The Venezuelan cuatro has its origins in Europe. The history of the cuatro starts with the Spanish Guitar, an instrument that used to have 4 strings. Besides the Spanish Guitar, there are also many similar instruments throughout history, like in Egipt.
The arrival of the Cuatro to South America comes with the Spanish conquers, bringing their musical instruments to the region, including the Spanish Guitar, which disappeared or was transformed into a 6 string guitar in Europe but remained with its original 4 strings in America. The history of the cuatro doesn’t cease to amaze historians and musicians together, as the instrument had a very particular evolution, a bit different from other cousin instruments from different parts of South America, like the Brazilian Cavaquinho.
The Cuatro is being used in many countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago and many other Caribbean Islands, like Aruba. Once arrived in Venezuela, the Cuatro started being used to compose folk music in most of the cities. Coro, El Tocuyo, Carora, Barquisimeto, Barinas. Since 1705 there are written letters mentioning the Cuatro in cities like Barinas. The instrument was also used to accompany singers in all of the regions of the plains shared between Colombia and Venezuela. Nowadays, Colombia uses the Cuatro for its Joropo music in regions like Villavicencio, Yopal, Guanare, Arauca, and Mani, only to mention a few.
If you would like to know more about where the cuatro is played, visit this article where we talk a bit about where the cuatro is currently being used to perform songs and music genres.
There is another instrument called Cuatro, but with its origins in Puerto Rico. It is better known as the Puerto Rican Cuatro, and curiously, it doesn’t have 4 strings, but 10 metal strings. This cuatro is used to play the melody most of the time, whereas the Cuatro that we’ve studied in this article is used mostly for strumming and accompanying singers.
If you would like to expand your knowledge about the Cuatro, visit the Wikipedia Cuatro Page, where you’ll find more details, dates, and interesting facts about the instrument.
Is the cuatro the instrument you would like to learn next? Head over our Free Courses for Cuatro page and give it a try now!