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Hurtado, Sebastiánfree

  • Andrés Amado

(b ?1846; d 16 Apr 1912). Musician and instrument builder from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala He is credited with the invention in 1894 of the Guatemalan chromatic marimba, also known as marimba de doble teclado (double keyboard marimba), marimba doble (double marimba), or marimba cuache (twin marimba). Before the invention of the marimba doble, musicians added chromatic tones to the diatonic (sencilla) marimba by applying wax to the bars, thus lowering them a semitone. Most sources agree that the Guatemalan composer and band director Julián Paniagua Martínez (1856–1946) envisioned adding a second, chromatic row and exhorted Sebastián Hurtado to implement the idea. In Hurtado’s design, the chromatic and diatonic rows align with each other, that is, the D♭/C♯ bar is not between C and D, but aligned with the D.

Other marimba builders also attempted chromatic designs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Manuel López and José Chaequín from Jocotenango, Guatemala, built chromatic marimbas in Guatemala City as early as 1875. Marimba player Manuel Gómez Clavería also experimented with the instrument and in 1868 built prototypes of chromatic marimbas, which he called marimba piano; he died before perfecting his design. Federico Guzmán in 1905 presented one of his instruments at the exposition of the Instituto Central de Varones (Central Institute for Men), at which he was awarded a medal. Similarly, in Chiapas, Mexico, Corazón de Jesús Borraz (1877–1960) is credited with building some of the first Mexican chromatic marimbas. Most Mexican instruments place the chromatic bars between the diatonic ones as on a piano keyboard, but Mexican marimbas with a layout similar to Hurtado’s have been reported.

In 2008 Guatemala’s Congress decreed that Hurtado’s face be depicted on the national currency—the 200-Quetzales bill—alongside the composers Germán Alcántara and Mariano Valverde. The bill also features a marimba doble behind the musicians.


  • A. Arrivillaga Cortésand R. Cocano Mexicano: ‘La Marimba en Guatemala’, Tradiciones de Guatemala, vol.43 (1995), 69–160
  • L.H. Godínez: La Marimba Guatemalteca: Antecedentes, Desarrollo, Y Expectativas: un Estudio Historico, Organológico, Y Cultural (México, 2002)