5 Cool Mexican Instruments arpa jarocha

Mexican music has provided us with hit songs like ‘La Bamba’ and ‘Besame Mucho’. And cool Mexican instruments are behind the unique Mexican sound of these songs. You might already be familiar with the Mexican guitar, or guitarrónMexicano, which mariachi bands use. But the country has produced many other famous instruments and here’s a look at five of the coolest. 

1. Vihuela 

Vihuela is very similar to lute, which is in fact the instrument vihuela is derived from. It is a small instrument with five strings to play. It is quite similar to the Mexican guitar, with the exception that it’s much more fretted along the neck. It also creates a much higher pitch when you are strumming it. 

Below is a Youtube video of a vihuela song, composed all the way back in 1536. 



Mexican instruments have been influenced by other instruments and in the case of arpajarocha, the inspiration was the baroque harp. Just like the traditional harp, arpajarocha comes with 36 strings and you play the instrument standing up. Although arpajarocha is played while standing these days, it did start out as a small-seated instrument. 

The harp was introduced to the region by the Spanish, but in Mexico the Veracruz people completely changed its sound. These days arpajarocha is used as a group instrument, played on most folk songs in the region. 

arpa jarocha

Man playing arpajarocha. Image courtesy of Victor Pineda, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr 

3. Ocarina 

This funny looking instrument is found in different styles all across the globe. One version of the ocarina is a stable part of the Mexican music scene. You can create fantastic, almost submarine-like sounds with the instrument, so it is definitely worth a check if you can get your hands on it. 

Ocarina’s are over 12,000 years old and they were used by the Mesoamerican cultures in the region. People often shape them into all kinds of shapes and some ocarina’s can look like birds or totems. 

Below is a famous Mexican song played with ocarina instrument.


4. Marimba

Marimba, like the arpajarocha, was born in the Veracruz region. It is very similar to xylophone, but the sound is quite distinctive. It was originally made from wooden bars with resonators, but modern marimbas are actually made from metal. 

When you struck the bards, they make a lovely ringing sound, which is very popular in Mexican folk songs. 

six marimbas on stage

Six marimbas on stage. Image courtesy of bram, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr 


Cantaro is such a significant part of Mexican music. This percussion instrument is a key component of folk music in the region and the perfect example of human innovation. Below video shows how the amazing cantaro pots are made to achieve the unique sounds. 

Cantaro is simplya clay pot, which is played by hitting the outer surface or mouth of the pot with the palm. This creates all kinds of different effects and sounds. Furthermore, if you add a bit of water inside, you can pitch the instrument and make all sorts of unique sounds!

Mexican instruments are a perfect example of human ingenuity and you can see how different early instruments have travelled from other cultures to add their own unique twists to the region’s music. As the above instruments have shown, there’s also much more to this region than guitar music. If you are a big music geek, then learning more about the Mexican instruments can be a fun thing to do. 


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