Tres Cubano

Name: Tres Cubano.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitarillos.
Hornbostel-Sachs no#: 321.321.6
Country: Cuba.
Region: Central America & Caribbean.

Description: There are numerous accounts as to the origins of the tres. The tres is a three course 6 double stringed lute of Cuban origins. Its sound has become a defining characteristic of the Cuban son and it is commonly played in a variety of Afro-Cuban genres son, son montuno, estudiantina [street music].

Cuban Tres Tunings
Names Tunings
C Major G C E
D major D F# A

History: By most accounts, the tres was first used in several related Afro-Cuban musical genres originating in eastern Cuba: the nengón, kiribá, changüí and son, all of which developed during the 19th century. Benjamin Lapidus states: “The tres holds a position of great importance not only in changüí, but in the musical culture of Cuba as a whole.” One theory holds that initially, a guitar, tiple or bandola was used in the son. They were eventually replaced by a new native-born instrument, a fusion of all three, called the tres.

Helio Orovio writes that, in 1892, Nené Manfugás brought the tres from Baracoa, its place of origin, to Santiago de Cuba. According to Sindo Garay, the tres itself originated in Baracoa. In 1927, Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes mentioned Nené Manfugás as the first tres player from Santiago de Cuba.

However, he described the tres as having originated in “time immemorial” among Afro-Cubans, while bearing a strong resemblance to the Spanish guitar and the bandurria. According to writer Alejo Carpentier, the tres descended from the bandola itself a derivative of the Spanish bandurria, which lost two courses over time.

According to journalist Lino Dou, the tres was virtually unknown in western Cuba until 1895, when it was bought from Oriente by the mambises. Similarly, Fernando Ortiz stated that the wars between Spain and Cuba, Ten Years’ War and Cuban War of Independence gave rise to the differentiation between the Spanish guitar and the Cuban tres, the latter becoming a symbol of the creole nation.

Ortiz asserted that the tres most likely originated during pre-colonial Cuba, before gaining widespread popularity in the late 19th century. The origins of the tres and other Cuban instruments are discussed in depth by Ortiz in his seminal work Los instrumentos de la música afrocubana, published between 1952 and 1955.

Citations: Bibliography:  Orovio, Helio 2004 Cuban Music from A to Z. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p. 203. ISBN 9780822385219 ; Díaz Ayala, Cristóbal 2006 Los contrapuntos de la música cubana [in Spanish]. San Juan, PR: Ediciones Callejón ; Carpentier, Alejo 1987 “La música en Cuba”. Ese músico que llevo dentro 3 – La música en Cuba [in Spanish]. Mexico DF: Siglo XXI. p. 242. ISBN 9789682314131 ; Websites:

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