The Charango (sometimes described as "the SuperUke")

9 Banded Armadillo Backed Charrango
Armadillo Backed Charango (Front)
 Charango Armadillo back
Armadillo Backed Charango (Back)
Peruvian semi professional Charango
All Wood Charango (Front)
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This is a small 5 course (usually) 10 stringed fretted chordophone hailing from South America, more specifically the Andean parts of Bolivia and Peru. the body size is similar to that of a Soprano or Concert Ukulele but the neck is much wider and the headstock much larger to accommodate the 10 strings. It has a similar tuning to a Ukulele too, the 2 strings of a course are tuned in unison apart from the middle pair which are octaves so G4G4~C5C5~E4E5~A4A4~E5E5

Historically it is hard to say what was the root instrument apart from knowing it was a Spanish chordophone rather than Portugues. Mandolins, Lutes, Guitaricos and Bandolas have all been put forward but the most likely candidate is the Vihuela, (a kind of classical Guitar that often only has 5 courses?) . The big thing that sets a Charango apart from any of its root instruments is that traditionally the back and sides of the Charango body was made from the carapace, shell, skin or whatever you want to call it, of a 9 banded armadillo, (quirquincho, mulita), Probably this was because, particularly the indigenous population, didn't have the woodworking and glue technologies to recreate the imported instruments Sometimes, but not often, a gourd has been used and as time has gone on ones fully made from wood have become the most common, partly for the tone and partly for the fragility of the armadillo shell. When they are made of wood though the primitive woodworking technique is still in evidence as usually the back and sides, and sometimes the neck too, are all carved out from a single block of wood and given a bowl backed form (sometimes even carved to look like an armadillo). There are now Charangos that are made with a flat back in a similar fashion to the Ukulele or Guitar with a separate back and sides; these are called Chillador Charangos, (or just Chilladors). the strings were traditionally gut which has now been replaced with nylon, but some are steel strung, (particularly Chilladors), or a mix of both.

Originally the Charango would have a scale length of around 340 - 380 mm (depending on the size of armadillo used perhaps?) but there is a small version called a Walaycho (aka Hualaycho, Maulincho, or Kalampiador) which is similar, and sometimes uses an armadillo shell, that has a scale length of around 300mm and its tuned a fourth or fifth above a Charango, (this sometime has less strings, down to 7 but still in 5 courses and may be a different instrument that is coincidentally similar?). Recently, (the 1980's) larger sizes have come about, the Ronroco or Charangón, a kind of tenor charango, is the most well known with a 420 - 510 mm scale. and fourth or fifth lower tuning. There are larger versions than this too but they have many names and are not widely accepted.

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