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Latin American instruments

William Cumpiano's half-Bostonian, half-Puerto Rican parentage has resulted in a decidedly multicultural approach to his instrumentmaking. William cherishes his Puerto Rican and Latin American heritage, and has steeped himself in its musical and musical-craft traditions. He has come to deeply appreciate the vast treasury that is Latin American fretted string instruments.

Evidence of this can be found on this page. The first two photographs show the front and rear of a concert-grade Venezuelan cuatro made from plates sawn off a single plank of curly maple. I've included some more information on this small, beautiful instrument in my Venezuelan cuatro page.

Below them we can see a photograph of another kind of cuatro. The Puerto Rican cuatro appears to the uninitiated as a small 10-string guitar with a violin-shaped outline. Below is an example of William's cuatro making. William makes them in the traditional "enterizo" fashion, that is, hollowed out of a 3" thick block of hardwood. But he also has extended the tradition by making a 12-string version and a "thinline" electric-acoustic version which behaves much better on a noisy stage than its deeper-bodied traditional counterpart. William's cuatros have superb pitch accuracy and finish. They cost between $1500 and $2000.


The "seis"
I have developed a six-course hybrid of the cuatro (12-strings) by adding an added bass course tuned a fourth below the usual fifth bottom course (a course is a string pair, tuned in unisons or in octaves). This expansion in the instrument's range has a number of interesting consequences: the seis can be tuned across the string array in strict fouths, enabling it to be played by someone familiar with playing the traditional cuatro, but now with an expanded bass range.

But by dropping the pitch of the two upper string courses by a semitone, you create the interval series 4-4-4-3-4. Voila! Guitar intervals. Now any guitarist can play the cuatro right out of the box. And what beautiful music it guitar player friends tells me it sounds like a miniature 12-string guitar, but much louder, sweeter and faster!

The Seis shown at the right was originally made for Paul Simon, during the production of  the broadway play "The Capeman".

WRC Venezuelan cuatro (front)

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Cumpiano mahogany/spruce cuatro

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charango surgery.jpg (41418 bytes)
CHARANGO SURGERY: A Peruvian charango gets a transducer pickup installed in our shop. The soundbox is made from a Quirquincho (hairy armadillo) carapace by native Peruvians.

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William plays a Colombian Bandolina

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