What is a Cuatro? Stringed Musical Instrument

What is the Venezuelan Cuatro?

The Venezuelan cuatro is a string musical instrument from the plains shared between Venezuela and Colombia. The Cuatro is considered the national instrument of Venezuela. This instrument is mainly used for a folk music style called Joropo, which gets to be popular in the plains, but it is also vastly used in many other regions of Venezuela. 

You can also find the Cuatro in some Caribbean islands, like Aruba, or like Trinidad & Tobago, where it gets used to playing Parang, the traditional Christmas music in Trinidad.

Why is this string instrument called Venezuelan Cuatro?

The Cuatro is mostly known as Venezuelan Cuatro, as it is vastly used in Venezuela, but its original name is and should be only “Cuatro”.  This instrument is also an important part of the Colombian folk music, where it is known as Cuatro Llanero. For centuries, the cuatro has been played in folk music in many different countries. In Trinidad, Aruba and other islands, people use it to play Parang (Parranda) during Christmas festivities. The Cuatro is an instrument very popular in a vast region called Los Llanos (the plains), shared between Colombia and Venezuela. The music that people from this region plays is called Joropo, or Joropo Llanero.

Venezuelan Cuatro or Colombian Cuatro?

The first thing to note is that the musical instrument that TuCuatro exposes to the world is known as a Venezuelan Cuatro, mostly because it is being used in almost all of the typical genres inside this country. Nevertheless, the instrument is one of the most important musical instruments in the plains of Colombia, and it is also part of their culture and roots.

Many people inside and outside Venezuela refer to it as the Venezuelan Cuatro. Nevertheless, the instrument is also called the Colombian Cuatro at times. In other Caribbean Countries, they refer to it simply as the Cuatro. Especially in those countries where the official language is not Spanish.

For this reason, we will be referring to it as the Cuatro. When the Cuatro was first created, it was a spin-off of a guitarron and Venezuela or Colombia did not even exist at the time.

At TuCuatro, we will try to simplify things with no label throughout the courses, and call it the Cuatro in most cases. It is important to note, though, that some of our teachers and professional musicians creating courses for TuCuatro, can still call it Venezuelan Cuatro, or Colombian Cuatro.

Notable Features of the Cuatro

cuatro instrument
A Cuatro Instrument

The Cuatro is a four-string instrument originating in the northern areas of South American and the Caribbean. Many instruments have four strings, but this one has some very specific characteristics as far as how it looks and how it is played. The first characteristic we can pinpoint on the Cuatro is the pickguard or fingerboard which covers the top half of the instrument. Typically this is made with a different kind of wood and it gives the instrument a distinctive look to it.

Shape and Size of a Venezuelan Cuatro String Instrument

How about the size of the Cuatro? Well, it is not as small as a Ukulele and not as big as a guitar, but the sound of the instrument makes it seem as if it is a heavyweight as it has a very rich sound. The instrument can be played very comfortably either standing up with no strap or sitting down. We will take you through all of the different parts of the Cuatro, the music of origin and where it is currently played.

How to learn to play the Cuatro?

This musical instrument has captivated a lot of people globally. If you’re interested in learning how to play it, TuCuatro has made available a variety of free courses and lessons so we can help spread the knowledge on how to play a Cuatro to many other countries, besides Venezuela, Colombia and the Caribbean Islands.

All of the courses are published at our website, and you can start going through the material right now, as all of the courses are of free access, thanks to the kindness of many professional musicians and cuatro players that have made available hundreds of lessons and material to help with the spreading of the cuatro knowledge.

Kindly visit our Venezuelan Cuatro Courses and pick the ones that most fit your playing style or your interest: