View Full Version : Still not sure where to start - My Ukulele/Charango Dilemma

06-11-2015, 05:42 AM
Now I am more confused about the decision to learn the ukulele, charango, or classical guitar. I have had a very informative conversation with a charango dealer in the US, in which he discouraged me from making an effort to learn the charango given that I have no real experience with a fretted instrument. On one hand I can appreciate that he didnít just use me to make sale but rather gave me very honest advice I feel. My ultimate goal is to play the charango I have no doubts about this. However given my lack of experience with fretted instruments I suppose Iím still not sure where to start. I have fallen in love with the tenor ukulele and have narrowed that search down to two that I would purchase. But now I am wondering if I should start by learning classical guitar first then move to the charango or should I start with the ukulele and move to the charango? Even though the ukulele and charango are very different instruments tuning and chord shapes are similar between the uku and charango so that is why that path may be best.

What are your opinions, at this point Iím just ready to make a decision and move on it and start learning!

Thank you

06-11-2015, 06:00 AM
Watch as many of these tutorials as you can and then decide for yourself. I have no experience with a charango, but not sure it's harder than a guitar. Also, there are alternate tunings for it as well as different variations of the charango. Perhaps much more than you thought:


Note in this Wiki article that variations exist (fewer strings, size) but still give you the sound you want. Another 10 string instrument you may also want to investigate is the tiple (pronounced by many as teeplay):



06-11-2015, 10:32 AM
I am not sure why you should start on a different instrument when you want to play the charango? Is it because of the cost? Is it the string tension? Classical guitars are massive compared to ukuleles, so I am not sure if that would be the best way to go. I would suggest going with a uke that is closest to the scale size of the charango. Eventually, you might even go for a 8 string uke.
Good Luck

06-11-2015, 10:54 AM
a charango dealer discouraged you from learning it.??? I bet he doesn't sell too many. if you want to learn to play a churango, it makes sense to me to buy one of those.

06-11-2015, 11:42 AM
I am not sure why you should start on a different instrument when you want to play the charango....

Yeah, I don't get it either. It makes no more sense to me than starting with an E-flat Sarusafon. Get the instrument you want.

06-11-2015, 01:17 PM
a charango dealer discouraged you from learning it.??? I bet he doesn't sell too many. .

It's hard to fault your logic. The dealer might need to review his business model?

06-11-2015, 01:38 PM
The standard/common charango tuning, and its size, and its playing techniques, are much closer to a concert uke than to a classical guitar. The charango player I talked to a couple days ago recommended http://caserita.com as a good online source of charangos. Or maybe you could force your dealer AT GUNPOINT to sell you one, hey?

06-11-2015, 03:18 PM
As the others have said, if your goal is to learn and play the charango, I'd start right there. Some skills transfer between stringed instruments, but there are also many differences. The ukukele's huge advantage to a beginner is the wealth of information that's available. With a more exotic instrument that isn't the same, but that's nothing that effort and tenacity can't solve.

06-11-2015, 05:16 PM
I'm prejudiced, but Mivo is right. There is a wealth of information on the ukulele. Lots simpler than learning guitar. I don't even know what a charango is....maybe something you graduate to later?

06-11-2015, 08:42 PM
The charango is a fantastic instrument, but it is (in my experience) somewhat harder to play than the ukulele: the double courses and string tension makes it harder to fret, the 'extra' e-course really taxes your left-hand little finger, and the 're-re-re-entrant' tuning makes melody playing rather interesting.

06-12-2015, 01:33 AM
If I were you, I would sit beneath a favorite tree on a cool but sunny day, eat a chimichanga, then begin noodling on a charango (whatever that is).

06-12-2015, 02:15 AM
The question is really "is it worth a couple hundred bucks to try something new?"

I admittedly know next-to-nothing about charangos, but I do know a little about fun. If the OP's entertainment budget can comfortably handle a $200 experiment, beginner charangos are available online at that price (charangomall.com - no financial interest and no experience with this vendor). If the interest continues beyond the beginner instrument, then (like everything else) there are better, more expensive instruments available.

What's the worst that can happen if the OP just gets his first choice? If he loves it, all is well. If he gets discouraged with the ten-string, he tries again with a four-string, goes piano or gets an harmonica.

06-12-2015, 04:54 AM
I know pretty much nothing about charangos, but won't mail-ordered cheap(ish) instruments have the same setup issues as mail-ordered cheap(ish) ukuleles? $200 could be a waste by default, from that perspective. My first ukulele was $120, and it was a fiasco as far as setup and intonation were concerned.

But I very much agree with the "is it worth a couple hundred bucks to try something new?" bit. It's how I came to the ukulele, and I haven't regretted it (in spite of those setup issues). Compared to some other instruments, ukueles and (apparently) charangos are fairly affordable.

06-12-2015, 05:00 AM
I am on a charango hunt this week. (And a balalaika / domra hunt, and a mandola hunt, and and magic lute hunt, and...) Anyway, I already know that a charango is for me, even from only playing a friend's more than a few years ago. I just never bothered hunting the bugger down before. When I find the right charango (or balalaika or mandola or saz or kora) my wife will be there with me and she'll say, "Oooh, that's beautiful! Let's buy it!" No problem, mates. Even with my big fingers and old guitar habit, I know I'll like it. What's not to like? It's small, intricate, exotic, whiny and piercing, and can absorb as much finger-play as I can throw at it. Charango forever!

06-12-2015, 05:34 AM
If it is just a matter of string tension, you could start out learning with the tuning a couple of steps flat, until you build up callouses on your fretting hand. Or, you could remove half the strings, and then add them back as you get stronger muscles in your hand and fingers.