Hardly built to the same general shape as the rest of the guitar family, the guitarron nevertheless teams up with the guitar family in two different settings ...
In the trio romantico or Mariachi band from Mexico, the guitarron provides the bass and the rhythmic foundation that was formerly the province of the less-than-portable harp. The fact the guitarron is only marginally more portable is perhaps best left unsaid. In such an ensemble, the guitarron is usually tuned five notes down - A D G C E A and the heavy strings are on a stumpy neck that gives the instrument a scale length not dissimilar to the classical guitar.
In the Niibori orchestra, the guitarron is frequently played on a cello spike, in the style of classical guitarist Paul Galbraith, and here the pitch is usually E A D G B E, a full octave down on the classical, and the same pitch as the contra guitar.
The Guitarron has a deep body and the instrument has the general proportions of a double bass. Commercially available Guitarrons vary in scale length between 650mm and 750mm. Interestingly, some Guitarron string sets have overwound nylon for the top three strings and overwound metal for the lower three.
The major difference, then, between the guitarrone and the contra or bass guitar is one of proportion. The Niibori bass instruments are scaled up so that the contra is about 15% bigger all round than the classical, whereas acoustically, it should be twice the size. The guitarron has a body that goes some way towards scaling up in true proportion, and as a result, the sound is more like a plucked double bass than a contra guitar.
Actually, that's not quite true either - the major difference in terms of playability - being on the sending end - as opposed to its sound - being on the receiving end - is, as the photo shows, the neck. There are no frets - this is a fretless instrument like the double bass - and the action is high; it can be tiring to play, requiring a good grip.