Ancient Music

The Charango


    Here is another instrument which probably should be included in the guitar category but it is so strange that I felt it was better treated here. When the Spanish invaded Central and South America hoping to find riches to bolster their nation, they left behind a lot of their culture. Among other things there was a very small guitar that the natives of the Andes Mountaind loved. After the Spanish left they began making it using their own materials, in this case the shell and hood (and ears!) of their local Armadillo.

    This is a tiny instrument measuring only 24" overall. It is strung with five pairs of strings (usually black fishing leader) Only the middle course has an octave note and the tuning ranges over a single octave in an odd pattern that makes its chord finger patterns unlike any other fretted instrument in my knowledge. Some modern manufacture has gone to a body carved out of alternate layers of woods which makes for a much more rugged body but the unique, traditional Armadillo character is a real loss!

    The tuning makes it all but impossible to play melody on it and restricts it to a high rythmic chording in a band of other instruments. Note: Andean Armadillos have a lot more hair than their North American cousins do!

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