Mis instrumentos

This is of course the regular 6-string, “Spanish” or “classical” guitar with nylon strings.  I use this for most Mexican music– sones, huapangos, rancheras, polkas and boleros.

This is the “tiple” from Colombia.  The tiple has 12 strings but only 4 groups tuned to the same note. It uses metal strings and has a similar sound to other guitars used in the Caribbean like the “cuatro” in Puerto Rico, the “tres” in Cuba and others.  The highest 3 strings are 3-“e” notes and are all the same size. The next 3 strings have 2 outside high “b” strings and a wound bass “b” string an octave lower in the middle.  The next 3 have the same arrangement with “g” strings and the last with “d” strings.  It is the mixing of higher and lower octave strings that give it a distictive sound.  I use the tiple to play songs from Cuba and Puerto Rico as well as to play cumbias and joropos from other countries around the Caribbean like Colombia and Venezuela.

This tiny guitar is the “charango” which is used mostly in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia.  The body is about the size of the small ukulele but it has a rounded back ( although some have a flat back as well). Sometimes the body is made from the shell of the “kirkinchu” or armadillo although mine is carved of one piece of native wood.  It has ten strings in 5 sets and the tuning is different from any other guitar-like intrument.  It starts with the highest 2 strings tuned to an “e” an octave above the high “e'” on the regular guitar.  Then the next 2 are tuned to “a” , then the middle strings are 2 “e” notes in octaves.  The 4th strings are “c” notes and the 5th strings are “g” notes.  The charango is traditionally played mostly in A minor and E minor keys although many players now use other keys as well.  There are many stories about how the charango was invented or developed.  We know that there were no stringed instruments in the Andes before the Spanish came.  They brought guitars and harps but the local native love of the high tambre of flutes (some say) resulted in the charango having a high register tuning.  In the 1700s and 1800s the pack mule drivers that took cargo over the mountains on their mule trains used the instrument since it was small and easy to fit in a saddle bag.  Supposedly that is how it became popular and was distributed up and down the Andes chain from Ecuador in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south.  I use the charango for huaynos and marineras from Peru, cuecas from Bolivia, Chile and Argentina and other Andean styles.

The pan pipes used in the Andes are called “sikus” in the language of Quechua and “zampoñas” in Spanish.  The sikus are used in many sizes from the medium size here to tiny high-pitched ones and 4ft long bass pipes.  They are usually played in large groups often marching in street festivals in small towns in the Andes.  Each “pipe” in the set sounds one note and the sets are played in “hocket”–meaning that one person has half of the notes of a scale and has to fit his melody notes in with the person that has the other row that has the other half of the notes of the scale.  I play the 2 parts together to make the whole scale.  When the sikus is played in the Andes at 11,000 feet or higher it is very hard work.  It is still tricky but not as exhausting to play at sea level.

Señor Daniel Dickey

One Response to “Mis instrumentos”

  1. Senhor Sergio. December 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Looks good, Señor Dickey!

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