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MARIACHI: What is it?

Joe Baca

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Published: November 21, 2014 at 3:16 AM [UTC]


I am new to this site but I am happy to be connected to more string enthusiasts than ever. I will leave my personal story to those interested in reading my bio and cut right to the chase. I hate to say it this way but really there are three types of musicians I run across: those who don't know what Mariachi is, those who think they know what it is and Mariachis themselves.

Mariachi music just like any other style of music can be molded to fit whatever the Mariachi Musician wants or even needs it to be to satisfy their musical hunger, within certain parameters of course be it instrumentation or sticking to certain sub-styles within the genre (there is always debate within the mariachi circles about this; purists & non). Regardless though, Mariachi runs deep not only with folk roots but now more than ever it is infused with classical instrumental training and the songs themselves are arranged with much thought and complex musicality by those knowledgeable in music theory, arranging, composing and orchestrating. (In fact Mariachi kept me ahead in all of my theory classes in college.)

This music then must be internalized once read from the page and memorized so that the performance aspect can then be put into effect. The performance of Mariachi music is a whole other aspect in-and-of-itself that involves not only conveying emotional significance but stage techniques as well typically found in the Drama field. As you can see, there already may be a few things about Mariachi you may not have been really aware of.

My blogs will primarily cover my main musical interest, which is the Mariachi genre. (I may throw in a few other things here and there.) However, my hope is that I can enlighten and excite more and more people about this genre that is ‘famous but fuzzy’ so that the next time you think of Mariachi Music only the best thoughts come to mind because remember just like there are great and poor bands, orchestras, singers, etc. the same goes for Mariachis.

I hope you enjoy what I have to say and do remember that what I say in my blog, unless stated as fact, is only my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the ideology and opinions of any of my associations.

It is nice to informally meet you all and feel free to message me anytime.

Your brother in music,

Joe Baca
Mariachi Cobre

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on November 23, 2014 at 6:36 AM
Welcome! When I've seen Mariachi music performed, it looks like several musicians all playing the same notes. Is that another misconception? (By the way, this type of music also interests me, although I haven't had the opportunity to try it.)
From Joe Baca
Posted on November 25, 2014 at 1:52 PM
Hi Francesca! Thank you.

I wish that were a simple answer but I will be covering a lot of it when I talk about all of the different sub-styles within the Mariachi genre. However I think I may know what you are talking about.

One of the genre's staples is that the two melody sections (violins & trumpets) play in rhythmic unison for a lot of our music, however; our parts are different. Melody sections have three purposes: (1) opening melody/introduction, (2) adornos (ornamentation or "licks") & (3) solos/solis. Violins for the most part will harmonize in three parts, two of them being basically parallel and one depending on the nature of the chord progression will fill any missing gaps. Depending on the key and what inversion the trumpets harmonies are in, violins may flip our harmonic inversion which will many times change that "filler" part and whether it will be in the 3rd violin part or 2nd violin part (1st violin part will always be the direct melody or direct harmony of the melody.)

Sometimes depending on the nature of song we don't want to get to thick, so violins will play in unison and just one trumpet will play a harmony with us. Also, in a style called Huasteca, named for its region in Mexico, there are many times when the mariachi mimics "el estilo viejo" "the old style" by playing quick noted violin soli melodies in total unison mimicking a single violin or harp lines.

Great question!! I definitely will be covering this sprinkeled within all of my blogs. The other possibility is that you may have heard a Mariachi that just gets together for tips that don't typically play together (could be different guys each week) So unless they are good at Harmoizing on the spot (which some are) and unless they all know the same arrangement, many times what comes out is a unison sound as a quick fix to get through the song.

Since the 60s though, many arrangements have many "classical elements and "jazz elements" of contrasting melodies across sections or within the same section, non-traditional harmonies. it just mainly depends on what sub-style we are playing because each has some "rules" so-to-speak.

I hope I answered your question somewhere in there and like I said that will come up in a lot in my following blogs!

Thanks for taking interest! Write me any time!

Joe Baca

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on November 26, 2014 at 5:56 AM
Thanks, Joe! That makes me eager to listen to more Mariachi and look forward to more of your blogs.


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