Guitarrón Chileno

Name: Guitarrón Chileno.
Type: Lute > Chordophone.
Hornbostel Sachs No#:
Country: Chile.
Region: South America.

Description: The Guitarrón Chileno [literal meaning, “large Chilean guitar”] is a guitar-like plucked string instrument from Chile, with 25 or rarely 24 strings. Its primary contemporary use is as the instrumental accompaniment for the traditional Chilean genre of singing poetry known as Canto a lo Poeta, though a few virtuosi have also begun to develop the instrument’s solo possibilities.

History: The origin of the Guitarrón Chileno may date back to the 16th century. Although the name suggests an instrument derived from the guitar, the design, tuning, and playing technique of the instrument are more closely linked to a common ancestor of the guitar, the vihuela of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. There are also some design similarities to the Baroque archlutes, though a direct connection is uncertain. Technologically the instrument has followed an evolution similar to that of the guitar. The old instruments used tied-on gut frets and friction tuning pegs (similar to the violin), but modern instruments employ metal frets and geared tuning machines, like those of modern guitars.

Repertoire: Originally the guitarrón chileno was a folk instrument seen primarily in rural areas; however, recent interest in “world music”, and in the revival of traditional folk music forms has led to increased interest in the instrument in more urban areas and contemporary musical settings. The Guitarrón Chileno is mainly used to accompany el Canto a lo Poeta [the Poet Singing], an old Chilean folk genre that combines décima (a ten-line poetic form) and payada [improvisation]. The music embraces two main groups of themes: Canto a lo Divino, lit. “Singing to the Divine” solemn, religious, more prepared themes; and Canto a lo Humano, lit. “Singing to the Human” [humorous, amorous, and social criticism themes]. This instrument is also used to perform in other musical forms like cuecas, tonadas, valses and polkas.