Training for Singing Mariachi
The truth is, mariachi singers are trained no differently than any other type of vocalist. A knowledgeable vocal coach will first teach the vocal student proper classical techniques. Classical training should be the basis for all vocalists.
Once classical training is implemented and practiced, then mariachi style may be added to give this type of singing it's unique flavor.
Manuel Lujan, vocal trainer for the world famous Mariachi Cobre describes mariachi style as using both the head or falsetto register and the chest register. The training that he implements trains both registers simultaneously (M. Lujan, personal communication, February 22, 2001). Mr. Lujan's training sequence for all vocalists is working both the head register and the chest register (see glossary of terms for further explanation). He describes the singer as a vocal athlete that must train all the muscle groups of the vocal mechanism. When one of the registers is deficient, then more work is done with that register so that the student will be able to mix registers appropriately. Mixing is an important component in singing, especially in the Mariachi style. It is a technique that both male and female vocalists who sing Mariachi employ frequently.
Basically Mr. Lujan says, "the more you study, the stronger the voice." The stronger the voice, the more versatile is the singer.
Mr. Lujan gives a rough time line for reaching proficiency in specific genres of singing.
The Training Controversy in Mariachi
Most Mariachi vocalists do not have any formal music training or vocal instruction. Mariachi is folk music that was performed by country people and was not practiced by the elite who could afford to be trained. Therefore, the traditional sound of the Mariachi voice is rustic, viejo (old) and even sometimes borracho (drunk) sounding. There are some Mariachi vocalists who believe to receive training means that one is not puro or loosely translated, authentic. They feel that it is enough that the music is coming from the heart, and to train the voice would take away from that.
A New Trend Emerging
The current trend for Mariachi singers today is to receive formal training. The professional sound is developing with the influence and finely tuned voices of groups like Mariachi Cobre. In order to "keep up," other groups must receive both instrumental and vocal training to comply with the new standard. There was a time, around the 1950's when there were trained Mariachi singers. This group included Pepe Villa, Jorge Negrete, and Pedro Infante. The trend is going back to having a well trained instrument. Mariachi singers of today are realizing that there is nothing wrong with being a good vocalist.
What is Involved in Singing? What is a Mariachi Ensemble? The History of Mariachi Music Vocal Problems in Mariachi Singers The Speech-Language Pathologist's Role Glossary of Terms Related to Singing Links References