What makes the cuatro an unique instrument?

There are not many instruments with a reentrant running in this modern world. Probably because the influence of the modern guitar where all the strings are tuned ascendantly and all other instruments follow.

Basses, violins, violonchelos, guitars and many other string instruments are tuned in a way you will always find their highest notes on the last bottom string.


Many centuries ago, instruments with reentrant tuning where extremely popular. They were used in many songs from where we still have notation. The Baroque Guitar is a good example of this. There are plenty of tabs where you can see how the reentrant tuning of the instrument makes a difference when doing a solo or playing a part that includes the melody.

For a fortuity reason, the Cuatro shares this reentrant tuning with these “ancient” instruments. You would think it is because the Cuatro belongs to the same family but it is far from true.   The cuatro holds a reentrant tuning not because of any relation with any of its parents, but because the an amusing fact:

They said that the last string of the cuatro which produces the B note one octave lower originally was supposed to produce the same sound of a B note but on a higher octave.   In its country of origin, Venezuela, the strings were made from the intestines of some animals and because of the low quality of the strings the tension produced when tuning the cuatro made the last string always break.  So a practical and economic solution was to tune this note lowering an octave.

This simple fact made the cuatro be one of the few instruments in the world with a reentrant tuning.  Other instruments that preserve this tuning are the Baroque Guitar, Vihuela, Charango and Sitar.  Unique instruments around the globe that all share this interesting fact.