Carlos Paredes, 79, a virtuoso of the Portuguese guitar, died Friday at a retirement home in Lisbon after a prolonged bone illness and diabetes.
Paredes was born in Coimbra and started playing the 12-string Portuguese guitar as a child after failing as a violinist.
The Portuguese guitar, which is in the same instrument family as the mandolin, emerged in the 18th century and is commonly used for playing the country's mournful, pensive music called fado.
"I was seized by the magic of the instrument and its historic possibilities," Paredes, who represented the fifth generation of guitarists in his family, once said of the Portuguese instrument.
His music was based on the roots of fado but with his own particular twist, and was considered a hallmark of Portuguese culture.
He recorded his first album in 1957, and released several works and soundtracks through the early 1990s until health issues forced him to curtail his playing.
"He was a genius, a great artist who gave a universal dimension to the Portuguese guitar, and through his music expressed the Portuguese soul," said poet and politician Manuel Alegre.