The Guitarra de Golpe - An Overview
Unfortunately, we rarely see the Guitarra de Golpe in today's school or professional mariachi ensemble. Interesting fact: This instrument was the only rhythmic instrument in the mariachi ensemble of old. It pre-dates the Vihuela Mexicana and the Guitar. The Guitarra de Golpe was an accompaniment guitar to the harp. The Guitarra de Golpe was the instrument preferred by the mariachi musicians in southern Jalisco and Michoacán.
The size of this instrument is that between the Vihuela Mexicana and the modern acoustic classical guitar. The sound box is deeper and has a flat back. It is also a fretted instrument like the Vihuela Mexicana. Instead of using a nylon string for the frets, the Guitarra de Golpe utilizes fixed bronze strips for the frets. There are several tuning schemes for the Guitarra de Golpe to give it the pitch and timbre (tæm-b?r) between the Vihuela Mexicana and the 6-nylon string acoustic classical guitar. The most common tuning scheme is as follows for the 5-string Guitarra de Golpe:
From the 5th string to the 1st string - D - G - B - E - A (also known as the "Tecalitlán tuning")
It is strummed with the right hand using all of the fingers. Traditionally, it is strummed without using any type of plectrum or púa. This strumming technique produces a rich, bold percussive sound. The optimum spot to strum this instrument is close to the sound hole.
We do not play a melodic line with the Guitarra de Golpe. It is more of a strummed, percussive instrument with pitch. It is considered a stringed chordal instrument.
The role of the Guitarra de Golpe functions as the secondary or tertiary support instrument to the Guitarroón of the mariachi ensemble. It provides the rhythmic, syncopated pulse and musical guide along with the Guitarrón, the Vihuela Mexicana and the guitar. (These instruments together are commonly referred to as the rhythm section or las armonías).