Which Instruments Are Traditional for a Mariachi Band?

instruments-traditional-mariachi-band Credit: Scott Clark/CC-BY 2.0

Traditional instruments for a mariachi band include violins, vihuelas, guitar, guitarron and trumpets. The vihuela is similar in size to a ukulele and has five strings, and it is one of the instruments used to form the rhythm for the mariachi band. The guitarron is a larger guitar that is used to form the bass of the music and is one of the more recognizable instruments of a mariachi band.

The members of a mariachi band dress in traditional outfits called charro suits. Charro suits originated from the Mexican cowboys of Jalisco, who are said to have worn similar, but less decorative, outfits. These charro suits also suggest that mariachi music originated in Jalisco. During its infant stages in Jalisco, mariachi music was called "son," and it incorporated elements of indigenous African and Spanish music. Different types of son arose throughout Mexico, characterized by alternate rhythms, melodies and specific instruments. The type of son that arose from the area around Jalisco was termed "son jaliscense," which ultimately gave rise to the present-day mariachi music. The evolution from son jaliscense to mariachi is generally attributed to European influence and the creation of orquestas típicas, or small groups of musicians who played in rural settings. Eventually, these small groups began to roam the country and develop the modern-day mariachi music.