In this workshop we played a small Venezuelan string instrument called the Cuatro. It means ‘four’ in Spanish, referring to the instrument’s four strings.

From soft ballads to up-beat tunes, the Cuatro allows for diverse playing styles. Tonadas, Valses, Pajarillos, Joropos, and Gaitas are typical musical genres played on the cuatro. They vary in complexity, and can be challenging with intricate melodies and harmonies as well as rhythmical nuances. More recent Venezuelan music has been influenced by jazz and other genres, leading to variations on traditional genres adding to harmonic structures and new ways of playing.

The right hand of the Cuatro player (or cuatrista) can resemble finger style techniques similar to a guitarist, despite the instrument being especially designed for strumming. The fingerboard on the upper half of the body is made of hardwood to protect the guitar from scratches, allowing the cuatrista to strum in a certain way to create percussive sounds.

We were delighted to have Eduardo Ramírez run the first Guitars of the World Workshop on the 20th and 22nd of December, 2016. The workshop focused on Venezuelan traditional music. We played several instruments, but focused mainly on guitar and Cuatro.

We are looking forward to the next workshop where we will continue to explore Venezuelan music and the Cuatro in autumn 2017.

Written by Bendik Kjørholt