The classical valve trumpet is a versatile instrument whose voice is an essential part of many musical ensembles outside the world of orchestral music. One of these is the Mexican mariachi band, a small popular chamber ensemble whose sound is often dominated and characterized by the sound of the mariachi trumpet. While any proficient trumpet player can play the notes of mariachi music, playing in mariachi style is different in character and execution from playing in classical or jazz styles.
Use a forceful articulation at all times. Mariachi trumpets typically play with a sharp, strong articulation, produced by pressing the tongue firmly against the lips and back of the teeth (where you normally articulate), then removing it as quickly as possible to create a short, strong burst of air.
Play punchy, separated notes when playing upbeat music. Use a “dut” syllable for articulating short notes to make them more percussive and make them more audible within the texture of the band.
Develop a strong double-tonguing ability. Much mariachi music includes fast passages that are traditionally played with a very crisp double tongue.
Exaggerate dynamic phrasing. Make more out of the contrast between louds and softs in phrases than you would normally do for classical or jazz phrasing, especially in passages where the trumpet is meant to emerge from the texture. In general, keep in mind that mariachi trumpet playing tends toward the loud.
Play with tempos when playing slow, rubato solo passages. Trumpet solos in mariachi music commonly call for flashy, stop-time trumpet solos. If you play one of these, be generous with the rubato, especially when it comes to taking time to pause between statements within the phrase.
Employ proper use of vibrato. Use a wide but fast vibrato; this is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the mariachi trumpet sound.
The best way to know what you're striving for in creating an authentic mariachi trumpet sound is to listen to real mariachi players. While you're trying out this style in the practice room, be sure you also spend time listening to recordings.
Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.