Cumpiano guitars                 Cumpiano articles archive                 Make a guitar with William

Venezuela: The Venezuelan Cuatro

Like the cuatro in Puerto Rico, the Venezuelan cuatro is deeply and lovingly ingrained into the folkloric traditions of its people. A feather-light, four string tiny guitar, it hails back to the tiny guitarrillo and guitarra requinta of medieval Spain. Indeed, it often is strummed in a way that recalls the flamenco style of Spanish guitar playing. Like in Puerto Rico, the native Venezuelan cuatro provides the fundamental cultural underpinning for the music of their rural peasant farmers, themselves a product of the ancient mixing of European, Aboriginal and African ancestors.

Like the ukelele, the Venezuelan cuatro is strung in what is called "re-entrant" tuning, that is, that instead of the strings being tuned across the neck from high to low, one of the strings jump up in pitch while its neighbors drop progressively. Betraying a common ancestor, the ukelele and the Venezuelan cuatro are tuned alike, B, F#, D, A, except one in reverse order of the other!) Re-entrant tuning is found on most instruments that are primarily strummed, so the up-stroke and the down-stroke sound the same.


Venezuelan cuatristas

Venezuelan cuatro

Listen to the
Venezuelan cuatro.

The musical selection is by Roberto Clavijo of the Massachusetts multicultural folk- jazz fusion band Viva Quetzal!

Cumpiano guitars                 Cumpiano articles archive                 Make a guitar with William