Context: Charango, Jarana jarocha

The Andean charango and the jarana jarocha (jarocho means "from Veracruz, Mexico") both usually have five courses of strings. The middle course has two strings tuned an octave apart, and the other courses are either tuned in unison or only have one string. For example, a charango might be tuned to G4G4 C5C5 E5E4 A4A4 E5E5 and a jarana jarocha to G3 C4C4 E4E3 A3A3 G3, see the stringed instrument database, or this "como afinar la jarana" (= how to tune a jarana) video. I've never seen anything like this in other instruments: for example, there are ukuleles with double courses, and some of the courses may be tuned an octave apart, but it's usually the G course, or the C and the A, or the G and the C, not the E.

It's neither clear to me how one instrument could have influenced the other (the places where they originated are far apart) nor how these oddly similar tunings would develop independently.

There is a summary of what is known about the origins of the charango in the CreativeCommons-licensed book by Héctor Soto, pages 19-23, which mentions e.g. the relationship of the charango to the historical Spanish vihuela and the Canarian timple. But I've never seen the jarana jarocha being discussed.

Do you have any information, or maybe a suggestion where to look for it?

1 Answer 1


Look no further than the Wikipedia articles you linked to at the top. The charango's article (currently) mentions that it is from "post-Colonial times, after European stringed instruments were introduced by the Spanish during colonialization", while the jarana jarocha's article (currently) claims that it is from a "direct lineage from the Spanish baroque guitar of the sixteenth century". Both instruments are indirectly the fault of the Spanish. This might explain the similar tuning.

For what it's worth, other websites such as https://andeannation.com/charango/ back up the Spanish cultural origin of the charango and https://www.labella.com/product/jj100-jarana-jarocha/ back up the jarana jarocha's provenance from the Spanish baroque guitar.

  • The problem is that I'm not aware of a Spanish instrument with this kind of tuning. You mention the baroque guitar, but its tuning, according to Wikipedia, is only very vaguely similar, and it's never the middle course that is tuned in octave.
    – zabolekar
    Dec 18, 2023 at 20:25

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