Despite the growing popularity of charangos and ronroco instruments, it’s unusual to find many stockists outside of the Andean region of South America (i.e. Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile).
That’s not to say they are unobtainable, just a little more expensive to ship, with a commensurate waiting time.
Here, I’ve put together a mini-guide on where you can buy a charango or ronroco, including frequently asked questions on quality, cost, and suitability depending on the sort of instrument you’re looking for, and the level you’ll be playing at.
Where to find Ronrocos or Charangos for Sale
If you’re not going to South America any time soon, you’ve probably thought about buying a charango or ronroco online. It’s entirely possible to do this and get a good instrument, if you know where to look.
Here’s my guide to where to buy a charango or ronroco, including what to look for and what quality you’re likely to get at each price point.
If you want a brand new instrument, you can also order both instruments directly from a number of luthiers (stringed instrument makers) and I’ve listed the better ones later in this article, too.
The availability of charangos on auction sites like eBay far outweighs the harder to find ronrocos. That’s not saying they don’t come up, but it’s less frequently than their smaller siblings.
Ebay can be a surprisingly good source of quality instruments. The advantages are:
- The ronroco or charango is already imported into the USA (so no customs worries)
- Shipping costs are also smaller as it’s usually a domestic transaction
- They’re usually sold by their previous owner who can tell you the instrument history, and tips on playing it
- They often come with whatever the previous owner bought, such as a case or unused sets of strings
Amazon stock a couple of cheaper charangos and ronrocos that come directly from South America. Click here to check out what’s available right now on Amazon USA, and also on Amazon UK.
A warning, though – these tend to be the cheaper models, but they might be suitable for a beginner.
Etsy is known for crafting, but it’s a surprisingly good resource for finding decent charangos and ronrocos that can be ordered directly from the makers.
The stock varies, since they’re not made in large numbers, but you can click here to check what’s currently available on the USA site, and also the UK version of the site too.
Some of them are high-quality, and because they’re made to order, you can request your own specifications. This does mean there’s a slightly longer lead-time than if you just bought one ‘off the shelf’.
Which Instrument Should I Buy, a Charango or a Ronroco?
Obviously this is down to personal taste, but a few things you should bear in mind first, before making your decision, are:
If you have a limited budget, charangos are generally more widely available and cheaper to ship. It also typifies the sound of the Andes and is likely to be the instrument you’ve heard before through numerous popular and folk music recordings.
On the other hand, if you find an instrument like a ukulele or mandolin a little too cramped for larger fingers, then the ronroco may well provide a better solution due to its size.
Both are suitable for soloing and standard chord playing, with the ronroco providing a deeper accompaniment, against the contrasting joyful ringing sound of the charango!
How Much Does a Charango or Ronroco Cost?
How much a new charango or ronroco costs depends on the quality of the craftsmanship and the luthier involved. The quality of different instrument models tend to be categorized into four distinct groupings:
Beginners: These are likely to be entry-level instruments with variable quality. This can be reflected in poor intonation, high action and a two-piece neck and headstock. Beginner models will also be marketed towards the tourist trade, where buyers are less discerning. Average price: $200.00-$230.00.
Semi-professional: A step up from the previous classification. These are generally a lot more playable than the beginner models, but aren’t likely to have the intricate and painstaking attention to detail found on better models. Worth considering though, if you’re a charango/ronroco rookie. Average price: $215.00-$300.00.
Professional: These will appeal to the experienced musician who fancies taking up a new instrument, but understands the need for quality over price. Here you’d expect a one-piece neck and headstock, a good action and attention to detail in the finishing.
To give an example, a guitarist with 20+ years of experience would understand the importance of a good quality model to get the most out of an instrument. Average price: $300.00-$500.00.
Concert: As the name suggests, concert quality charangos and ronrocos are aimed at the serious musician wanting the equivalent of a Martin or Gibson acoustic guitar. The tonewoods will be selected from the best sources and the inlay work should be flawless.
Again, the neck and headstock will be made from one piece of wood and the action higher up the neck should be low and comfortable. Average price: $450.00-$700.00.
The prices I quoted above are based largely on charangos. You can expect to pay a little more for a similarly specified ronroco Here’s an article where I wrote an in-depth comparison of the two.
Variations: Other than the regular acoustic models, some instruments will be fitted with a pickup, should you wish to plug them directly into a separate amplifier. This will be reflected in the price.
Recommended Charango and Ronroco Luthiers
Names to look out for include:
- Mario Figueroa
- Clarken Orosco
- Waldo Panozo
- Grover Cerrudo
- Pablo Richter
- Ignacio Suarez
- Rubén and Jaime Garcia
- Jorge Martinez
- Quispe Torrez
This isn’t an exhaustive list – if you see a charango or ronroco from another luthier, they may also make quality instruments. Check against the quality/cost gradings above so you know what to look for when choosing an instrument.
Is the Charango or Ronroco Suitable For Kids or Beginners?
Ronrocos and Charangos are a little tricky for kids to tune, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle if you’ve purchased an inexpensive electronic tuner (see my recommendations here, including which ones kids can use easily). You can also lend a hand tuning it while they’re still at the beginner stage.
From a playing point of view, because the instruments usually have thin nylon or composite strings and a short fingerboard, the wear and tear on little fingers is minimal in comparison with the much bigger guitar.
A better comparison would be against the slightly simpler and similarly sized ukulele. The setup is very similar, with the uke using GCEA (or C6 tuning) and the charango adding an extra pair of strings at the high end (the extra ‘E’ in GCEAE), again in C6 tuning.
Obviously the double strings (referred to as double course) does add an extra level of difficulty but is far from prohibitive, even with younger players in mind. Guitarists and ukulele players should transition quite quickly.
I would say the ronroco isn’t the ideal instrument for a five or six-year-old, because of the larger body and corresponding longer scale length and fingerboard configuration.
If you own a charango or ronroco, you might like: