Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Seth. Seth Wonders, “Who made the Guitarrón” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Seth!
Which musical instrument do you most like to hear? Some people are partial to the strum of a guitar or trill of a flute. Others enjoy the piercing notes of a piano or the heart-thumping rhythm of a drum set. But for many, it’s all about what they call the foundation of any musical ensemble—the bass.
Bass instruments make music that’s low in pitch. Often, their purpose in a song is to set the rhythm. And plenty of instruments fall into this group. There’s the bass fiddle in orchestras, and of course, the bass guitar in many bands. The tuba and bass drum often keep the rhythm in marching bands. And no traditional mariachi band is complete without a special bass instrument. What are we talking about? The guitarrón, of course!
“Guitarrón” may sound a lot like the word “guitar,” but the two instruments are quite a bit different. They both have six strings, but the guitarrón is much larger. It also has a deep, v-shaped back. This allows the guitarrón to make a deeper, louder sound than a guitar.
In a mariachi band, the guitarrón plays along with violins, trumpets, guitars, vihuelas, and harps to create music unlike any other. Like other bass instruments, its job is to maintain the band’s rhythm.
How exactly do you play a guitarrón? To begin, make sure you’re holding it correctly. The back of the guitarrón should be against your chest, with the instrument’s head even with your eyes. Guitarróns are often heavy, so use a strap to help you hold it up.
Once the guitarrón is in place, hold the neck of the instrument in your left hand. Your left thumb should be on the back, with your fingers against the strings. With your right hand, pull and release the strings in front of the sound hole. That’s how the guitarrón makes sound!
The guitarrón is most commonly found in mariachi bands. But it’s been played in more non-traditional settings, as well. Randy Meisner, of The Eagles, played the guitarrón in the band’s 1976 song “New Kid in Town.” The instrument is also a favorite of Simon Edwards of the 1980s British band Fairground Attraction.
Have you ever heard mariachi music? It’s often very lively and easy to dance to. The next time you hear a mariachi band, listen closely for the low, resonant sound of a guitarrón.
Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2