9/27/2013

c.2004 Pedro Soto "Professional" Bolivian-made Charango



I've had this instrument since new and have used it on tons of recordings as well as numerous gigs and musical productions. I'm switching around the collection again and I think it's about time to let this grace someone else's hands. This one was made in Bolivia by Pedro Soto whose instruments can be found on several Bolivian-goods retailer sites. This one roughly constitutes one of his "professional concert" class instruments, meaning it's a few steps up from a basic charango.

For those not in the know, charangos are like super-ukuleles. They're 10 nylon/synthetic strings tuned low to high GCEAE (traditionally) with a curious re-entrant octave middle E string. I've used it for the past few years with a set of Aquila nylgut strings tuned down to DGCEA like an 8-string uke with an added lower D course. I like this much better -- it puts less tension on the instrument (which are famed for destroying themselves over their lifetimes) and gives me much more familiar chord patterns coming from guitar and uke. It's also more recording-friendly as you have a nice, lush sound rather than a spanky high-end chime.


I gave this instrument a quick setup a few days ago and adjusted the "zero fret" and saddle for good action (3/32" at the 12th fret). Like most charangos, this has a slight dip in the top above the bridge and a slight bell behind. With such light bracing... I've never seen one (even brand new) that doesn't! The neck also has a very tiny amount of relief (1/64" overall) that does not effect playability.


Woods, woods -- the neck and body are one-piece naranjillo, the top is sold (fan-braced) German spruce (as I recall), and the fretboard and bridge are rosewood. I'm not sure what the headstock veneer is but it's pretty, as is the abundant nice inlaid purfling.


This charango has a scale of 14" which makes it closer to playing a concert ukulele but with the body of a soprano uke. The tuners and headstock make it neck-heavy which is typical for charangos, but that's what the "around the neck" strap I added is for. Note that the maker drilled out a hole for such a strap right near the heel...!



It's a pretty instrument, no cracks, few tiny scratches if any, and in good shape. It's obvious that the nicer-grade charangos hold up way better than the lower-grade ones. I've had a few in the shop that were the cheaper ($120-180 lot) variety and they tend to implode and come apart in all directions. This one would've sold in the $300-350+s/h range originally (as of this date).






It comes with a nice cloth case, too. Folks rave about these when you take 'em to gigs. Yeah, it's cute!

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