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Charango>>Charango Frequently Asked Questions

Charango Frequently Asked Questions

ABOUT THE CHARANGO´S CONSTRUCTION A CHARANGO PLAYER´S FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ABOUT THE CHARANGO´S CONSTRUCTION

Description:

The charango is the heritage of the antique hand vihuela that was brought to our continent by the spanish in the XV century. Men from the andes were whom developed the charango from the vihuela givin it not only unique characteristics from their culture, but also from their feelings.

Today, the charango is known all over the World although it is used and has more influence in Bolivia, Perú, Chile, Argentina and Ecuador.

Parts of the charango

The charango has three esencial parts: head, finger board and the sound box or body.

  1. Head
  2. Tuning pegs
  3. Bone fret
  4. Sound box
  5. Face
  6. Bridge
  7. Strings
  8. Freats
  9. Fingerboard
  10. Soundhole

1. Armonic cover or face

The FACE is usually made of german white spruce pine or Oregon pine. The sound hole or mouth can be found on the face and can vary in shape and size being the round shape the most common. The mouth can have many shapes as a butterfly, with small holes, stars, etc. For decoration, nacre shells and multicoloured filets are used.

2. Head

The head is the upper part of the charango where the tuning pegs are. The head´s style varies according to the creativity of the luthier; smooth, carved, painted, with inlays, and other types of heads can be found.

Head Tuning

3. Tuning Pegs

The tuning pegs are metal or wooden pieces that allow for the strings to be tightened.

Usually the metallic pegs are used due to their resistance and because they offer the instrument a longer time span. In the past, wooden tuning pegs were more used; today they are only used on the Mauro Nuñez model charangos.

4. Bridge

Usually made of resistant wood, it is a fundamental part of the charango, since it transfers the vibrations to the FACE. The face is where the sound of the instrument is stored.


5. Handle, armor mast

The handle, arm or mast is where the fingerboard is found. The fingerboard is the most important part at the moment of playing the instrument. To prevent from bending, the fingerboard must be made of a strong and hard wood to provide it with stability and resistance.

Fingerboard
Mast

a) Head
b) Bone fret
c) Frets

6. Fingerboard

The fingerboard is a thin piece of wood that goes from the head to the sound box with 17 fine metal bars called frets arranged all along. The frets allow for the intervals of the musical scales to be organized. For the manufacture of the fingerboard usually jacaranda and moradillo wood is used. In the case of professional or concert charangos, ebony is used.

7. Sound box or body

The sound box presents an arched body as the laud. For a long time, the sound box was made of the armadillo´s shell, known also as quirquincho.

That practice has been replaced by the use of laminated woods which allow for beautiful carvings to be made and reach also a better sound than that of the quirquincho´s shell.

The sound box is approximately 24 cm long and 16 to 17 cm wide. From the bone fret to the bridge there are 37 cm, being these measurements characteristic of it´s pattern.


A CHARANGO PLAYER´S FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

STRINGS

What type of strings must I use for my charango?

There are many brands of charango strings specially made for the charango. The use of guitar or other strings is not recommended since charango strings are designed to resist the tension made by the instrument. Chording the charango with the wrong kind of strings can cause an irrersible damage.

Can I use metallic strings on my charango?

If you have a nylon strings charango, it is recommended that you do not use metallic strings on it because the charango is made to support a tension of maximum 30 kilos and metallic strings can cause a tension of up to 45 kilos causing damage to your charango.

If you have a metallic strings charango and wish to switch them to nylon, you can do so. The disadvantage is that charangos made for metallic strings loose the sharpness and sound quality when using nylon strings.

How often should I replace the strings?

If you are just begining to play the charango and your ear is still not familiar with it´s characteristic sound, you may not immediately notice how the strings go loosing their caliber. It is necessary for you to replace the strings at least every two months.

If you are a professional musician you will want a better sound and calibre from your charango. Strings loose their caliber and shine after approximately two to three weeks.


CARE

How must I store my charango if I will not be using it for some time?

If you will not be using your instrument for a long or short period of time, you need to always store it in a hard case to Project it from humidity and any accident.

In case you will store it for a long period of time, we recommend that you loosen the strings to two semi tones lower than the universal tuning. It is not necessary for you to remove the strings.

You need to always protect your instrument from humidity to prevent cracks and that the arm bends. To protect it from humidity, store your charango in a hard case in a dry cool place (do not expose to sun).

You can also include a few packets of silica inside the charango´s sound box and hard case.

How must I care for my charango?

You need to always store it in a hard case to Project it from humidity and any accident.

We recommend that you loosen the strings to two semi tones lower than the universal tuning and store it in a hard case if you will not use it for a long period of time.

You need to always protect your instrument from humidity to prevent cracks and that the arm bends. To protect it from humidity, store your charango in a hard case in a dry cool place (do not expose to sun).

You can also include a few packets of silica inside the charango´s sound box and hard case.

If you live in a dry place we recommend that you wrap the charango´s sound box with a plastic bag loosely and placing it incide a hard case.

You can use regular wooden furniture cleaners or a string instrument cleaning cream to clean your charango. If you decide to use a regular wooden furniture cleaner, make sure your charango is not varnished with India lacquer.


ABOUT THE CHARANGO

Which is the charango´s tuning?

The charango has ten strings placed in five orders, in other words, five double strings. Each of the strings makes the same sound except for the third ones that are separated by one octave.

The universal tuning for the charango is the following: from the inferior string to the superior one, following the same logic as with the guitar´s tuning:

E – A – E – C – G

Does the mouth shape affect the charango´s sound?

The sound of the charango depends on the vibration of the FACE and of the construction of the sound box. Sound is stored in the widest part of the face. In this sense, the shape of the sound hole does not affect the sound of the instrument.

What is the difference between charango, ronroco and hualaycho?

The ronroco is an instrument created by one of the members of Los Kjarkas, it is a mix between the charango and the guitar. It´s sound is lower than that of a charango but higher than that of a guitar.

The tuning is the same as that of a charango with the first and fourth strings in one low octave. For the fifth strings one changes to Sol to one low octave.

The hualaycho is a more local instrument and can be tuned in many ways, the most comon are:

  • It can be compared to a charango with a capoteaste in the third fret, in other words, tuned in Sol.
  • The most comon tune is in La, like using the capoteaste in the fifth fret.

The sound of the hualaycho is beeper than that of the charango, usually it is used for the called Kálampeo which is to make melodies scratching the strings.

What is the difference between a beginners charango and a professional one?

The difference between these two types of charango is the selection of the material they are made with and the finish.

For the manufacture of professional and concert charangos, the luthier makes a perfect selection of the materials to be used (wood and varnish). In some cases professional charangos include nacre decorations, carved images, hand painted decorations, etc.

This is also why beginners charangos are more affordable.

Which is harder to play, the charango or the guitar?

In a beginners and intermediate playing level, the guitar and charango present the same level of difficulty. For an advanced playing level, the guitar is more difficult to play than the charango.

What kind of music can I play with my charango?

Although the origin of the charango is andean and is mostly used to play folkloric music, many musicians use it to play other types of music including classical and rock.

It all depends on the ability and creativity of the placer as the charango is a versatile instrument and can play any musical genre.


CHOOSING A CHARANGO

I play the guitar but not the charango, which is the best type of charango for me?

If you already play a string instrument, learning how to play the charango will be easier as this means your ear is pretty educated. We recommend that you choose a professional charango.

I am left handed, is there a charango for me?

There really is no charango for left handed people, what varies is how the strings are placed.

If you are left hended there are two posible options:

  • Chord your charango in such way that the instrument results with the adequate tuning, in other words, turning around the order of the strings.
  • In the case of concert charangos, the bonefret on the bridge usually has many uneven places, so this type of charango cannot have the strings turned around as the bonefret must be adequated for the new order of strings.

How do I choose a charango for me?

We want to help you find the perfect charango.

Using our seach system, you will only need to select between some options and our system will offer a list of the best charangos for you. Click here

GLOSSARY

Sound hole: Hole on the top of the FACE that heps for the projection of the instrument´s sound.

Head: Upper part of the charango over the mast where the tuning pegs are placed.

Sound box: Back part of the charango where sound is stored.

Caliber: Tuning, sound and shine produced by the strings.

Capoteaste: Device used over the fingerboard elevating or lowering the instrument´s tone.

Bonefret: Small piece of bone placed on the topo f the mast where the strings lay and are placed in order.

Tuning pegs: Metal or wooden devices placed on the head used to tighten the strings.

Torched strings: Nylon strings with a metallic sound.

Fingerboard: Piece of wood on the surface of the arm where the frets are arranged.

Scale: The total lenght between the bridge and the bone fret.

Guides: Marks on the fingerboard usually made of nacre that help the musician with the finger positioning.

Hualaycho: Variation of the charango with a higher pitched sound, smaller in size.

Kalampeo: Make melodies scratching the strings.

Luthier: Instrument manufacturer specialized in the construction of string instruments.

Bridge: Piece of wood on the top part of the FACE which holds the strings transferring the vibration to the FACE.

Ronroco: Variation of the charango created by one of the members of Los Kjarkas. Has a lower sound than that of the charango but higher than that of the guitar.

Silica or Sílice: Chemical compound of sílice and oxigen that absorbs humidity.

Semitote: The lowest of the intervals that can be made between consecutive notes of a diatonic higher or lower scale.

Face: Thin piece of wood, usually white pine, used on the front part of the sound box. This piece is responsible for the instrument´s sound.

Fret: Thin metal strips arranged over the fingerboard dividing it in tones.

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