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Old 08-16-2019, 07:07 AM
camhead camhead is offline
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Default Latin paired-string Instruments-- Bajo Quinto and Cuban Tres

Hey guys, first post here. I play jazz guitar and mandolin, but recently my band has gotten a gig playing a local Salsa dancing night. We don't have a piano, and although guitar works ok for chording, I've been delving into a variety of other traditional Latin stringed instruments, all of which have paired strings (like a mando or 12-string guitar) for more authenticity and to fill things up a bit.

I really like the sound of the Cuban Tres Guitarra (three pairs of strings) for that classic "Buena Vista Social Club"-type sound, but the only affordable Tres I can find online has terrible reviews.

Rather, I'm considering getting a Mexican Bajo Quinto (five pairs of strings, larger body), of which there are a few more purchase options with better reviews (and acoustic-electric models!). But a Bajo Quinto is more for Mexican-style Conjunto music (or Mariachi style), which is not really the style I'm going for.

Anyway, I just signed up here to see if there are any other Latin guitarists who have experience playing instruments like the Tres, Bajo Quinto, or any other type of paired string instrument (it seems like each Latin American country has their own unique instrument of this type). YouTube tutorials have all been in Spanish, which is great practice, but I'd be psyched if there were any Anglos out there who also play Latin instruments. Any tips, comments, or observations are welcome!

-PN
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Old 08-16-2019, 09:44 AM
Bax Burgess Bax Burgess is offline
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What are the issues with the tres with the poor reviews? In need of a fret leveling, for instance? Action high?
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Old 08-16-2019, 09:54 AM
camhead camhead is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bax Burgess View Post
What are the issues with the tres with the poor reviews? In need of a fret leveling, for instance? Action high?
It was the "Paracho Elite" Tres that you can find on Amazon. A lot of complaints seemed to come down to its lack of a truss rod: neck bending over time, string action gradually getting higher. I wanted to get it, since it's made in Mexico as opposed to Asia, and Paracho is a historic hub of Mexican luthiery, but based on the reviews it just didn't seem like a good buy.

There are some relatively simple tutorials on youtube about switching out nuts and saddles to convert a 3/4 size guitar to a Tres.
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Old 08-16-2019, 11:58 AM
frankmcr frankmcr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camhead View Post
It was the "Paracho Elite" Tres that you can find on Amazon. A lot of complaints seemed to come down to its lack of a truss rod: neck bending over time, string action gradually getting higher. I wanted to get it, since it's made in Mexico as opposed to Asia, and Paracho is a historic hub of Mexican luthiery, but based on the reviews it just didn't seem like a good buy.

There are some relatively simple tutorials on youtube about switching out nuts and saddles to convert a 3/4 size guitar to a Tres.
On amazon it's 3 1/2 stars out of five, $229 including shipping.

Just buy that & upgrade after a year if you decide to stick with it.
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Old 08-16-2019, 12:59 PM
Bax Burgess Bax Burgess is offline
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Since you're considering a Bajo Quinto, look at the smaller, oddly shaped, Puerto Rican Quatro, which also has five string pairs, despite its name. The saddles on Quatros are usually parallel to the frets, so the intonation will suffer on some strings. Quatros with angled saddles are uncommon and expensive. The Martin Tres, now discontinued, has shown up, on occasion, at Reverb in the $250 range, and it has a good bass presence to go along with the zing.
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Old 08-16-2019, 01:19 PM
camhead camhead is offline
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I'm not even going to try to figure out why something called Cuatro has five pairs of strings; thanks for the suggestion! There are some pretty decently priced Cuatros Puertoriqueños online, but good warning on the saddle issues.

And I think I'm staying away from the Paracho Tres; had a few bad experiences with old archtops that lacked truss rods. Still leaning toward a Bajo Quinto.
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Old 08-16-2019, 04:47 PM
frankmcr frankmcr is offline
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LaBella Cuban tres strings are 12/23w-14/14-11/31w. Wound strings are silk & steel. Doesn't seem like there'd be much strain on the neck.
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Old 08-16-2019, 07:39 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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You might also consider a bajo sexto, arguably the ancestor of the American 12-string guitar; although traditional tuning is EADGCF, dropping the top two courses to B and E would allow the use of guitar fingerings. Be advised that a good one that will intonate correctly, play comfortably, and have some tone isn't going to come cheap (I've been eyeing one for a long time, and pretty much dismissed the readily-available instruments for the reasons stated above): a good luthier-built bajo has a price tag well into the four-figure bracket - substantial for what will be for most players a secondary or special-purpose piece - and only you can decide if the need justifies the cost...
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:57 AM
camhead camhead is offline
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I wound up getting the Bajo Quinto. Pretty fun! I may still try converting a 3/4 guitar to a Tres later on.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1SKO9ODI-L/
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Old 08-18-2019, 07:50 AM
Bax Burgess Bax Burgess is offline
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Just as an afterthought, the Martin LXM Tres has a 23" scale, if that would work for you, and you happen to come across one later on. As I watched your video, how did you get a sombrero to magically appear on your head and disappear when you stopped? A technical question that needs to be addressed.

Frets to body- 14
Upper/Lower bout- 8.75/12.45
Body depth at heel/endpin- 2.85/3.55
Body length- 15.75
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