Tag Archives: Guitarillos


Guitarra Del Golpe

Name: Guitarra Del Golpe.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitarillos.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Country: Jalisco, Michoacán, Mexico.
Region: Central America.

Description: The Guitarra del Golpe is a variety of guitar found in Michoacán, Mexico. It has five single nylon strings. The strumming is similar in style to the vihuela [as featured in mariachi ensembles].

Guitarra Del Golpe Tunings
Name Tunings
Standard Michoacán D G C E A
Tecalitlán D G B E A
Urban Up G C E A D
Urban Below G C E A D
Vihuela A D G B E

Citations: Websites: Pacoweb.net / Guitarra Del Golpe entry ;


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 Cubano

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

Description: The Cuban cuatro [cuatro Cubano], is similar to a Cuban tres, but with 4 courses of doubled strings, instead of the usual 3 courses. It is usually tuned in a reentrant tuning G4 / C4 / E4 / A4. This is also the standard tuning for ukulele.

Cuatro Cubano
A D F# B


Cuatro Puertorriqueño

Name: Cuatro Puertorriqueño.
Type: Chordophones > Lute > Guitarillos > Cuatro.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Tuning: B / E / A / D / G
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.


Bajo Quinto

Name: Bajo Quinto.
Type: Chordophones > Lute > Guitarillos > Bajo.
Tuning: x / A / D / G / C / F
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Country: Mexico.
Region: Latin America.

Description: Bajo Quinto [in Spanish: the name translates into English as “fifth bass”]. A reference to the omitted sixth course of doubled strings present on the instrument. This instrument is popular in the southern states of Mexico, Oaxaca, Chiapas. The usage of the Bajo Quinto is to these southern states analogous to the Bajo Sexto  in the Northern regions.

Playing Technique: A plectrum is used often as the strings are quite thick on the bajo-sexto.

Citations: Bibliography: Avetardo, J. T. ed; Puro Conjunto: An Album in words and Pictures; Center for Mexican American Studies, The University of Texas; Austin, Texas: 2001 470p. ISBN 0-292-78174-1 Bajos de espiga – Diccionario de la Música Española e Hispanoamericana. Sociedad General de Autores y Editores ; [in Spanish] Dictionary of Spanish and Spanish-American music. General Society of Authors and Publishers [in English] Madrid 2002 ISBN 978-84-8048-303-2 ; Hernandez, Ramon; An Informal History of the Bajo Sexto; in Aventardo, Ch. 12, pp. 127–130. The Texas-Mexican Conjunto Bajo sexto / quinto ;

Bajo Sexto

Name: Bajo Sexto.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitar > Guitarillos > Bajo.
Tuning: Ee / AA / DD / Gg / Cc / Ff
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Country: Mexico.
Region: Central America.

Description: Bajo sexto [Bajo = Bass = Sexto meaning “sixth” in reference to its 6 courses 12 strings. Each course is paired or doubled. A closely related instrument is the bajo quinto [Spanish: “fifth bass”] which has 10 strings in 5 double courses. The origins of this instrument are somewhat unclear. As most of the history is oral transmitted by those who play and build the instruments.

History: In the 17th and 18th centuries, Mexican artisans built several types of instruments with double strings in three, four, fifths, sixth, seventh and eight courses, influenced by their Spanish ancestors. Descendants of these instruments are bandolon, guitarra séptima, quinta huapanguera, jarana jarocha, concheros string instruments, and guitarra chamula, among others. The manufacture of bajo quinto and sexto reached a peak in quality and popularity in the 19th century in central and southern Mexico, in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca and Tlaxcala.

Playing Technique: A plectrum is used often as the strings are quite thick on the bajo-sexto.

Construction: The bajo-sexto is a member of the guitar family. Physically this instrument appears to be quite similar to the 12-string guitar. There are some slight differences. The Body is usually a bit deeper. The neck is shorter, joining the body at the 12th fret. Modern 12-string guitars usually join at the 14th fret; being a bass instrument the strings are thicker.

Citations: Bibliography: Avetardo, J. T. ed. Puro Conjunto: An Album in words and Pictures; Center for Mexican American Studies, The University of Texas; Austin, Texas: 2001. 470p. ISBN 0-292-78174-1 Bajos de espiga. Diccionario de la Música Española e Hispanoamericana. Sociedad General de Autores y Editores. Madrid 2002; ISBN 978-84-8048-303-2 ; Hernandez, Ramon; An Informal History of the Bajo Sexto; in Aventardo, Ch. 12, pp. 127–130. The Texas-Mexican Conjunto Bajo sexto / quinto ;


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: 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:

Guitarron Chileno

Name: Guitarron Chileno.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitarillos > Guitarron.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.322.5
Tuning: F# / A / D / G / C / E / A / G / B
Country: Chile.
Region: South America.

Description: The Guitarrón Chileno [literal meaning, “large Chilean guitar”] is a guitar-shaped 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 origins of the Chilean guitar are linked to the Payadores and their calls, Canto a lo Poeta, Canto a lo Divino, Canto de Velorio etc. The Guitarrón Chileno was mainly limited being played in the commune of Pirque, in the Cordillera Province. Although considered a rural instrument, in recent years there has been a revival of its practice and construction in urban areas.

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 in appearance to the violin] but modern instruments employ metal frets and geared guitar tuners, like those of modern guitars.

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.

Repertoire: 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.

Tunings: Strings within a course are tuned either in unison or in octaves; tuning between courses is in fourths, except between the second and third courses where the interval is a major third. With the instrument held in playing position, the stringing is: devil, devil, 5 [or 4] string course, 6 [or 5] string course, 5 [or 4] string course, 3-string course, 3-string course, devil and the most common tuning is: F# / A / D / G / C / E / A / G / B

Either the fifth course or the third course may sometimes have only four strings, and the fourth course sometimes only has five, depending on the individual instrument design. One common variant of this tuning is to eliminate the middle octaves in the fifth course, thus: The entire instrument is sometimes transposed to accommodate the voice of the singer. For example, all notes in the above “G tuning” may be raised a whole step, to produce an “A tuning”.

Traditionally, tunings are confined to a range which favours the male voice, as most guitarroneras were, until quite recently, male. Modern female guitarroneras have mostly devised new playing patterns on the “male” instrument, but a few makers have been experimenting with novel stringing that allow the instrument to be tuned up to C or D to better accommodate a female vocal range.

Citations: Bibliography: