Mexican music has always been fun to listen to. Be it weddings, birthdays or other occasions, this music works its charm on everyone listening to it. We give you a list of Mexican musical instruments without which this music would definitely be incomplete!
“It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself.” ― Johann Sebastian Bach
Any music is incomplete without instruments (except for the amazing acapellas that don’t need anything other than vocals). The life of Mexican music rests in its musical instruments. With famous songs like Bésame Mucho, La Bamba, Huapango, Cielito Lindo, La Cucaracha, and many more, that bring out different emotions in us; it seems impossible to imagine these without their music!
This music that keeps our feet tapping and hands waving and fingers snapping has an amazing list of musical instruments making it so lively, molding us in its suaveness.
List of Mexican Musical Instruments
Guitarra de golpe
This is a guitar like instrument with 5 nylon strings. It has only few frets and its head is shaped like that of an owl.
Vihuela – A guitar-shaped string instrument with 6 doubled strings, from the 15th and 16th centuries. There were three types of vihuela:
- Vihuela de mano: 6 or 5 courses played with the fingers
- Vihuela de penola: played with a plectrum
- Vihuela de arco: played with a bow
This is a finger plucking bass instrument, also from the 16th century, that looks like a large vihuela, with 6 strings. The first three strings are nylon, and the next three are metal wound. It is fret-less and doesn’t need electric amplification because of its big size that gives it volume for small venues.
Guitarra quinta or Huapanguera
This also is a bass instrument. It has a short neck with only 8 to 10 frets and 8 nylon strings in 5 courses.
Guitarra de son
Also known as Requinto jarocho, this instrument has 12 frets and can have 4 or 5 strings made of nylon. The whole body of the instrument, including the neck and the head, is made from a single wood.
Arpa, or Harp
This is a small harp, with 32-36 nylon or metal strings and no pedals, and is played sitting down. It has a wooden frame, and the sound holes are located at the back of the soundboard, unlike other Mexican harps.
There are two types of Jarana:
- Jarana huasteca – this is a 5 stringed instrument, smaller than Huapanguera. It is on similar lines to a mandolin.
- Jarana jarocha – This has 8 nylon strings in 5 courses. The arrangement of the strings is 2 outer single, and three inner double strings. Its physical appearance is smaller than that of a guitar and is often confused with a ukulele.
It is a guitar like instrument and has 10 strings in 5 courses. It gained popularity in the 19th century.
It is derived from Bajo quinto and has 12 strings in 6 courses.
It has a trapezoidal shape and is made out of wood. 5 bridges are placed on top of the board, to stretch the strings across them. It is made for different musical ranges, viz., soprano, tenor, and requinto. A salterio requinto has 90 strings in 3 courses, while salterio tenor has more than 100 in 3-4 courses.
Its shape is like a guitar with frets and has only 4 strings.
This is a small mandola, with 8 strings in 4 courses. Even 5 and 6 courses are also exist.
This instrument has 3 or 4 strings, and produces bass sound. They are to be played with fingers.
It is a bow instrument known from the 16th century Italy, with four strings stretched across the fingerboard and the tailpiece with the help of a bridge. Its name is derived from violino, an Italian word, meaning small viola.
This is another word for trumpet, it is 70% lighter than a trumpet. It is considered as a treble instrument, accompanied by trumpets playing tenor and bass.
These were a type of oboe introduced to Central and South America in the 16th-17th century. They were made of wood with 10 holes in the bore. The bores were either conical or cylindrical and were all double-reeded. However, chirimias disappeared by the mid-19th century.
It a long tube kind of drum made out of wood, with a skin stretched on the top. It has a stand of 3 legs and is open at the end, for the sound to propagate.
It is a double-headed membranophone and its diameter varies from 20 to 26 inches. It can be played keeping it diagonal or vertical.
These are made of hollow hardwood logs. The upper part is cut into slits in the shape of an ‘H’. The cut portion is then struck with rubber-head wood mallets to produce sounds. The image shown below is a variation of a teponaztli.
This is a percussion instrument. The wooden bars are struck with mallets that produce different sounds.
This is a pluck box music instrument. As the wooden strips are plucked, they create sound.
Cajón de tapeo
This is a percussion instrument made of wood. It is covered from all six sides, with a hole at the back of a vertical side. Every side makes a different sound.
These are hard shells from the ayoyote tree. They are attached with a piece of cloth and tied to the hands or legs of a dancer or musician. It makes sounds of raindrops.
These are cleaned and dried jawbones of donkeys, mules, or horses to use as a rattler.
These are also called rumba shakers, made from dried gourd shells, or coconut shells, and filled with tiny beans. These balls are then mounted on wooden handles.
are made from one side open hollow gourds. Sleek notches are then carved on them, and then rubbed with a stick to produce sound.
These are round in shape, with frames made of plastic or wood. There are pairs of metal jingles that make sound when you shake them in different rhythms.
This is a box-shaped chordophone/ aerophone also known as the squeezebox. The bellows are to be pressed while playing the keys to produce sound.