Mariachi emerged from the western Mexican state of Jalisco, and is now looked upon as a professional, sophisiticated, and nationally recognized art form. Since mariachi is a song-based genre, singing is part of the tradition. Typically the singers are drawn from the ensemble itself.
The term "Mariachi" used most appropriately, means a "Mexican Folk Musician." Used in different contexts, "mariachi" also means a group of such musicians, the music itself, and even the instrumentation and attire.
A typical mariachi ensemble includes: 6-8 Violins, 2 Trumpets, 1 Harp, several Guitars and Viguelas, and 2 Guitarrones. However, the mariachi format is FLEXIBLE, so liberal adjustments to the ensemble can be made to fit a particular group or music program. We've added Viola, Cello, and Bass parts to make it playable by String Orchestras, or to augment the traditional mariachi!
Mariachi music is becoming one of the most popular alternative styles in music education. Due to the influence of parents and communities, many school districts are requiring their music teachers to begin a mariachi music class.
Do We Have the Right Instruments?
Not every music program has Guitarrones, Vihuelas, and a Harp! No Problem!
Cellos and/or Bass can substitute for the Guitarrones - they play the same notes!
Guitars can be used alone without Vilhuelas - they share the same book & chords. Vuihuelas simply have a different timbre.
The Harp, though wonderful to have, is not required for the ensemble.
The Viola (optional) is a wonderful part that adds fullness and depth to the overall sound.
The Teacher Score includes resources where these particular instruments can be obtained.
Mariachi music has traditionally been taught informally, and often by rote, but with the proliferation of school-based mariachi programs as well as the huge expansion of top-flight professional mariachi ensembles in the United States and Mexico, more formalized mariachi education is necessary. If mariachi is to be taught in schools in the US, music literacy and all other aspects of the National Standards of Music Education must be taught as well. Also, long gone are the days when professional mariachis have no need of reading music: a mariachi professional who does not read today is at a serious disadvantage.
While quite a few music publishers sell arrangements of mariachi songs, no comprehensive, sequential course of study that teaches music literacy, mariachi style, instrumental and vocal technique, and mariachi’s history and culture has ever been available until now. Mariachi Mastery was carefully designed to allow a classroom teacher to simultaneously teach violin, trumpet, guitarrón, armonía, viola, cello, bass and harp students all together in one room. Each instrument book has exercises and performance tips specifically written for that instrument, and all of the books work together seamlessly so that a teacher can successfully guide their students’ musical advancement while learning to perform mariachi music in the authentic style.
Mariachi Mastery is divided into two sections representing two broad styles of mariachi music: Ranchera and Son.
Mariachi Mastery is laid out sequentially, progressing from the easiest to the hardest song, but teachers may want to jump around from chapter to chapter in order to obtain desired results with different classes/students. For example, the song Tristes Recuerdos (towards the end of the Ranchera section) is rhythmically quite simple for the armonía players, but harmonically quite advanced. Important concepts, such as key signatures, time signatures, scales, and melodic patternsare reinforced throughout the method so that if you do skip around from song to song students will not miss learning these concepts.
Each chapter begins with a “Mastering Mariachi” box (see below for more information) that gives students some cultural context for the song they will learn, and an overview of musical terms they will need to play it. These are followed by a number of exercises designed to teach the musical concepts and skills needed to perform the song in that chapter. These exercises will have students progressing from a fairly rudimentary musical level through quite advanced as they work through the book. Violins and trumpets will learn progressively more difficult keys, scale patterns in those keys, melodic figures, rhythmic figures, and articulations. Armonía and guitarrón players will learn standard chord progressions in several different keys and progressively more difficult rhythmic patterns encompassing all of the most common mariachi song types.
Each chapter culminates in a song that will give students the wonderful opportunity to perform mariachi music and experience a little bit of Mexican culture.
Mariachi Mastery is a comprehensive method book for group or individual study of mariachi music. It is designed for use by violinists who have completed Book 1 of All for Strings (or the first book of another comprehensive string method) and trumpet players who have completed Book 1 of the Standard of Excellence Comprehensive Band Method (or the first book of another comprehensive band method). No prior experience is required for the harp, armonía (guitar/vihuela), and guitarrón: these books contain extra preparatory exercises, and the first several songs of Mariachi Mastery were written in such a way as to allow beginning harp, armonía, and guitarrón players to quickly “catch up” with violinists and trumpet players who have had one year of prior experience on their instruments.
Viola, cello and bass books are provided as well, although these are not traditionally considered mariachi instruments, so that teachers of string orchestras may use Mariachi Mastery without neglecting any students. It should be said that incorporating these instruments into mariachi is not unheard of, in fact countless “symphonic mariachi” recordings have been made as far back as the 1940s and the added depth they contribute to the over-all sound is wonderful, but in live performances very few mariachis utilize these instruments.
A great deal of care and attention went into designing exercises that would teach the true essence of mariachi’s unique style. Musicians of any level of ability, including professionals, who would like to learn this beautiful style of playing can use these exercises and the CD accompaniment recording as their guide to doing so.
Vocal exercises are included in all of the books since every instrumentalist is expected to also sing in mariachi. Some chapters have specific exercises designed to help students learn to sing the song in that chapter, while others simply point to the vocal warm-ups in the back of the books. These vocal warm-ups should be incorporated into every practice session so that students become comfortable singing from the beginning, and so they work on and improve their vocal technique side by side with their instrumental technique.
In addition to the those that appear at the beginning of each chapter, frequent “Mastering Mariachi” lessons appear throughout the book to teach about mariachi culture, give tips to players for performing in a more authentic mariachi style, and offer additional exercises that, when performed, will lead students on their way to becoming master mariachi musicians. Exercises such as “Memorize this melodic pattern and play it in as many keys as you know” will prepare students for memorizing entire songs, transposing songs in their head, learning songs by ear, and improvising the accompaniments to songs—all of which are important aspects of mastering mariachi.
Introduction & Warm-Ups
All books (except for the Cello & Bass) have an introductory section. For the violin, viola, and trumpet, this section includes excellent warm-up and technique exercises playable by musicians in their second year of study. These exercises should be played every day at the beginning of the practice session to build a solid foundation. The harp, armonía, and guitarrón books contain an expanded introduction geared towards beginning instrumentalists. Students will learn music reading, posture, playing position, and technique.
Teaching mariachi music in a heterogeneous setting is a difficult task, and including beginning instrumentalists together with more experienced ones only compounds the issue.
Extra exercises for the harp, armonía, and guitarrón have been provided to help bring these players up to the same level of competency on their instrument as players who have had at least one year of experience.
All of the exercises in each chapter are recorded on the accompaniment CD included with each book. The CD is mastered so that the melody instruments (violins, trumpets) are in the left channel, the armonía is in the right channel, and the guitarrón and harp are in the center. Violinists or trumpet players who want to hear their parts played without the distraction of the armonía should pan the recording to the left, or to play along with the just the accompaniment (filling in the violin or trumpet part themselves) pan to the right. Armonía players who want to hear their part isolated without the distraction of the melody can pan the recording to the right, or to play along with the violin, trumpet and guitarrón parts only (filling in the armonía part themselves) pan to the left.
Many of these exercises are designed for students to listen first and then play, modeling their performance on what they just heard on the CD. These exercises are identified by icons above the music. Using the method in this way will greatly facilitate and accelerate learning mariachi style.
The enhanced portion of this CD includes complete recordings of the 12 songs in this book as well as Spanish lyrics and English translations.
Mariachi Mastery is designed to provide mariachi students and teachers with a formal method that has two broad purposes in mind:
Teaching musical technique and literacy through mariachi music
Teaching the fundamentals of mariachi music and style
Teachers can use the method alone, progressing from start to finish, but they can also use and re-use the exercises in each chapter to prepare students to perform other songs.
Each chapter introduces different keys, different scale patterns, melodic patterns and rhythms for the violins and trumpets, and chords, harmonic progressions, rhythms (song types) for the guitarrón, armonía and harp. All of these exercises could be used as a warm up or preparation for other songs as well. In this way a teacher could spend more time progressing through the method (introducing outside songs after every chapter), or play through the method start-to-finish and then refer back to specific exercises in order to refresh and drill important concepts (scales, keys, rhythms, etc.) as further preparation for learning other songs.
Mariachi Mastery student books contain unique features written specifically for that instrument. These are included to provide proper warm-up and technique exercises for the beginning student and for the accomplished mariachi musician who perhaps learned by rote and never studied their instrument in an academic setting.
Violin & Viola
A two-page warm-up section begins the book. The exercises focus on finger and bowing patterns. Students should play these exercises at their own pace before each rehearsal and home practice session to improve technique, finger accuracy, and bow arm facility. A valuable guide to instrument care concludes these pages. The last page of the book contains a finger pattern chart and labels the parts of the instrument in English and Spanish.
A two-page warm-up section begins the book. The exercises focus on long tones and lip slurs. Students should play these exercises at their own pace before each rehearsal and home practice session to improve breath control, articulation, range, and endurance. A valuable guide to instrument care concludes these pages. The last page of the book contains a fingering chart and labels the parts of the instrument in English and Spanish.
An eight-page introduction section begins the book. It labels the parts of the harp in English and Spanish and features instruction on proper posture and playing position, hand and finger placement, tuning the harp, and reading music. Warm-up exercises focus on arpeggios and scales. A valuable guide to instrument care concludes the introduction pages.
A ten-page section of additional exercises appears at the back of the book. These exercise feature more arpeggios, and a brief discussion of music theory as it relates to chord inversion and hand positions.
The last page of the book contains a chart of the Tonos de Acompañamento, and chord inversions in various keys.
The armonía book is used by both guitar and vihuela players. The eight-page introduction section features separate starting pages for each instrument. Each starting page labels the parts of the instrument and discusses proper posture, playing position, right and left hand placement, and tuning the instrument. After the initial pages, the guitarist and vihuela player read off the same page where they learn to read music, strum their instrument and play basic chords. A valuable guide to instrument care concludes the introduction pages.
A six-page section of additional exercises appears at the back of the book. These exercises feature a chart of the Tonos de Acompañamiento and accompaniment patterns and chord changes in several styles. Many of these exercises are playable as a duet with a guitarrón player to help improve everyone’s technique.
The last page of the book contains a complete chord chart of fingerboard diagrams for the guitar and the vihuela.
A six-page introduction section begins the book. It labels the parts of the guitarrón in English and Spanish and features instruction on proper posture and playing position, hand and finger placement, tuning the guitarrón, and reading music. Warm-up exercises progress from teaching one note at a time to playing four notes in succession. This procedure ensures rapid success for beginning players. A valuable guide to instrument care concludes the introduction pages.
A six-page section of additional exercises appears at the back of the book. These exercises feature a chart of the Tonos de Acompañamiento and accompaniment patterns in several styles, as well as chromatic scales and diatonic scales in several keys. Many of these exercises are playable as a duet with a guitar or vihuela player to help improve everyone’s technique.
The last page of the book contains a complete fingering chart for the guitarrón featuring fingerboard diagrams along side of color photos of the left hand position.
Cello & Bass
The cello & bass book can be used as a substitute for the guitarrón. When performed pizzicato, the sound will be similar to that instrument. The bow may be used at the director’s discretion.
The last page of the book labels the parts of the cello and bass in English and Spanish.
El Son de Mi Tierra