Glossary of Mariachi Terms
literally, large wing. Refers to the large flap that can be sewn on to the sides of the pant legs on the traje de charro. It can remain plain or have greca sewn on to it.
charro boots with low-cut uppers. Also called botas de charro.
literally, set of buttons. The silver or chrome plated buttons are worn along the outside of the pant legs. A set of botonadura also includes the broche and special buttons for the sleeves. Also called plata.
braided belt worn with the charro suit. (this type of belt is handmade and very expensive).
a type of design sewn on to the aletón or on to the sides of the pant legs. Made of suede, it can be worn with or without botonadura.
plain. As in "plain black uniform", traje lise negro.
literally, topknot. The "tie" used around the shirt collar with the charro suit.
ready-to-wear collar ties. Not made of the same material as the moño, and usually has three balls hanging from the knot. Also called motitas and gargantillas.
Traje de Charro
charro suit,or mariachi suit.
a suit that uses bone buttons on the sleeves and chest.
a suit with wide bell-bottom pant legs, cut from the shin down where a piece of bright-colored cloth is sewn in.
raised index finger indicates that the song will be played in the key of C. Two fingers raised indicates Re or key of D. Three fingers raised indicates Mi or key of E, and so on.
1) vihuela and guitar; 2) vihuela, guitar and guitarrón
neck. Also, pezcuezo.
rosin. Also called péz.
literally, head. Musically, instrument head or crown.
the top of the fingerboard.
bow hair. Also called cerdal.
literally, rib. Musically, side of the instrument. Also, duela or lado.
valves. Also called válvulas.
to rehair the bow.
wound, as in "nylon wound string"; cuerda de nylon entorchado.
mechanical tuning pegs.
bell of the horn.
sound board. Also called alma.
top of the bow.
classical guitar strap.
frog of the bow.
frets. Vihuela frets are monofilament strings tied on the neck.
trumpet, trumpets. Also called cornetas.
slower and freely. Ad libitum.
general term used to describe "the rhythm section".
1) in the singular, generally means the guitarrón or a bass instrument; 2) in the plural, refers to the bass notes.
the bar in the measure.
flatted note, such as Ab (La bemol).
a musical form in 4/4, usually in a major key or ending in a major key. The ostinato pattern in the bajos of this form falls usually on the 1st, 3rd and 4th beats. There are two types of boleros: 1) a bolero ranchero, which is faster in tempo than the second, and is most likely to be in a minor key; and, a bolero romantico, which is usually in a major key.
literally, the ball. Musically, the coda sign.
literally, head. In written music, as in recording sessions, refers to the "top" of the music.
literally, song. Includes all the sung verses of the song.
Clave de Fa
Clave de sol
the G clef.
the full measure.
literally, with a point. The dotted note. For example, a negra con puntillo is a dotted quarter note.
literally, against time. Counter-rhythms. This is a distinct characteristic sound in the sones, but also in most traditional forms in Mexican music.
literally, running. Too fast.
a musical form similar to a ballad, where there is no refrain in the lyrics. In Mexican music, a majority of corridos are in 3/4 time, but there are many in 4/4.
1) the melodic parts (1a, 2a, 3a); 2) the strings of an instrument.
similar to a fast bolero as the ostinato bass pitches and the meter are the same. The difference is essentially in the armonía, which accents the 1, 4, and 7 of the eight strokes of the mánico in the danzón. In the bolero the strum is even.
literally, weak. Pianissimo.
literally, from the beginning.
the key or the note "C".
the double bar.
the sixteenth-note. Also called semicorchea.
literally, entrance. The beginning instrumental section of a song.
1) a scale; 2) a scale run.
the key or the note "F".
thirty second note.
literally, blows or strikes. A rhythmic pattern of the son.
a son Huasteco. A 6/8 borrowed form. See son huasteco.
the instrumental music played between cantos, usually the same or a variation of the entrada. Literally, intermission.
introduction. See also entrada.
literally, syrup. A traditional dance form that is like a potpourri of instrumental sections of different regional sones, each section usually is in a different meter than the preceding section.
a borrowed form from Venezuela which has become very popular in the mariachi repertory. Fast 3/4 or 6/8 meter using apagones or tapones.
the key or the note "A".
the different strum patterns on the vihuela or guitar.
a musical form. A march.
1) the major key; 2) a major or whole step.
1) the minor key; 2) a minor or half step.
the key or the note "E".
1) music; 2) written music; 3) the intermédio music.
literally, black. The quarter note.
overture. The oberturas have long been a part of the traditional repertory in mariachi music.
a musical form. Fanfare music that is usually loud and traditionally played at the bullfights. There is almost always a trumpet solo section, and the pasodoble is in duple meter.
the five line staff. Also called pentagrama.
the five line staff. Also called pauta.
1) the instrument; 2) the dynamic piano.
Popurrí, potpurrí, potpourrí
the mediant tone of the key used by the guitarrón to change from the primera (I) to the segunda (V7) in most rancheras.
literally, first. In music theory, the first melodic line in the instruments or in the voice.
the first ending.
a musical style in 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4. Usually in a major key. The ranchera is also a feeling. The types of rancheras are: the Ranchera Corrido or Polka in 2/4; the Ranchera Valseada in 3/4; and, the Ranchera Romántica in 4/4. There is always an entrada, canto, intermédio, canto, and depending on the type of ranchera, a de cajón ending.
the key or the note "D".
a whole note.
literally, second. In music theory, the second melodic line that is in harmonization with the primera. The segunda line traditionally is in parallel motion to the primera when there is also a tercera (see Tercera), and can move in contrary motion to the primera when there are only two parts.
the second ending.
literally, simple or simply. It means that the music in the song will be played without repeats.
alternating 6/8-3/4 meter. Hemiola.
solfege, vocal exercise in which the names of the notes are used throughout.
the key or the note "B".
the key or the note "G".
a generic form identifying a regional sound or music. The son is usually a very traditional instrumental, vocal, or danced piece. Some of the different sones are as follows:
a son from "abajo", or below, generally referring to the Tierra Caliente region just below Jalisco. The meter and form are similar to that of the son Jalisciense.
a 6/8 with sesquealtera (hemiola) rhythmic pattern. Traditionally, the son huasteco came from the Huasteca region in the region just north of Veracruz and further north along the Gulf of Mexico. A distinct characteristic of the son huasteco or huapango is the falsetto jumps in the vocal technique.
a 12/8 rhythmical pattern with sesquealtera (hemiola) and contratiempos in the melody and mánicos. The son jalisciense is from the state of Jalisco, making it very much a part of the traditional repertory of the mariachi. There is usually an entrada, verso, coro (either responsorial or a separate refrain), a third section of music, new verses, and a shortened version of the entrada to finish. There are also sones jalicienses that do not fit the above 12/8 pattern, that technically and musically are very difficult to play. These are some of the oldest sones in the repertory.
from the state and region of Veracruz. Jarocho means "brusque", which describes the music and the dance of this tradition. The vocal timbre is high, but does not use the falsetto technique of the Huasteca area. Although, since the two areas are close in proximity, the two are known to borrow or exchange repertory.
sharpened note, such as F# (Fa sostenido).
the key (of a song).
literally, third. In music theory, the melodic line that is in harmonization with the primera and segunda. The tercera part can become the segunda when there are only two parts being played.
the thirty-second note.
waltz. Also one of the 3/4 forms for the ranchera.
a musical embellishment played by the violins and trumpets.
literally, "on the down beat".
a mánico of the right hand across the strings of the guitar or vihuela in such a way that no distinct pitches are heard. Used primarily in the huapango and the borrowed form, joropo. Also called, tapón and tope.
in mariachi terminology, this denotes a lower-neighbor grace note. The apoyatura is more commonly used in the sones than any other music form, and sometimes it may be accented.
Arrastrar el arco (arco arrastrado)
literally, drag the bow. Back phrasing of the bow.
literally, fan. Right hand "fanning" of the strings used by the armonía.
literally, little horse. A mánico technique used in sones jalicienses that is a repetition of three strums, two down and one up, with an accent on the second strum, giving it a "galloping" effect.
literally, saw. Legato notes employing the bow for each note.
literally, ordinary. The standard embellishments and endings for a music form.
literally, blows. 1) staccato at the frog of the bow, usually all down-bow; 2) the hard, crisp strum pattern on the guitar instruments used in the sones.
falsetto. A vocal technique characteristic of the son huasteco.
literally, pull. The right hand pulling technique of playing the guitarrón.
1) staccato bowing at the frog of the bow, usually all down-bow; 2) the staccato tonguing technique for the trumpets, which is very characteristic of the mariachi trumpet style.
literally, even. A mánico used in sones jalicienses that is simply up and down strums with no accents.
Pa 'rriba, Pa bajo
literally, up and down. Another name for the mánico parejo. It is understood amongst the vihuela players that a variation of this strum is to start up on the strong beat, and this stroke is called pa 'rriba (up).
first position. In order to get a loud sound from the violins, most sones are played in the first position as much as possible.
a rubato technique that avoids melodic accents on the beat, or on the off beat.
a mánico technique used in sones. The armonía plays two down strums and one up strum twice within the same measure.
literally, to top or to end. Also called remache. A de cajón adorno that occurs at the end of the phrase, to connect the phrases, and at the end of the entrada.
Saltiar el arco
a slur or portamento. This technique is used minimally in the sones, and regularly in the ranchera romántica, ranchera valseada, and the bolero.
literally, the verb "to blow". In mariachi terminology, to prompt someone with the lyrics of a song.
literally, faked voice. Head-tone.