Playing A Guitarron

Playing A Guitarron

Playing a guitarron is a little different than a cello, and a little more different than a guitar. So I thought it would be interesting to discus which strings are plucked to play that the desired note.

But before we do I will delve into one of the secrets of playing a guitarron.

Guitarron is done in octaves, so two strings at once.

They don’t have built in frets, but there are set positions to get the tuning right. The exact distance varies, so you’ll have to memorize where on yours the pitch sounds in tune. There are 4 “frets.” So, if you look at the fingering for C, your thumb is on the 3rd fret (mine is marked with a dot instead of a line for the first one, so that’s how I drew it) of the top A string. You pluck that string and the C string simultaneously.

For D, your middle finger is on the 2nd fret of the C string and you pluck it with the D string. It’s tuned where the top and bottom strings are octave As, so you don’t hold anything down for those.

There is a fingering for G/G#/Ab that uses 2 strings, but I don’t use it and as such don’t remember it. Since it’s directly over the sound hole, I was taught you didn’t need to double it. There are 2 fingerings for C#/Db. The one books will teach you, the proper way to do it is to have your index finger on the 1st fret of C and ring and little finger both on the 4th fret on the top A string. I can’t make that reach, so I do it the just as acceptable, but not technically correct way by just holding down the 4th fret on both A strings with my thumb and middle finger. Either way is good, it’s just whatever you’re more comfortable with.

As far as plucking the strings goes, the top 3, A, D, and G, will always be plucked with your thumb. C and E will use your index finger. The bottom A will use your middle and ring finger together. So if you’re playing a C, you’ll pluck with your thumb on the top A and index finger on the C.

I had never played a string instrument before learning guitarron, so I’m glad I had a good teacher to help me. I just wish I still had the materials he gave me as they may be more useful. It’s pretty easy to get the hang of, though

It’s not my primary instrument, but I’m happy to help as much as I can.

Let me know if you have any questions. And if you want to learn more Jeff Nevin’s Mariachi Mastery is a good start.

Mariachi Without An Acoustic Base

Mariachi Without An Acoustic Base

Some people think that you can play mariachi with an acoustic base. So can you?

In truth the answer is no.

Without the guitarron, the ensemble loses that punch and lacks the characteristic mariachi fat low-mids. I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten to play or mess with a guitarron, but their entire design is based on sound projection. Unlike a well constructed double bass that will last decades and even hundreds of years, the tension on the guitarron is usually so high that even the highest-end, well-maintained instruments will begin to warp after a decade or 2. Also, the tuning is designed to be played in octaves unlike the double bass. I will say though: they are so much fun to play! That is, after you get over the blisters you will immediately get…

Now, you CAN play double bass with a mariachi ensemble – in the same sense that you can play electric bass in a dixieland ensemble or tuba in a rock band or big band. It’s possible but it’s not going to sound right, whatever that may mean. In all honesty, the general population will probably not even notice, especially if your main audience is non-hispanics.

Btw, there are plenty of Mexican genres that utilize the double bass (more specifically, the rustic cousin called the tololoche) mostly from the Northern parts of Mexico.

And to answer your last question, nope. No self respecting professional group would do that.

Either way, I’ve rambled on way too much. Hope this helps and feel free to PM me if you have any questions regarding this stuff. I do this for a living and I love to educate people who are willing to learn about my beautiful culture!