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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 cuatro and guitarrillo 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 underpinnings for the music of the rural country-folk, 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!

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