World Music Instrument: The Jarana Jarocha

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that students in World Music in the Schools enjoy working with.

Jarana Three SizesThe jarana is an eight-string, five course instrument typically used in son jarocho music from Veracruz, Mexico. This style is also called música de cuerdas or son abajeño in other areas within the larger region of Mexico known as the Sotavento. The first and fifth courses of the jarana are single strings, while the second, third, and fourth courses typically consist of double strings. The most common tuning is G C E A G. The jarana, like many other stringed instruments in the Americas, is a Mexican adaptation of the Spanish vihuela.

There are typically several different sizes of the jarana, often played together, and sometimes using different tunings within the same ensemble. The three sizes of jarana shown in the photo are called tercera, segunda, and primera.

Luthiers (lauderos) carve the body, neck, and peghead of the jarana out of a single block of wood, with a thin soundboard glued to the front. Mexican cedar is the traditional material used in making these instruments, although woods such as mango, walnut, and others have more recently been used. For tuning, friction pegs made from a harder wood (much like those on a violin) are commonly fitted. The strings, formerly gut, are now made from nylon.

— Eduardo García teaches jarana as an artist-in-residence for the Center for World Music, and is a professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at California State University San Marcos.

The CWM uses jaranas in its World Music in the Schools program made by Victor Francisco Siono: Taller de Lauderia. Guitarras de Son, Marimboles y Jaranas Victor Siono

Watch luthier Caramino Utrera Luna make a jarana.

Some video examples of jarana playing:
https://youtu.be/7hcIH-5nVug
https://youtu.be/H6Y4HmSDTXs