t visit Gran Canaria without hearing the upbeat sound of the timple, the traditional five-stringed instrument at the heart of any Canarian sing-along.

Timples are only about 40 centimetres long and have five (sometimes four) strings. Their exact origins are unknown although similar instruments are found in Spain and South America (the first historical reference to a timple in the Canaries is from the 18th Century). However, the timple has now evolved into a uniquely Canarian instrument.

The timple’s sound comes from its narrow but deep soundbox which gives the instrument a humped back and the nickname “camellito sonoro” (noisy camel). Nowadays you even get electric timples made from carbon fibre, although purists won’t have anything to do with them.

The best timples are made from rosewood, red eucalyptus or mulberry wood and the strings were originally made from gutstring or fishing line but are now nylon or carbon fibre.

Timples come in concert, soprano, baritone and tenor versions, each with a slightly different length and structure to create their sound.

The sound of the timple

If there’s one sound that competes with Canary song as the sound of the Canary Islands, it is the melodic sound of the timple; Like a ukelele but with a higher pitch due to its smaller size.

Every Canarian group has, at least, one timplista and they often get the star turn at informal concerts.

Where to listen to the timple

Any group of Canarian musicians at local markets, fairs and concerts will have a timple player and the timple features in almost all traditional Canarian music.

Look out for local romerias and parrandas; Canarian events always feature a local music group and a timple player. Often you’ll hear the timple as you walk around local towns at the weekend; Canarians just love a spontaneous concert.