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    Land of winds > Instruments > Instruments | Issue 16 (Sep.-Oct.2013)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Andean chordophones (02): the guitar and its tunings


Andean chordophones (02): the guitarra and its tunings

Certainly, the guitar cannot be regarded as an "Andean" instrument per se (though the region is home to a number of local versions). However, along the Cordillera the guitar's performance presents some shared features that make it possible to talk about an "Andean guitar". On the one hand it has to do with how the instrument is played (combining melody and harmony, using double voices, appoggiaturas and ornaments); on the other, with how the instrument is tuned (there are several "temples" or tunings).

Those different "temples" for string instruments are usually created by popular musicians trying to get as many "open" (not fingered) strings as possible; this way the strings played (either by strumming or plucking) yield a brighter sound.

Musicological field studies also show that the South American "traditional" guitar tuning changes to conform to the singer's voice and is usually lower than the standard one (i.e. A < 440Hz).




Andean chordophones (02): the guitarra and its tunings

In Argentina, the list comprises at list fifty different guitar tunings, most of them used in the Pampa region, while in the Andean region (northwestern Argentina, Cuyo and the Patagonia) the list shrinks to the traditional tuning and a few particular "temples". One of them, very popular in the northwestern part of the country ("Andean" region per excellence), is the "temple del diablo" (Devil's tuning). Although in many occasions this is also the denomination given to any tuning other than the standard, the most common "temple del diablo" in Argentina is the one with the fifth string tuned in G and the sixth in D.

On the other side of the Cordillera, in Chile, the guitar tunings are referred to as "finares" or "afinares traspuestos". A popular saying explains that "there are forty tunings", though the number is higher in Chile. Some tunings do without the sixth string or create artificial double courses (two strings tuned in unison). Besides the standard tuning ("por común" or "por derecha"), there also can be mentioned, for example, the tunings "por Argentina", "para cueca", "por transporte" and "temple del diablo". Finally, there are a number of special "finares" that fit the Chilean musical-literary tradition known as "canto a lo pueta".


Article. "La guitarra tradicional chilena. Afinaciones", by Sergio Sauvalle Echeverría [es].



Andean chordophones (02): the guitarra and its tunings

In Bolivia, popular tunings are the "requinto en Sol", the "requinto en La", three different "temples falsos" (typical of Vallegrande), a "temple falso natural en Re" and the "temple diablo". Bolivian guitar performance includes at least four different styles: the chuquisaqueño (for playing cuecas and bailecitos), the paceño and cochabambino (for boleros), the cruceño (for kaluyos and tonadas vallegrandinas) and the tarijeño (for chacareras and gatos).

Bolivian traditional variants of the guitar, also known as "jitarras", are much smaller than the common guitar (criolla or Spanish), and somehow similar to the old vihuela. These chordophones are usually included in the "guitarrillas" family, which is intimately linked to the charangos.

In the Peruvian Sierra there have been identified a large number of guitar performance styles, some of them little studied. The best known are probably the ones from the departments of Ayacucho (and the surrounding areas of the department of Arequipa), Ancash and Huánuco, and the province of Cajatambo (to the north of the department of Lima). These regions share some common temples, for example, the "llano" (standard); the "diablo", "baulín" or "transportado"; the "arpa" or "2 de noviembre"; and the "Sánchez Cerro", after a President who lacked a finger. There is also a great variety of particular temples within each department: the "plebeyo" and the "tampishino" can be found in Huánuco and Lima, while the "corisino", the "bordón", the "mallqui" and the "conchucano" are typical of the department of Ancash.

Today, many Peruvian "Andean" guitarists use styles and temples from Ayacucho (ayacuchanos) in most of their performances, but this comes at the cost of losing local styles and temples, such as those from the department of Arequipa.


Article. "Las afinaciones de la guitarra en el Perú", by Luis Salazar Mejía. In El Rincón Musical Peruano [es].
Article. "Las afinaciones de la guitarra en Huánuco, Perú", by Félix Villarreal Vara. In Revista Musical Chilena [es].
Article. "La guitarra andina en Conchucos" [es].
Article. "Seis cuerdas entre 'duendes' y 'camaquenes'", by Marcela Cornejo. In Cantera de Sonidos [es].


Finally, in the northern parts of the Andean region (Ecuador and Colombia), the guitar can be played in different styles, though it often maintains the standard tuning or, in any case, includes minor variations.


Article. "La guitarra en Colombia", by Edwin Guevara. In Arca de Música [es].
Book. "Música popular tradicional del Ecuador", by Juan Mullo Sandoval [es].


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