Puertoricano

Name: Cuatro Puertoricano.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes > Guitars > Guitarillos > Cuatro.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Area: 
Country: Puerto Rico.
Region: Central America.

The Crowley Company
Cuatro player above the swamp, The worker’s quarter of Puerto de Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico ~ 8b30726a Library of Congress, The Crowley Company. Silver Nitrate film.

Description: The precise origins of the Cuatro Puertoricano are little known. There is a shared consensus among experts who believe the cuatro has been in existence for 400 years.

The Spanish cuatro is the most closely related instrument to the medieval or renaissance guitar. This instrument had four courses and eight strings in total.  The Cuatro Puertoricano shares a relationship between the Spanish Vehuala Poblano

The Cuatro Puertoricano shares a relationship with the Spanish vihuela poblano [Medieval or renaissance guitar] and the laud.

There was a “cuatro antiguo” which had four single strings, then eight strings in four doubled courses and then the modern cuatro with five double courses. The original cuatro orchestra was the orquesta jíbara which consisted of a various number of different string instruments.

Cuatro Puertoricano Tunings
Names Tunings
Antiguo
Southern
Traditional
Modern B E A D G

Types: Several varieties of cuatro exist throughout the island of Puerto Rico. The typology of this cuatro is regional.

The four string cuatro Antiguo was the original Puerto Rican cuatro. The neck and body of this cuatro were made from a single block of wood. It was mostly used to play Jibaro music.

The eight stringed “Southern Cuatro” evolved from the old our stringed cuatro. It was constructed in a shape resembling a guitar. It had four pairs of strings a total of eight. It was used to play salon genres like the mazurka, danza, waltz, polka, etc.

The 10 string cuatro or “moderno”: This type of cuatro descended  the Baroque era ten stringed bandurria and laud from Spain. It is made from a single block of wood and it has five pairs of steel strings. Currently it is used to play melodies from many other genres outside the jibaro tradition. They include, salon genres, salsa, pop, rock, classical, jazz and even American bluegrass and many more styles.

Development: During the 1950s there was an effort to produce a “classical” ensemble of cuatros. These orchestras were modelled after the violin section of an orchestra; taking on the forms of violins, violas, cellos and double bass.

To meet these roles cuatros of the aviolinado style were produced in four different sizes and tunings, they include; the Cuatro Soprano, Cuatro Alto, Cuatro Tradicional or [traditional cuatro],  the standard instrument, also called Cuatro Tenor and Cuatro Bajo or Bass Cuatro: all have ten strings and are tuned in fourths. The project met with only limited success and today most of these variants are rare, with the cuatro tradicional surviving as the standard instrument.

There is also a Cuatro Lírico [Lyrical Cuatro] in existence; it is about the size of the tenor. It has a deep “jelly-bean” shaped body similar of the Tenor a Cuatro Sonero, which has fifteen strings in five courses of three strings each; and a Seis, which is a Cuatro Tradicional with an added two string course [usually a lower course], giving it a total of twelve strings in six courses.

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