The Music of Mexico

Oct 13, 2021

For the past few months, we’ve been taking some time to explore different countries through their experiences with music. We got started with the music of Brazil, before moving on to Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Trinidad & Tobago, and finally, last week, the music of Spain. This week we continue our world tour with a look at the music of Mexico!

As a remarkably diverse country, Mexico is home to an equally diverse spectrum of music celebrating both local and national cultures. Influenced by its people and its past, the music of Mexico celebrates life and love. With a wide range of subject matters, from history, to legends, to overcoming oppression, Mexico’s music is a vibrant part of Mexican life.

Anyone that is interested in the culture of Mexico has to dive into the music scene with both feet, as music is one of the country’s most popular forms of expression. Throughout the nation’s history, its music has undergone great evolution, from the sound of the drums of a Mayan or Aztec ceremony, to the modern form of Mexican Rap!

Let’s dive in and get a closer look at this diverse cultural phenomenon!


One of the most recognizable forms of music to come from Mexico has got to be mariachi. From the traditional, silver-studded “charro” suite, with matching sombrero, to the distinct musical and vocal sound, mariachi had become almost a cultural necessity for national celebrations, public parties and “fiestas,” weddings, and any other large party.

The word “mariachi” comes from two of the many languages native to Mexico; the Nahuatl, which was used mostly by the Aztecs, and the Coca, a language used by many independent Mayan tribes. Originally, the term was used to describe a dance performed by a group on a wooden platform, and was very similar in this way to the Spanish term “Fandango.” Over time, however, the term evolved to refer to the style of music, and the band that played it.

Originating in Guadalajara, mariachi bands started out by traveling from town to town, singing about common topics, like love and loss. This traveling helped spread the musical style throughout the country, and led to it becoming the highest representation of Mexican music.

Typically, a mariachi band is formed around four or five guitars, a sort of large bass guitar called a “guitarrón,” some “vihuelas” ( a type of guitar with a rounded back), violins, and often trumpets and a harp with 28 to 40 strings. Some regions also include a small snare drum as well.


Not unlike American country music, Mexican ranchera music most often celebrates love, family life, and patriotic stories. That’s not surprising since this genre comes from Mexico’s rather impressive rural countryside. But one aspect that sets it apart from country music, as other genres found in Mexico, is its use of a type of call and response yell called “El Grito Mexicano.”

The earliest ranchera music was overtly rebellious and grew out of a strong distaste for the aristocratic music preferred, at the time, by the old rulers of Mexico. After the rebellion, however, its popularity swelled as music from the Mexican people became far more popular.


Also often called “Grupero,” Norteño employs, among other instruments, an accordion and a “bajo sexto,” which is a twelve-string guitar. New immigrants to Northern Mexico took European style polka and waltzes, and blended them with Mexican ranchera back in the late 10th century to create something new and unique.

Today, Norteño has a fast, polka-like beat, and is still wildly popular in the northern-most parts of the country.

Classical and Art Music

This may come as a surprise to those who only think of mariachi music when they think of Mexico, but the country also has a strong and proud history of opera, going as far back as La Partenope in 1711.

The earliest forms of Mexican opera were heavily influenced by the European tradition, but by the 19th century, Mexican composers had found their own styles and voices in operas like Guatimotzin. The story follows the last Aztec ruler as he defended against the Spanish. Another famous opera, Tata Vasco, uses native melodies to tell the story of the first bishop of Michoancan.

When it comes to classical music, Mexico is often considered one of the first contributors to the modern New World culture. For many years, Mexico produced some of the world’s best musicians and composers, and today’s art music is dominated by avant-garde artists like Richard Lemus, Tino Contreras, Pop Sanchez, and many more.

Pop & Hip-Hop

Just like most everywhere else, pop and hip-hop have become important parts of Mexico’s musical tapestry. When it comes to these genres, Mexico has plenty of its own stars. In pop, the genre is dominated by teen pop bands, and now-grown former teen pop stars.

When it comes to hip-hop, the genre has grown exponentially for more than 30 years, and has found its niche after a lot of hard work and effort on the part of its artists. Today, “rap mexa’s” lyrical creativity has elevated it to both the national and international music scenes. No longer “street” or protest music, Mexican hip-hop now enjoys millions of fans worldwide.


Have you started looking for a way to begin your own musical journey? Maybe your child has shown an interest in learning to play an instrument or to sing? Maybe all this incredible Mexican guitar work has inspired you to pick up the instrument yourself! The Music Studio has programs for all ages – from children to seniors – all skill levels -from beginner to experienced – and a huge variety of instruments. Check out all our lessons and programs and sign up today!