Just like the world’s best tequila, Mexico’s natural treasure, mariachi music originated in Jalisco, Mexico. It was regional folk music in the 19th century and developed over time into what we know as mariachi music today.

Mariachi Music and It’s Trappings

If your only experience with mariachi music is seeing them as wandering entertainment in Mexican restaurant dining rooms, you recognize them the moment you see them. They have the instantly recognizable charro outfit. And that is no coincidence. It was carefully selected by the 1960s National Charro Federation to give the musicians a perfected look.

The instruments you see in a mariachi band have a tradition, as well. Here are the instruments you will see when they are loudly singing their songs of love, historical stories and politics.

Vihuela

This is a string instrument that is similar to the ukulele. It is played with a pick and keeps the harmony for the band.

Guitar

The acoustical guitar is also the rhythmic and harmonic foundation for the group.

Guitarrón

This is the mariachi group’s bass. Many believe that it is the guitarrón that makes mariachi music mariachi music. While other instruments are optional, without the guitarrón, there is no point to playing. It just wouldn’t sound right.

Trumpet

The trumpet is also part of the distinct sound of the mariachi band. It gives the band its polish and strength.

Violin

The violin drives the emotion of the band. The violin can express the sadness of a tragic historical story or the fun and happiness of a story of love.

Accordion

You might see an accordion in some groups and various other typical Mexican band instruments.

Mexican Restaurants

Many Mexican restaurants will let the mariachi bands wander through the restaurant and play for tips, or they regularly schedule them to play for the weekend. If you ask the mariachis to play a song for you, it is customary to give them a tip.