Tag Archives: Guitar


Guitar Tunings / South America

These are alternate guitar tunings that are used in Peruvian and other South American Guitar traditions. The open and dropped tunings are the more commonly used alternate tunings.

Peru, South America

The same tunings under numerous different names can be found in Peru, Argentina, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. For example D / A / D / F# / B / E the D 6/9 tuning, it is known as Rondeñas in Flamenco and used in the Amazonian region of Peru. It is also known as D Ni`ihau / Old Mauna Loa tuning in Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar.

South America
South America

Peruvian guitar tunings are named classified according to genre. This also manifests in a regional manner. For example the tunings used in Cajamarca are in open major chords, for example in E or A major. Where as a raised tuning such as the D Minor tuning is favoured in the Huayno repertoire.

Note: Should you attempt a tuning whose notes maybe a semitone or tone above the Huayno tuning F / A / D / G / B / E. I would recommend the lightest string gauge set available for nylon string guitars. These tunings can be used on acoustic steel string and electric guitars with appropriate gauges.

Scordatura / Guitar Tunings / South America
Names Nomenclature Region
Standard Em11th Peru E A D G B E
Setime Dulce Peru E A D G B D
Wailija E A Dd G B E
Wailija E A D G# B E
A Major Cajamarca, Peru E A D A C# E
Baulin   E A C# F# B E
Diablo No. 1   F# A C# F# B F#
Diablo No. 2 Cusco, Peru E A C# F# B Eb
  E A D# F# B E
Diablo   E A D# F# B D#
Victima   E A D# F# B E
  E A D G B G
Baulin D Minor Ayacucho, Peru F A D G B E
  F A D G Bb E
Argentina F A D# G B E
Huayno Peru F B D G B E
E Minor Cajamarca, Peru E B E G B E
E Major Cajamarca, Peru E B E G# B E
  F Bb D G B E
  F Bb D G C E
Peru E C D G B E
Drop C Argentina C A D G B E
Amazonas Drop D * D A D G B E
Drop D 6 / 9 * D A D F# B E
Open D Minor Peru  D A D F A D
Open D Major Cajamarca, Peru D A D F# A D
Open G Minor   D G D G Bb D
Open G Major   D G D G B D
G6   D G D G B E
  D G D G D F#
  D G D G# B D#
Raised G Major   G A D G B E
Carnival G Major Peru G Bb D G B E
Diablo Peru G Bb D G C E
Comuncha Open G Major Peru G B D G B D
C Maj 7 Peru G C D G B E
Yaravi Peru  D B D G B E
Baulin / Harp Peru D B D F# B E 
Diablo? Peru E Bb E G# B E
  Ancashina, Peru E G D G B E
Carnival Peru E B D G B E

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Pacoweb.net [archived on the wayback machine] ;

Cuatro Puertorriqueno

Name: Cuatro Puertorriqueño.
Type: Chordophones > Lute > Guitarillos > Cuatro.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Tuning: B E A D G
Courses: Five Courses / 10 Strings.
Country: Puerto Rico USA.
Region: Caribbean & Central America.

Description: The Puerto Rican cuatro or Cuatro Puertorriqueño is shaped more like a viola than a guitar. It has a total of 10 strings arranged in five courses or doubled strings. The Puerto Rican cuatro the most familiar of the three instruments of the Puerto Rican orquesta jíbara [i.e., the cuatro the tiple and the bordonua].

Several sizes of the Puerto Rican cuatro exist, including a cuatro soprano, cuatro alto, cuatro traditional, the standard instrument, also called cuatro tenor and cuatro bajo [bass]: All of the Puerto Rican cuatro family have strings 5 courses or 10 doubled strings and are tuned in fourths.


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 ; Website


Name: Armonico.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitarillos > Tres.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Tuning: Ee Aa Dd Gg B E
Courses: Eight Doubled Courses / two single courses.
Inventor: Compay Segundo in 1924.
Country: Cuba.
Region: Central America & Caribbean.

Description: The armónico, also known as trilina is a small guitar like instrument around the same size, shape and sound of the Tres. Although it has been modified to having 8 strings 4 courses in total. Allowing the musician to have the maximum in possibilities for both the Tres and Guitar.

The Tuning: Starting from the lowest-pitched, the first three strings the E / A and D tunings are tuned an octave higher than the equivalent strings on a guitar with standard tuning. The fourth string, G is doubled also an octave higher than the standard guitar. Therefore, the bottom E string is only one octave lower than the top E string on the armónico, instead of two octaves lower on the guitar

The Armonico differs from the Cuatro Cubano in the order of its strings. While the armonico retains the guitar tuning E A D G B E. The cuatro cubano utilizes the C G E A tuning. The order of strings on the two instruments differs as well.


Renaissance Guitar

Name: Renaissance Guitar.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitar > Types.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Period: 16th Century.
Country: Many.
Region: Western Europe & Europe.

Description: The Renaissance guitar is most likely have evolved during the late 15th century from the application of design features and construction techniques for Spanish lutes and vihuela’s of the time to a more simply constructed simply constructed earlier plucked lute called the gittern.

The features that set guitars apart from earlier gittern were: the neck and constructed resonator being separate units joined together rather than being carved from a single block of wood; a relatively long neck with frets rather than a fretless short neck; and a figure-eight-shaped resonator rather than a pear-shaped one.

Renaissance Guitar Tunings
Names Tunings
Temple Nuevos G C E A

A period during which the five course Baroque guitar also existed and was in widespread use. An interesting note on the tenacity of musical practice over spans of time and distance: the temple nuevos tuning, minus the bordón [G4] is used as the standard tuning for the Hawaiian ‘ukulele, which was developed from various diminutive Iberian folk guitars [machête de braça, cavaquinho / braguinha, tiple/timple] brought to Hawaii by late 19th century Portuguese immigrants, who included in their numbers instrument makers.

Construction: The resonator or body is made from thinly shaven boards of maple wood. The renaissance guitar is in a figure eight shaped not all that dissimilar to the current Classical Guitar. Although the body is proportioned differently. The resonating chamber is covered with a flat soundboard of straight-grained softwood [spruce or pine]. Near the centre of the soundboard a circular sound hole that is covered with a delicately carved and perforated rosette of wood and bone.

A long wooden bridge is glued across the soundboard just above its bottom end. A neck made of hardwood, rounded on its backside but flat on its front side. The neck is securely joined to the top end of the resonator. Its flat side, which is in the same plane as the soundboard, serves as the fingerboard. The top end of the fingerboard terminates in a nut made of bone. Ten gut frets are securely tied around the neck. Joined to the top of the neck and bent back very slightly is the peg block with seven back-mounted wooden tuning pegs.

Seven strings are arranged in four courses, the three lowest-pitched courses are double and the highest-pitched one is single. One end of each string is tied to the bridge on the soundboard.  The strings pass over the resonator from nut to bridge, passing over the resonator and above the frets on the fingerboard. Making contact with the nut as it passes over it. The strings are then finally threaded through and wound around a tuning peg. The strings all have the same vibrating length of 50.5 cm or 19.9 inches as measured from the bridge to the nut.

Citations: Bibliography: Paul O’Dette 1994 Plucked Instruments, In A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance Music. ed. Jeffery T. Kite-Powell. New York: Schirmer Books, pp. 139-153 ; Turnbull, Harvey, and James Taylor. 1984. “Guitar, 1-4” NGDMI v.2: 87-99 ; James Tyler, 1980 The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook. London: Oxford University Press ; Websites