Tag Archives: Guitar



Name: Mejoranera.
Types: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitar > Guitarillos.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Country: Panama.
Region: Central America.

Description: The origin of the Mejoranera is unclear and there are different theories. The likely introduction came with the sailors who introduced a form of tap dance called the “zapateo”, in Panama the same dance is also called the “mejorana” dance, which includes this instrument. This instrument is a direct descendant of the Baroque guitar, it does bare similar in shape and depth to the Puerto Rican bordonua.

It first appeared at the town of La Mesa in Veraguas, but is now popular in all central provinces. Veraguas, Herrera and Los Santos, and the most representative musical instrument of this country.

Tunings: There are several alternate tunings in use they are identified as calls in Spanish as Por Veinticinco “by 25” or Por Seis “by 6” for example. Played with a plectrum or by hand for picking or strumming. It is found and widely used in the region of the central provinces of the Isthmus of Panama.

Mejoranera Tunings
Name Tunings
Por Veinticinco E B A a’ D
Por Seis E B G g’ D

Construction: Although of smaller construction the Mejoranera is similar appearance to the guitar. The wood used to make the body, bracing were cedar, hawthorn cedar [G. globosum], chira, beans, Jamaican and espavé. Having only five single strings and a short neck having up to only six frets. The frets were set in a chromatic manner.

The pegs and the flat pegbox are made of wood or and traditionally, the instrument has no metal parts. The bridge is quite pronounced and has two feet that are attached to the harmony table. It carries a rope, tied through a pair of holes in the body, to be used as a strap around the neck of the performer.

Citations: Bibliography: Rey, A.; Schaeffer, M. 1945 “Boletín del Instituto de Investigaciones Folklóricas”. California Folklore Quarterly. 4 [4]: Websites:


Name: Charango.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitarillos.
Hornbostel & Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Specimens: 3 in collection.
Country: Bolivia, Peru, N. Chile, N. W. Argentina & Ecuador.
Region: South America.

Description: The charango is a 10-stringed 5 course lute whose some strings may very up to 14 strings 8 courses. Having a small body and short neck. It is a lead instrument in ensembles from both Bolivia, Peru, North Western Argentina and Northern Chile.

History: The charango was conceived by Indigenous peoples during the first contacts when they were forbidden by the conquistadors to play their own traditional instruments. It has been suggested the charango was the a creation of the first successful attempt at building a small enough lute that could be concealed under the poncho.

Origins: The charanguista, composer and musician Ernesto Cavour presents evidence from Bolivian murals and sculptures from as long ago as 1744. Citing an example being the Church of San Lorenzo in the city of Potosi. The facade of the church depicts two mermaids playing what he believes to the charango.

The first published historic information on the charango may be that gathered by Vega, going back to 1814, when a cleric from Tupiza documented that “the Indigenous used with much enthusiasm the guitarillos mui fuis… around here in the Andes of Bolivia they called them Charangos”.

Turino mentions that he found carved sirens representing playing charangos in some Colonial churches in the highlands of Bolivia. One of the churches to which Turino refers may well be that mentioned by Cavour. The construction on the San Lorenzo edifice began in 1547 and wasn’t completed until 1744.

The range of string orders available from 5 course 10 string to 8 courses 14 strings is regional. Charangos are commonly strung using nylon strings. Some varieties of the charango such as the chillador use steel and wound strings.

Charango Tunings
Names Tunings
Standard G C E A E
A Minor Bb7 B F# Eb Ab Eb
A Major G C# E A E
E Minor C G E G E
G B E  A E
2nd Kimsa E G# E A E
Runa G D E A E
Jalq’a F# A C# B E
Easter F# B E A E
False E G C A E
Sucre A A C G E
2nd Sucre A D G C E
“Cuatro Tunings” G A C# A E
 Small & Large  D G E A E
2nd Small A D F# B F#
3rd Small C F A D A
En Fa / In F G C F A F

The cuatro tunings aka. the four tunings is a tuning for the charango devised by Victor Mena.

Distribution: Although is a provenance for the the origins of the charango to point to what is today Potosi, Bolivia. This region was once apart of the Royal Audiencia of Charkas which included its neighbours, Peru, North Western Argentina and Northern Chile. Several varieties of the charango exist from region to region.

Varieties: There are several varieties of charango that exist in Bolivia and it’s neighbours. Including the Charango De Caja having 6 paired courses of double strings. The arrangement of the strings of the charango de caja is no different than the 12 string guitar. Accept the charango de caja is tuned three octaves above the guitar.

Charango De Caja Tunings
Names Tunings
Standard E A D G B E
Comuncha G B D G B E
Diablo G Bb D G C E
Arpa F# A D F# B E

Construction: The charango was originally built with the use of armadillo shells from the 9 banded Armadillo. A neck and head stock were added during the assembly process. The body of this particular type of charango was boiled to remove the remaining hair and while still warm.

The body is then moulded into shape by a mallet around a wooden mould. Today it is common place to find the charango whose body and neck are carved from the same piece of wood [as featured on my Bolivian made charango for example].

The bracing, perfloring and sound board are glued into place than the basic shape of the instrument forming its over all profile. Once the basic body-shape is established, the fingerboard and frets are then installed. Machine gears are installed to the left and right sides of the head stock.

The typical amount of strings usually nylon are added on the charango near the last phase of the build. The result is a portable instrument with a small vaulted-backed instrument that can produce quite a tonal projection despite its size.

Citations: Biography: Ernesto Cavour, Turino, Stanley Sadie – New Grove Dictionary Of Music @ Vol  1, Book A to C, Page ; Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, South America ; Pacoweb.net [now archived by the waybackmachine] ;


Name: Bordonua.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitarillos.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Puerto Rico.
Region: Caribbean, Latin America.

Description: The Bordonua [in Spanish: Bordonúa] is a large, deep bodied lute. Bordonua usually are 15 cm or 6 inches in depth. Bordonua are native to Puerto Rico. They are made using several different shapes and sizes.

In 1849 a book published under the title “El Gibaro” written by Manuel Alonso. Alonso describes the bordonúa as a large guitar, roughly made and sometimes with no more tool than a knife or a dagger and that played the “bass voice” of the instrumental group jíbara [orchestra jíbara]. In 1887, the chronicler Francisco del Valle Atiles notes that it had six thick strings.

Over time the, the bordonúa ceased to be part of the folk orchestras. During the 1950s, an effort to rescue the use of this instrument was carried out by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture embarked on a program to revive the traditional string instruments of Puerto Rico.

Bordonua Tunings
Names Tunings
6 Stringed  F# B E E A D
10 Stringed A D F# B E

Artisans were commissioned to build bordonúas and began to develop a method for teaching students how to play the instrument. Today, this instrument is an essential part of many folk music groups.

Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary Of Musical Instruments – Book A to F Vol. 1 Page 252 ; Websites: Encyclopedia PR / The Bordonua ; Francisco Marrero Ocasio, Los instrumentos de cuerda en Puerto Rico 2003. CD Vuelvo a mi Estrella. Taller Musical Retablo ; William Cumpiano / Bordonua [Wayback machine] ;

Cuatro Venezolano

Name: Cuatro Venezolano.
Type: Chordophones > Lute > Guitarillos > Cuatro.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Country: Venezuela.
Region: Caribbean & Central America.

Description: The cuatro is the name of a family of Latin American instruments found in South America, Trinidad & Tobago and in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean.  Differences of the cuatros with in this family can vary by shape, size and tuning.

In Spanish the word cuatro means “four” the instrument’s 15th century predecessor was the Portuguese cavaquinho which has four strings, like the original cuatro, modern cuatros often have more than four strings.

Cuatro Venezuelano Tunings
Standard A D F# B
Freddy Reyna E A C# F#

Varieties: However there are variations of this instrument that are considered national instruments, [e.g.. Venezuela]. The cuatro is widely used in ensembles in Jamaica, Mexico, and Surinam to accompany singing and dancing. In Trinidad and Tobago it accompanies Parang singers. In Puerto Rico and Venezuela, the cuatro is an ensemble instrument; for secular and religious music and is played at parties and traditional gatherings.

Modern cuatros come a variety of sizes and shapes and number of strings. Cuatros can either have single-strings like a guitar, or double or triple courses of strings like a mandolin. Cuatro’s also vary in size from a large mandolin or small guitar, to the size of a full-size guitar. Depending on their particular stringing, cuatros are part of the guitar or mandolin subfamilies of the lute family.

Citations: Bibliography: “Instrumentos Musicales de Venezuela: Cuatro”. Diccionario Multimedia de Historia de Venezuela, Fundación Polar ; Fredy Reyna: Alfa Beta Cuatro – Monte Avila Editores 1994 ; Alejandro Bruzual : Fredy Reyna – Ensayo biográfico – Alter Libris 1999 ;


Name: Bijol.
Type: Chordophone > Lute > Guitar.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Country: East Timor.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The bijol or Bidu four stringed guitar that is apart of the Timorese string bands found West Miomafo District, North Central Timor. This instrument usually provides accompaniment for the lead instrument, being a fiddle called a heo in Miomafo as the lead instrument. All the instruments in these ensembles are adapted to the local Indigenous tastes even though they were introduced from Western instruments such as the guitar and violin.

Citations: Bibliography: Palmer Keen, auralarchipelago.org ~ White Bird Flew From Afar: Encounters with Bidu in Timor ; Discography: From the East: Sumbawa, East, Timor Vol. 16 LC9626 – SFW40443 [PDF file] ; Websites: Bidu: String Music from the Foothills of Mt. Mutis, Timor [youtube video] ;

Viola Caipira

Name: Viola Caipira.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitars > Viola.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Country: Brazil.
Region: South America.

Description: The viola caipira, often simply viola, Portuguese for country guitar, it is a Brazilian ten-string guitar with five courses of strings arranged pairs or double-strings. It was introduced in the state of São Paulo, where it is widely played as the basis for the música caipira, a type of ‘folk’ music originating in the caipira country of south-central Brazil.

Origins: The origins of the viola caipira are obscure, but evidence suggests it evolved from the vihuela / viola de mano that Spanish and Portuguese settlers took to the new world. It shares similarities with the 5 course baroque guitar, that elsewhere evolved into the modern guitar.

It is likely a descendant of one of the many folk guitars that have traditionally been played in Portugal. The viola braguesa and viola amarantina, for example are two types of ten-string guitars from the north of Portugal, which are closely related to the viola caipira.

The Tunings: The tunings are in courses of five strings, doubled or paired as 10 strings in total. The G / D / G / B / D tuning is as an open G tuning is related to the tuning used on the Mexican instrument, Jarana Huasteca. 

Viola Caipira Tunings
Name Tunings
Portuguese A  E F# B E
Portuguese G D E A D
Boiadeira G D F# A D
Rio Abaixo G D G B D

Citations: Bibliography: Moura, Reis 2000. Descomplicando a Viola: Método Básico de Viola Caipira [in Portuguese] by the author ed. Brasília. p. 62. ISBN 85-901637-1-7 ; Corrêa, Roberto 2000. A Arte de Pontear Viola [in Portuguese] by the author ed. Brasília. p. 259. ISBN 85-901603-1-9. Websites:

Viola De Arame

Name: Viola De Arame.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitars > Viola.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Tuning: G / D / G / B / D
Country: Madeira, Portugal.
Region: Iberian Peninsula & Western Europe.

Description: The Viola de arame [literal translation, wire guitar] is a stringed musical instrument from the Portuguese island of Madeira.

Tuning: It has 9 strings in 5 courses G3 G2 / D3 D2 / G3 G3 / B3 / D3 D3. Very similar to the tuning used on the Jarana Huasteca. Although not related tuning is played on the Jarana Huasteca is the tuning G / D / G / B / E.




Name: Guitarro.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitars.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Tuning: B / F# / D / A / E
Country: Catalan, Spain.
Region: Iberian Peninsula & Western Europe.

Description: The Guitarro [in Catalan: guitarró] is a small, baroque, five-stringed guitar from Aragon, slightly larger than the requinto or cavaquinho. The instrument is also found in other regions of Spain, such as Andalusia, La Mancha, and Murcia. The guitarro was never intended to be a solo instrument. Rather it was meant to provide plucked accompaniment Aragonese jotas and rondas.

Tunings: Common tuning is B / F# / D / A / E, but this sometimes varies. While all five strings are usually single, the three middle strings can also be doubly strung to produce a stronger sound.