A Mexican guitarrón player in a traditional Mariachi uniform.
The guitarrón mexicano (literally "Mexican large guitar" in Spanish, the suffix "-ón" denoting "large") or Mexican guitarron, is a very large, deep-bodied Mexican 6-string acoustic bass played traditionally in mariachi groups. Although similar to the guitar, it is not a derivative of that instrument, but was independently developed from the sixteenth-century Spanish bajo de uña ("fingernail[-plucked] bass"). It achieves audibility by its great size, and does not require electric amplification for performances in small venues. The guitarrón is fretless with heavy gauge strings, most commonly nylon for the high three and metal for the low three. The guitarrón is usually played by doubling notes at the octave, a practice facilitated by the standard guitarrón tuning A1 D2 G2 C3 E3 A3. Sometimes the high A is lowered an octave putting it one octave above the low A.
The guitarrón is used in Mexican mariachi groups, which usually consist of at least two violins, two trumpets, one Spanish guitar, and a vihuela (a high-pitched, five-string guitar-type instrument), and the guitarrón. A strap is usually used to keep the instrument up and playable. The guitarrón is used in the mariachi group to keep the other instruments on beat and together. Guitarrón players have need for good left-hand strength to stop the heavy strings of the instrument and a strong right hand, specifically the index, middle finger, and thumb to pluck two of the strings (usually a metal and a nylon string).
Randy Meisner of the Eagles also plays the guitarrón on the track "Hotel California" from the album Hotel California (1976), although in the credits the name of the instrument is anglicized to "guitarone".
One American player using the guitarrón in a non-traditional context is Aaron Goldsmith, formerly of the New York-based multicultural acoustic ensemble Luminescent Orchestrii; he uses a modified guitarrón with an elongated neck that allows him to play melodically.
Another American innovator, Jason Krivo Flores, uses the traditionally tuned Mexican guitarrón in the groups Vagabond Opera (www.vagabondopera.com) and Saloon Ensemble. He can also be heard on Hunter Payes' recording "Dualities Dillemma" where he played guitarrón on the title track. He has also performed with the 1920s Jazz group Trashcan Joe.
The guitarrón was a defining element of the 1980s British folk-pop band Fairground Attraction, played by member Simon Edwards.
The back of the guitarrón is made of two pieces of wood that are set at an angle making the back shaped like a shallow letter V. This design feature increases the depth and overall size of the instrument.