View Full Version : puerto rican cuatro

Nov-03-2004, 12:34pm
i tried posting this on the "classical, etc.," site but haven't solicited a response. before it sinks out of sight i thought i'd have a go on "world music" to see if i fare any better:

on the following site;


there's a sample of what they call a puerto rican tiple which was introduced into puerto rico as a timple by farmers from the canary islands. #one source i read said the timple was introduced into the canary islands by arab mine workers in the 15th or 16th cent..

both examples of tiple music posted on the site are easily identifiable as being "south american" in flavor.

bearing in mind that the tiple was played by rural farmers in what i gather were isolated settlements on the island and also bearing in mind that the instrument and the music were imported from a place very far removed from the mainstream of musical life (canary islands) could it be that what we recognize as "latin" music may be an authentic european sound, appropriate for informal baroque music - altered only slightly during its 400 or so years in the new world?

cantigas de santa maria with salsa anyone?

- bill

Dec-18-2004, 1:12pm
I'm new to this forum and just saw this thread. If you're still around and want to talk about cuatro..... Latin music is my thing. I am a guitar player, but have played cuban tres and puerto rican cuatro for years. Just got into mandolin recently.......cuatro is awesome!

Dec-19-2004, 12:49pm
Do you know of any places that sell them? I see a few on eBay but not sure of the quality.

Dec-19-2004, 2:57pm
If there ever would be a competition for Cafe members about most information with fewest words, that would be you, Jacob. The Understated Fountain of Knowledge. Where on Earth do you know all those links about wildly variable subjects?

grateful and amazed,

Dec-19-2004, 6:31pm
Jacob: Manuel is a player and importer of andean instruments in Utah I bought instruments from him when I lived in the States. The cuatro he sells are venezuelan style not puertorican.... Both cuatro may have similar origin but nowadays are completely different beasts.... the cuatro llanero (Venezuela) use 4 single nylon strings and is more alike to ukuleles, and the cuatro puertoriqueño using 5 steel string courses today is more similar to laúd from Spain. Anyway, I have 2 cuatro from Puerto Rico I have bought through the web since 1997.... So...NYClassical, if you want to try out.... you may check those cedar tops made in Paracho by Lonestar... model Santiago is good perhaps a bit fragile and the tuners are almost junk but it works. Currently, you also may find those made in China sold in Puerto Rico under the Don José brand are good enough but need some minor tinkering with nut and action.... Otherwise, if you have a budget around US$500-600 you may try the traditional single piece carved (enterizo) handmade on yagrumo and other local woods in the island and sold by several fellows in Internet like Héctor Rivera or Yardleys place in e bay....

Dec-20-2004, 6:17pm
lucho is right on. venezuelan cuatros are like ukes (as a side note, they and their music are very, very cool).

i actually have a lone star cuatro! nothing special, but a great way to get into the instrument cheaply. also, i find that it doesn't have the intonation problems that cheap mandolins have (cuatros are bigger).

as for the 4-5 issue-- i think the puerto rican cuatro got its name because the courses are tuned in 4ths. kind of misleading, but i think that's the deal-- maybe lucho knows? the cuban tres has 3 courses.....

if you want to hear some GREAT cuatro playing, i would recommend Ramito's Exitos Navideños. I think it's called 15 Exitos Navideños. Not sure who the cuatro player is on it, but he is soooo smokin and so right on! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Mark Levesque
Dec-20-2004, 6:25pm
A friend vacationing in Puerto Rico brought me back a cuatro made by Héctor Rivera. http://store.yahoo.com/cuatros/cuatyguit.html

It really sounds great and is well worth the price.
I'm teaching myself to learn to read music on it in my spare time. Does anyone know of a book of cuatro "standards" in notation?
I've seen a few tab books for cuatro but nothing in notation.


Dec-20-2004, 6:50pm
cuatro music in standard notation? i have a good friend who probably knows, so i can find out.

i'm sure it would be helpful to read stuff, but make sure you listen, listen, listen!! i would recommend getting as much stuff by ear as possible.

Dec-21-2004, 9:11am
NYClassical said "as for the 4-5 issue-- i think the puerto rican cuatro got its name because the courses are tuned in 4ths. #kind of misleading, but i think that's the deal-- maybe lucho knows? #the cuban tres has 3 courses....."
Rp.- Originally the cuatro had 4 courses up to the beginning of the XX century.... the fifth course I understand began to be added in some areas in PR around the turn of the century....but it retained the original name....
Now, during the Christmas season the cuatro is everywhere in PR because is essential in aguinaldos (Christmas carols) and décimas (improvised sung decalined octosilabled poems). There are many good records with these and other styles like seis, mazurkas, etc.

Mark, with regard to standard notation you may ask to Héctor Rivera who sells every thing related to cuatro on the web (http://store.yahoo.com/cuatros/libros.html)including books, records and methods... Any spanish laud method could be used to learn cuatro.... just tuning one step above... if you get an old book or perhaps one from the Philippines for laud and octavina you get the same old classical tuning used currently by cuatristas.