Gabe2.jpg (7675 bytes)Gabe1.jpg (14123 bytes)
Gabe shapes his headstock and plays the finished product of his
1998 tutorial at William's shop. This was Gabe's first woodworking
project! His evaluation follows:

Gabe Butler's Cuatro Building Project
August 3, 1998 to August 13, 1998

General Background

I am a second-generation Puerto Rican, who has always been interested in and proud of my heritage. I have been very fortunate in meeting extremely talented Puerto Rican musicians and artisans whom have motivated me to learning how to play El Cuatro. I have been playing for two years and love it. In addition, I came across a great opportunity, which allowed me to work with a master guitar builder, William R. Cumpiano, and under his mentorship learn to build a cuatro guitar. Following are some insights into this eleven-day Cuatro Building Project.


Initially, my objective was to learn everything there is on how to build this guitar. By the end of the project, I learned not only how this instrument is meticulously built, but on the concerted efforts and care taken on building a quality instrument.


The various steps taken were pretty much covered in detail in Mr. Cumpiano's book. The days are eight hours, including one full weekend, of hands-on guitar building. Mr. Cumpiano and I each bui1t a guitar side-by-side. During this process, Mr. Cumpiano would describe and explain a procedure, perform it, then have me do the same process. At times, Mr. Cumpiano would enhance the building process with historical information of the instrument, or parts of the instrument, and its evolution.

Mr. Cumpiano ensured that specific sequential steps in building the instrument were performed. This was the most effective method for two reasons. First reason, it provided a progression where visually you saw the raw materials developing into an instrument. The second reason, it helped alleviate anxiety for a first-time student like myself.

The end of the project resulted in a quality built cuatro guitar with an excellent sound. That cuatro was built with my hands. Not only did I learn how to build the cuatro, but also I experienced what it felt like creating it ... truly amazing.


The following is some of the Pros and Cons on the Project:


  • Experienced Guitar Builder and Instructor.
  • Excellent Working Conditions.
  • Product reflective of a true craftsman's effort (that is, a quality instrument)
  • Fees for this project reasonable for the serious minded student.


  • Although the sequential steps taken were crucial and effective, a simplified "Story Board" (or syllabus) could have been used to let the student know the stages he or she should be at, during the building process, at different intervals, i.e., 1 to 3 days, 3 to 5 days, etc.

Final Remarks

I would like to personally thank Mr. Cumpiano for his patience and for sharing his talent and experience. I am truly indebted to him.