The answer, BOTH! Many string instruments can be played by making specific strums or hitting the wood. For most instruments, this is optional, but the Cuatro needs this kind of love! There is nothing like strumming regularly in combination with dry strums (known as chasquidos or frenados) and knocking on a specific area of the Cuatro known as the “golpeador” or fingerboard.
This is the part of the Cuatro which is reinforced with another kind of wood which can withstand impacts. It also forms a key feature of the instrument which makes its appearance so distinct.
Percussion With The Cuatro
Usually a cuatro student would learn the “frenados” in the basic courses. Then on a more intermediate level (tending to advanced), a cuatro student would start using the “golpeador” to create these particular drum effects with the wood.
Listen especially to the introduction and the end of this piece played by professor Toro.
Adrián Toro – De Que Callada Manera – Cuban Son
All of the techniques and strums will be demonstrated, and you will be able to conduct all of them. With this, you can give a completely different dimension and effect on the instrument. It sounds great, it is terrific, but not to be underestimated. This takes time and practice to master, but once you do, it will change the way you play forever.