Vocal Problems in Mariachi Singers


  The conditions under which Mariachi vocalists perform under are not always optimal for vocal health.  A typical performance day is quite hectic, filled with many environmental factors that make it difficult to take good care of the voice.  The wait time between meeting at a gig and actually performing can be up to an hour or more.  This can make it difficult to warm up the voice and keep it warm before one actually performs.  The environments in which Mariachis perform in are often smoky and loud causing the performer to inhale smoke or overexert the voice.  Mariachis perform at outside parties quite often and the heat of the Southwest can be exhausting and drying.  The spirit of Mariachi music often calls for vocalizations such as loud shouting, whistling, or tirando un grito, a scream like sound used to imitate laughing or crying. 

  All of these behaviors and conditions make it difficult for the mariachi to keep his/her voice from being misused and/or abused.  The fact that many vocalists are untrained increases the chance that a voice disorder will occur.  Many of the young musicians who are joining the ever increasing movement of Mariachi music in the Southwest look up to the great musicians of today and yesterday.  The influence of famous musicians on up and coming performers can be positive or negative.  A positive point is that many are choosing to be trained vocalists as well as instrumentalists therefore the standard for the Mariachi singing voice is on the rise.  A negative point is that the famous images of today and yesterday still engage in drinking alcohol and smoking to maintain the "spirit" of the music.  There is also the fact that many young singers strive to imitate their idols but this can only cause vocal difficulty.  Although it is exciting for spectators to see young performers imitate famous performers of the past, it can be very damaging singing out of the range of one's own voice. 

 

Summary of Problems (Vocal overuse, misuse, and abuse) the Mariachi Vocalist may Encounter

Overuse        Misuse/Abuse        Environmental

Heroic Schedule Siinging out of range Noise Pollution
Bad time management Use of a voice that is not one's own Dryness
Fatigue Yelling/Screaming No amplification
  Vocal nodules resulting from misuse/abuse. Dehydration
    Travel
    Poor diet
    Medications/drugs/alcohol

   Mr. Lujan, vocal coach of Mariachi Cobre, gives some suggestions for the Mariachi vocalists for maintaining vocal health in conditions and situations that are less than optimal. 

Don't drink alcohol

Don't smoke

Learn how to do "gritos" properly.  Use falsetto when doing them in a range that is comfortable.  Sing them instead of actually yelling, make it a controlled vocalization.

Drink a lot of water during performances.

Hum to keep the voice warm (personal communication, February 22, 2001).

 

What is Involved in Singing?    What is a Mariachi Ensemble?    The History of Mariachi Music     What is the Difference in Training Between Genres?       The Speech-Language Pathologist's Role    Glossary of Terms Related to Singing    Links    References

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