Historical European Music with Charango

In the first posting we explore how the charango is being used to play European music from the past several hundred years. A number of musicians have noted that the charango shares similar sound qualities to the lute and mandolin. Its striking to hear, for instance John Dowlands (1563 – 1626) Praeludium performed on our beloved instrument

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttXK6YwcNWo

Or Packingtons Pound a lovely piece of Rennaisance music being performed at this link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bla1dv2kROw

I also couldnt resist adding Eddy Navia's impressive interpretation of Mozart's 40th symphony. The video is rather endearing for someone not from South America.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0YUgdWZsLc

A particularly impressive resource for medieval and baroque charango is Bill Kilpatrick’s Youtube channel. He compares the sounds of the charango and mandolin through examples he’s selected from early music.

http://www.youtube.com/user/billkilpatrick

Roberto has also created a channel that deals with Renaissance and Baroque music transcribed for Charango.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL884253A4FBAA2215

I encourage you to add to this post by adding your favorite links and/or artists to create a resource for people interested in hearing and exploring how the charango can be used to play early European music. I will be adding other styles over the coming weeks.

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Charango, Charangon, and Ronroco

Hi Erik!

Sorry if this is in the wrong place, but I couldn't figure out how to post in the old thread.  (Maybe you can move it?)

We exchanged comments about two years back concerning the quality of various instruments, and what the difference was (if any) between a "charangon" (or "charangone") and a ronroco.  At one point we came to the tentative conclusion that they might be the same instrument by different regional names.

Well, in the interim between then and now I've been doing a lot of hands-on research and I think I may have definitively answered the question, and wanted to share what I found with you.

As a result of my research I am now the proud owner of 5 charagos, 3 charangons, 2 ronrocos, 2 hualaychos, and one hatun charango. :) 

And I reviewed and examined many more...  I can now report with confidence that there -IS- a difference between "charangon" and "ronroco", and I now know what the differences are.  Here is the basic charango family as I've pieced it together:

Hualaycho -- soprano

Charango --  alto

Charangon -- tenor

Ronroco -- baritone

(There is also a "bajo charango", but it's extremely rare.)

So the charangon fits in size between the charango and the ronroco.  Also, ronroco sides are typically angular, whereas charangon sides are rounded -- a charagon looks exactly like an oversized charango.

Here are the average measurements (in cm) from my instruments:

Instrument   Length   Width (lower bout)   Depth (thickest point)   Scale   Neck width

--------------   ---------   -------------------------   ----------------------------   -------    ---------------

Hualaycho      57                   13                                7                     31             4.6

Charango       66                   18                                8                     37             4.8

Charangon     72                   20                              10                     41             5.1

Ronroco         80                   24                              12                     47             5.4

 

As you can see, they're distinctly different sizes.

The next question was tuning, which as I'm sure you know is both regional and highly variable.  Having seen several sources which speak of tuning either charangon or ronroco "an octave below the charango" in some regions, I decided to arrange the four instruments similar to the mandolin family:  alto a fifth below the soprano; tenor an octave below the soprano; baritone an octave below the alto.  This gives:

Instrument          5             4             3             2            1

--------------       ------         ------       ------       -------      -------

Hualaycho      D5 D5  /  G5 G5  /  B5 B4  /  E5 E5  /  B5 B5

Charango       G4 G4  /  C5 C5  /  E5 E4  /  A4 A4  /  E5 E5

Charangon     D4 D4  /  G3 G3  /  B4 B3  /  E4 E4  /  B4 B4

Ronroco         G3 G3  /  C4 C4  /  E4 E3  /  A3 A3  /   E4 E4

Depending on what region you're in, all of these have variations, of course, and in some regions the ronroco -is- tuned higher than the charangon (and vice versa).

The tunings I settled on -- all of which are routinely used /somewhere/ in South America (if not -everywhere-) -- raised certain considerations regarding strings: 

1) The sets sold for hualaycho will support the high tuning, but they don't last very long.  On the advice of two different luthiers (who assured me that it was "traditional") I tried using different gauges of monofiliment fishing line on this instrument.  It works amazingly well:  supports the pitch, sounds like nylon instrument strings, and lasts for a long time.

2) There don't seem to be any pre-packaged charangon sets available.  I used a combination of standard charango and standard ronroco strings.

3) If people are actually tuning -any- of these instruments an _octave below_ the charango, they are most certainly using different strings than the standard "ronroco" sets sold.  Standard sets are way too flabby when tuned down that far.  For the ronroco, I bought a bunch of different gauged classical guitar strings, and experimented until I found a combination that seemed to give the proper tension and support a good tone.  I ended up with all solid nylon except for the low E in the middle, which is wound.

  If you're interested I can post the actual gauges I'm using, and maybe some pictures.

 

Now that I actually -own- some charangons, it's becoming my favorite instrument of the family.  Enough bigger than the charango that it's more comfortable in my large hands, but still small enough that I don't find it slipping out of my grip as often as the more bulbous ronroco.

All in all, a very satisfying experience, albeit taking somewhat longer (and more discretionary ca$h) than originally expected!

All the best,

Dr H

 

Great Update!

Hi Dr. H.

Apologies for the delay in replying to your message. What a great update! Thanks for sharing your research. Its really great to have a location for English speakig Ronrocco players to find this kind of information. 

Since my last posting I moved from Thailand back to Canada, had a baby boy and found a new job. So lots of excuses for not being active, but you've inspired me to get back to it. Let me know if you have any more information to share. 

Best Wishes

Erik

Great Update!

Hi Dr. H.

Apologies for the delay in replying to your message. What a great update! Thanks for sharing your research. Its really great to have a location for English speakig Ronrocco players to find this kind of information. 

Since my last posting I moved from Thailand back to Canada, had a baby boy and found a new job. So lots of excuses for not being active, but you've inspired me to get back to it. Let me know if you have any more information to share. 

Best Wishes

Erik