According to Billboard, Mexican music has grown over 400% globally on Spotify. This means regional Mexican music is enjoying a great second wave after the legends of the ‘50s golden era of Mexican movies.
With idols like Vicente Fernandez gone, Peso Pluma and other young artists are taking the world by storm. In other words, it’s a great moment in history to learn what guitar is used for corridos and start playing this soon-to-fill-arenas music.
I can’t say I was wearing a big mariachi hat while trying these guitars out, but I was surely playing all the Mexican hits I know (which are many).
Are you ready to join the big corridos boom and write your name on top of the Billboard Hot 100 list?
Let’s do it!
Best Guitars for Corridos / Mexican Music
Table of Contents
- Best Guitars for Corridos / Mexican Music
- 12-String or Nylon-String Guitars?
- The Bottom End
1. Gretsch G5022CWFE-12 Rancher Falcon Jumbo
If you’re wearing your white cowboy hat, some Texan boots, and the right shirt, this is the most elegant option out there right now. Yes, the first thing that hits you about this great Gretsch 12-string guitar is the aesthetics.
Indeed, the company borrowed the looks from one of its most iconic instruments: the almighty White Falcon. Therefore, the epic combination of gold and white will take your breath away as soon as you hold it for the first time.
But beyond looks, this guitar is a great-sounding instrument. Perhaps, I was expecting a more defined, pristine sound, especially on those ultra-high frequencies. Then, I remembered that this G5022CWFE-12 wasn’t a top-tier made-in-Japan Gretsch but part of their mid-priced guitars and it all made much more sense.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, this guitar’s jumbo body sounds big, rich, and powerful. This is because the company added a solid spruce top to the combo giving more life to each chord I strummed.
I played some Vicente Fernandez, and every tune by El Rey sounded very close. Plus, the accompaniment strumming felt just natural with this ax in my hands. I also played some more modern Natanael Cano and the sound was very close to the real deal as well.
When plugged in, this guitar performs flawlessly thanks to the built-in Fishman preamp.
Perhaps, the only drawback I found for this guitar is that it doesn’t come with a gig bag or a case. At its price range, and with a solid spruce top, maybe it should come with something to take it to the gig in. After all, that mammoth headstock won’t fit most gig bags.
2. Takamine GD30CE-12
The fact that Takamine’s G-Series of guitars is great value for the money is no news. On the contrary, it’s the best-kept secret among mid-priced acoustics.
This 12-string GD30 is no exception to that great reputation. Moreover, the company managed to build this mid-priced acoustic with a solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides. Coupling that quintessential wood combination with a mahogany neck is what makes this guitar sound just the way you imagine a 12-string acoustic should.
By this, I mean that the singing high of the octave-up double strings ring clearly and the low end of the full dreadnought body remains tight. Songs like “Ella Baila Sola”, “El Perro Negro”, and “Caballo Prieto Azabache” sounded full and musical even with the fast strumming.
The action on my guitar was a little high, so I went for the instructions and the wrench but they were for a different guitar. I mean, I found the right information online in a heartbeat, but it was kind of an awkward moment.
After strumming for a while, I plugged this guitar into a 15” active speaker and the results were outstanding. The 3-band EQ is very helpful to tame those low lows and high highs. Also, the tuner is a definite must for a 12-string (no need to explain why). Finally, I also loved the low-battery indicator, since it can save you from an epic failure in a live show (been there, done that).
Although it doesn’t sound as clear, defined, and rich as Takamine’s higher-tier guitars, this is a terrific instrument for the price. It is a must-try-before-you-buy.
3. D'Angelico Premier Fulton LS 12
Although most of us, myself included, think of D’Angelico as a new player in the guitar world, the company has been making top-notch instruments since the early ‘30s.
The company’s guitars are aesthetic masterpieces that mix the best of the New York tradition with some Art Deco. This guitar draws from that tradition. You can clearly see it in the bigger-than-life headstock, Art Deco tuners, truss rod cover, and flawless craftsmanship.
Well, enough of the aesthetics, let’s talk sounds, shall we? To begin with, let me tell you that the body isn’t dreadnought or jumbo but grand auditorium, which is a tad smaller. This is a great move by D’Angelico because you get the lows of an all-mahogany (laminated mahogany) body and the snap and high-end of a smaller size.
Plus, the scalloped X-bracing in it allows for a fuller, rounder sound with more projection. The fretboard is made of torrefied merbau, an alternative wood that’s cheaper than rosewood but adds some of that sweetness to the resulting sound.
The sound isn’t as defined as it might be on all-solid guitars and the plastic nut adds to that problem. Nevertheless, when you look at this guitar’s price tag you realize it’s a heroic effort by D’Angelico to put together this caliber of a guitar at this price.
Perhaps, what I liked the most about this guitar is how well it plays and the aged mahogany looks on the body.
For plugged-in sounds, I thought the addition of the “phase” switch was great as well as the 3-band EQ and built-in tuner.
If you’re looking for an entry-level-priced guitar with mid-priced features and sounds, you have to try this D’Angelico LS12 out.
4. Takamine GC1 NAT
This Takamine GC1 is a great entry-level instrument if you’re getting started with nylon strings (or to play at all). Indeed, if you want to learn how to play corridos on guitar without breaking the bank, this guitar is a great candidate.
Let me begin by saying that, despite it being an all-laminated guitar, the fan bracing for the laminated spruce top works wonders amplifying this guitar’s natural tones. Also, the laminated mahogany back and sides and mahogany neck make it a very pleasant, mellow-sounding guitar.
Indeed, this is an instrument that will please seasoned players looking for a cheap nylon-string and those who are starting out too. Furthermore, although I’m not a fan of glossy finishes (I live in a very humid area), this guitar looks and feels exactly like the classic guitar you picture when you close your eyes and think of the concept.
I will also add that, for a player with refined ears and hands, the definition you can expect on higher-tier guitars isn’t here. The synthetic bone nut and laurel bridge aren’t tone-clarifiers, and thus, if you go from corrido strumming to arpeggios or even some lead lines, the guitar tone feels a little unclear.
That said, if you look at the price tag, it makes perfect sense to find these shortcomings.
Other than that, this guitar makes a great backup or entry-level instrument to learn corridos on. After you’ve learned your way around it, you can be the self-proclaimed rey of corridos in your neighborhood.
5. Cordoba Fusion 5
Let me spoil the scoop for you right now. This Cordoba Fusion 5 is a great transition guitar if you’re looking to make the change from steel-string acoustics (or electrics) to nylon-string guitars.
This is because the neck of this guitar can be considered a half-and-half (half classic, half acoustic) mahogany neck with a pau ferro fingerboard.
That said, this is, by no means, an imitation of a real, good-sounding, great-playing nylon string guitar but the real deal. Moreover, the mixture of a solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides give this guitar the quintessential tone you need for corridos.
Also, the pau ferro bridge adds to the guitar’s natural sustain, and strumming sounds sweet and percussive.
Although the action was sky-high when I got the guitar, it made very usable sounds, and after some adjustment, it was a joy to play. I mean, nylon-string guitars tend to have a higher action than steel-string ones, but this was a little too much. I had to file the bridge to make it better.
I also have to tell you that I absolutely love the fact that there’s not a huge cut hole on the upper part to install a preamp but a couple of controls for the Fishman Sonitone hidden inside the sound hole. Moreover, don’t get confused with this small system because it sounds great and is very reliable. I have it on my Baby Taylor and it has been utterly dependable since day one.
Besides the action issue, this guitar sounds great plugged and unplugged, and is a great instrument to play effortlessly for hours.
6. Godin MultiAc Nylon Deluxe
It’s safe for me to say that the Godin MultiAc series is a game-changer when it comes to nylon-string guitars. Indeed, I was always in pursuit of the perfect acoustic for an electric guitar player. Well, this guitar inverts that equation by delivering the best electric for acoustic players.
But allow me to explain what I base this statement on.
To begin with, the neck is as comfortable as it gets, and with a 25 ½” scale, it’s familiar and has great tension. Also, the solid chambered mahogany body is lightweight and provides the required low-end for the solid spruce top to do its job. On top of that mix, you get a Richlite fretboard that adds snap and high-end to the resulting sound.
Speaking of sounds, this guitar is the perfect instrument for gigging professionals who need an instrument that can perform consistently gig after gig. How so? Well, because the plugged sound of this guitar is as good as it gets.
Yes, the company teamed up with LR Baggs to create a custom-voiced system with a 3-band EQ and a Lyric Mic on the body to blend in the natural resonance of the top-grade spruce top.
I tried some percussion with my fingers and a looper pedal and I could play songs by Los Tigres del Norte, Ramón Ayala, and Chalino Sánchez easily. Moreover, you also get a fader to blend in a tape saturation emulator that can give more warmth to the resulting sound.
Finally, the phase switch can be a game-changer, depending on the stage.
If you’re in search of a guitar that can do it all in a plugged-in scenario and this instrument fits your budget, it’s a must-try. For unplugged fun and lower budgets, you can look somewhere else.
12-String or Nylon-String Guitars?
I’ve gone through the best of two very different types of guitars. Therefore, the question might be arising in your head: “Should I get a 12-string or a nylon-string guitar?” Well, it’s time to answer that question lingering in your head.
The guitar in corridos is used partly as a rhythmic instrument rather than just a harmonic one. In this vein, corridos guitar chords (G major, A minor, D minor, and E minor) are very simple, but it’s the strumming that makes the guitar an integral part of this music.
In other words, if you’re playing typical, classic corridos songs, you need to be the backbone of the song with your strumming hand.
Where 12-String Guitars Make More Sense
The 12-string guitars tend to sound bigger and cover more sonic ground.
If you’re accompanying a singer, or play in a very small corridos band, this is the right choice. It will sound full with even harmonics and all chords will have a 3-D quality.
On the other hand, they tend to be bigger, and bulkier, and won’t fit inside a regular gig bag or guitar case.
Where Nylon-String Guitars Shine
Guitars with nylon strings tend to have a more percussive element you can experience in a variety of traditional styles such as flamenco, tango, and more.
This is perfect for a bigger corridos band that can have maybe a diatonic accordion, a bajo sexto (or double bass), and a tuba or a trumpet. You’ll be able to keep the fast tempo going with your strumming hand and it’ll be easily audible thanks to the uncanny sound of the nylon strings.
On the other hand, nylon-string guitars are usually smaller and use a different type of bracing that makes them quieter than 12-string instruments.
This is a great time to learn this growing musical style and join the second wave of great corrido players. Choose one of the guitars above confidently and play it with your heart and soul. Chances are, it’ll become the perfect vessel to pour your emotions into beautiful songs that make people sing, dance, and enjoy.
Music is, after all, the best gift of all time.
Take this first step toward becoming a corridos expert. Regardless if your face makes it to the marquee, I hope you fall in love with your new instrument and have a great time sharing music.