The Trumpet - An Overview
The trumpet is the newest and most recent musical instrument introduced to the modern day mariachi ensemble. Though the cornet started in the late 1920's, the trumpet in the mariachi ensemble eventually replaced the cornet in the 1930's. The history of the trumpet spans many centuries.
Did you know that in Egypt, a silver and bronze trumpet type was found in King Tutankhamen (Tut's ) tomb?
It is interesting to know that people from around the world have been using some kind of wind instrument or object to produce a sound for many, many years. The early civilizations in Mexico, Central and South America would use conch shells, large snail shells or make a clay type flute or animal-effigy (sculpture) ocarina for military or religious exercises. Some of these early objects were made with only a 1-note pitch and others up to 5 notes.
In early mariachi recordings, as well as other early genre musical recordings, the instrumentation of violins, guitars and harp did not record very well because of the not yet refined recording practices. The trumpet was introduced to the mariachi in the 1930's because of its recording sound capabilities. The sound was focused and loud. "Miguel Martinez is considered the creator of the mariachi-style trumpet performer and teacher".
The modern trumpet is constructed of brass tubing. It produces sound by blowing air through closed lips into a mouthpiece creating a "buzz". The Trumpet has piston valves to lengthen and shorten the length of the tubing to lower or raise the pitch. The embouchure (the lip opening and tension on the mouthpiece) also aids in pitch selection and execution. Single, double and triple tonguing is an important stylization technique for the mariachi trumpet player.
The role of the trumpet in the mariachi ensemble is to provide melodic lines. Extensive training in breathing and playing technique is crucial in the stylization of this genre of music. Most mariachi ensembles will have at least one trumpet player while large show groups may have up to three trumpet players. The trumpet section usually plays lead, in harmony and at times, counter melodies to the violin section. Since the trumpet is a loud instrument, many people associate the trumpet with the mariachi as a required instrument and also an instrument that characterizes the mariachi. But we all know that the trumpet was introduced to the mariachi ensemble in the 1930's. The instrumentation roots of the modern day mariachi ensemble started with the Harp, Guitarra de Golpe, Vihuela Mexicana and Violin.