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Glossary of Mariachi Terms

Apparel | Armonía Hand Signals | Instruments | Music Theory | Style and Technique

Music Theory

Accordia
chord
A Livito
slower and freely. Ad libitum.
Armonia
general term used to describe "the rhythm section".
Bajo(s)
1) in the singular, generally means the guitarrón or a bass instrument; 2) in the plural, refers to the bass notes.
Barra
The bar in the measure.
Bemol
flatted note, such as Ab (La bemol).
Blanca
a half-note.
Bolero
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.
Bola
literally, the ball. Musically, the coda sign.
Cabeza
literally, head. In written music, as in recording sessions, refers to the "top" of the music.
Calderon
fermata.
Canto
literally, song. Includes all the sung verses of the song.
Clave de Fa
the clef.
Clave de sol
the G clef.
Compas
the full measure.
con puntillo
literally, with a point. The dotted note. For example, a negra con puntillo is a dotted quarter note.
Contratiempo
literally, against time. Counter-rhythms. This is a distinct characteristic sound in the sones, but also in most traditional forms in Mexican music.
Corchea
an eighth-note.
Coro
chorus.
Corrida
literally, running. Too fast.
Corrido
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.
Cuerda(s)
1)the melodic parts (1a, 2a, 3a); 2)the strings of an instrument.
Danzón
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.
Débil
literally, weak. Pianissimo.
del Princípio
literally, from the beginning.
Diminuido
diminished.
Do
the key or the note "C".
Doble Barra
the double bar.
Doble Corchea
the sixteenth-note. Also called semicorchea.
Entrada
literally, entrance. The beginning instrumental section of a song.
Escala
1) a scale; 2) a scale run.
Estribillo
refrain.
Fa
the key or the note "F".
Fuerte
Forte.
Fusa
thirty second note.
Golpes
literally, blows or strikes. A rhythmic pattern of the son.
Huapango
a son Huasteco. A 6/8 borrowed form. See son huasteco.
Intermédio
the instrumental music played between cantos, usually the same or a variation of the entrada. Literally, intermission.
Introducción
introduction. See also entrada.
Jarabe
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.
Joropo
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.
La
the key or the note "A".
Mánicos
the different strum patterns on the vihuela or guitar.
Marcha
a musical form. A march.
Mayor
1) the major key; 2) a major or whole step.
Menor
1) the minor key; 2) a minor or half step.
Mi
the key or the note "E".
Música
1) music; 2) written music; 3) the intermédio music.
Natural
natural.
Negra
literally, black. The quarter note.
Obertura
overture. The oberturas have long been a part of the traditional repertory in mariachi music.
Octavo
octave.
Pasodoble
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.
Pauta
the five line staff. Also called pentagrama.
Pentagrama
the five line staff. Also called pauta.
Piano
1) the instrument; 2) the dynamic piano.
Popurrí, potpurrí, potpourrí
medley.
Preparación, "prepa"
the mediant tone of the key used by the guitarrón to change from the primera (I) to the segunda (V7) in most rancheras.
Primera
literally, first. In music theory, the first melodic line in the instruments or in the voice.
Primera Casilla
the first ending.
Ranchera
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.
Re
the key or the note "D".
Redonda
a whole note.
Repetición
a repeat.
Ritmo
rhythm. Also, a ritmo is a tempo.
Segunda
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.
Segunda Casilla
the second ending.
Sencilla
literally, simple or simply. It means that the music in the song will be played without repeats.
Sesquealtera
alternating 6/8-3/4 meter. Hemiola.
Solfeggio
solfege, vocal exercise in which the names of the notes are used throughout.
Si
the key or the note "B".
Sol
the key or the note "G".
Son
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:
Son Abajeño
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.
Son Huasteco
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.
Son Jalisciense
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.
Son Jarocho
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.
Sostenido
sharpened note, such as F# (Fa sostenido).
Teoría
theory.
Tono
the key (of a song).
Tercera
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.
Triple Corchea
the thirty-second note.
Vals
waltz. Also one of the 3/4 forms for the ranchera.
Verso
verse.

Instruments

Afinador
fine tuner.
Arco
bow.
Armonía
1) vihuela and guitar; 2) vihuela, guitar and guitarrón
Barbáda
chin rest.
Boca armonía
sound hole.
Boquilla
mouthpiece.
Brazo
neck. Also, pezcuezo.
Brea
rosin. Also called péz.
Cabeza
literally, head. Musically, instrument head or crown.
Ceja
string nut.
Cejllla
the top of the fingerboard.
Cerda(s)
bow hair. Also called cerdal.
Clavijas
tuning pegs.
Cojínes
shoulder rest.
Cordal
tailpiece.
Costilla
literally, rib. Musically, side of the instrument. Also, duela or lado.
Cuerda(s)
string, strings.
Diapasón
fingerboard.
Émbulos
valves. Also called válvulas.
Encintar
to rehair the bow.
Entorchado
wound, as in "nylon wound string"; cuerda de nylon entorchado.
Fondo
instrument back.
Maquinária
mechanical tuning pegs.
Pabellón
bell of the horn.
Poste
sound post.
Púa
pick.
Puente
bridge.
Puntal
sound board. Also called alma.
Punto
top of the bow.
Sordina
trumpet mute.
Taliz
classical guitar strap.
Talón
frog of the bow.
Tapa
top.
Trastos
frets. Vihuela frets are monofilament strings tied on the neck.
Trompeta(s)
trumpet, trumpets. Also called cornetas.
Violin(es)
violin, violins.

Style and Technique

Adorno
a musical embellishment played by the violins and trumpets.
al Bajón
literally, "on the down beat".
Apagón
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.
Apoyatura(appogiatura)
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.
Arceos
bowings.
Arrastrar el arco (arco arrastrado)
literally, drag the bow. Back phrasing of the bow.
Avanico
literally, fan. Right hand "fanning" of the strings used by the armonía.
Caballito
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.
Cerrucho
literally, saw. Legato notes employing the bow for each note.
de Cajón
literally, ordinary. The standard embellishments and endings for a music form.
Golpes
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.
Falsette
falsetto. A vocal technique characteristic of the son huasteco.
Jalón
literally, pull. The right hand pulling technique of playing the guitarrón.
Ligado
slurred.
Ligadura(s)
slur(s).
Picado
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.
Parejo
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).
Pichicato
pizzicato.
Primera Posición
first position. In order to get a loud sound from the violins, most sones are played in the first position as much as possible.
Quedado(ito)
a rubato technique that avoids melodic accents on the beat, or on the off beat.
Redoble
a mánico technique used in sones. The armonía plays two down strums and one up strum twice within the same measure.
Remate
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
ricochet bowing.
Segunda Posición
second position.
Sobón
a slur or portamento. This technique is used minimally in the sones, and regularly in the ranchera romántica, ranchera valseada, and the bolero.
Soplar
literally, the verb "to blow". In mariachi terminology, to prompt someone with the lyrics of a song.
Tecera Posición
third position.
Voz Fingida
literally, faked voice. Head-tone.

Armonía Hand Signals

For armonía
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.

Apparel

Aletón
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.
Botín(es)
charro boots with low-cut uppers. Also called botas de charro.
Botonadura
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.
Broche
brooch.
Cinto Pitiado
braided belt worn with the charro suit. (this type of belt is hand­made and very expensive).
Ebilla
belt buckle.
Greca
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.
Liso
plain. As in "plain black uniform", traje lise negro.
Moño
literally, topknot. The "tie" used around the shirt collar with the charro suit.
Motas
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.
Sombrero
hat.
Traje
suit.
Traje de Charro
charro suit,or mariachi suit.
Traje Campero
a suit that uses bone buttons on the sleeves and chest.
Traje Chinaco
a suit with wide bell-bottom pant legs, cut from the shin down where a piece of bright-colored cloth is sewn in.



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