The Joropo, a musical genre from the South American Plains

Level 6: Take off with Joropo and learn the different progressions and chords used.
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What is Joropo?

The Joropo is a genre that originates from the plains of Colombia and Venezuela. Joropo, a word that means « Party », is a musical genre used for dancing and music playing in certain parts of Venezuela and the plains of Colombia. This musical genre is played in various styles and with different instruments, like the Arpa, Bandola, Cuatro, Maracas. It also features diverse types of chord progressions.

It’s a musical style that is very challenging to learn, even for most music pros. To understand such a musical genre, you would need to have first-hand knowledge provided by the Joroperos (musicians that live at these geographic regions), but nowadays, thanks to the advance of technology and the spread of knowledge through the internet, this genre has become widely available to the public.

Nowadays, musicians of all sorts have become interested in learning and playing this genre, as it is very challenging and allows for great levels of improvisation during the performance. it is a groove that you might not be aware of yet, but of high importance in Latin American music.

Learn joropo music

Can you dance Joropo?

This musical genre is very popular in Venezuelan and Colombian culture, where its music is used to dance in parties and celebrations, there are also competitions of música llanera where the Joroperos dance compete to win prizes and where joropo musicians compete to showcase their talents.

In the following video, you will see Joroperos, professional dancers, participating if took place in Arauca, Venezuela. The Joropo dancers are Jhon Alexander Aguirre and Natalia Moreno. We invite you to enjoy the dance and notice all of the rhythms applied by the Joroperos during the dance. These same rhythm details can be translate to the musical instruments:

What are the instruments used to play Joropo?

The Joropo is typically played with instruments such as Arpa (Harp), Cuatro, Maracas and Bandola. Any combination of these instruments can be used, where the most popular one is Arpa, Cuatro and Maracas. Additionally, some are also played with Guitar or Mandolin. It is worth mentioning that the Bass is also an important instrument, as it creates the base for the rest of the instruments to play to.

Watch Elias Tona showing how this music genre is played on a Bass and teaching some tips about the baseline being in the second and third beat, which is quite a complicated count for beginners and enthusiasts of the instrument:

Hear what musician Bobby Santana has to say about the influence of Joropo in music and how this genre has become more popular in the last decades. In the following video, Bobby Sanabria introduces the Joropo as a groove and style of music from Venezuela that has a long history and is played with a Venezuelan harp, small dry maracas, and a Venezuelan Cuatro. He shows how the Joropo can be played in 3/4 time, with the bass drum and hi-hat going opposite of each other and the snare drum having a cross stick pattern with a buzz roll.

Lastly, here’s a demonstration of a type of Joropo called “Periquera,” a joropo placed in major keys. The cuatro players and renowned musicians of C4 Trio, Hector Molina, Edward Ramirez, and Jorge Glem, take on their version of this popular Joropo:

Learn the sub-divisions of Joropo music

A genre can be described as a category for arts such as music or literature. This means reggae can be considered a genre, flamenco, rock, and joropo. Within a genre, there are also sub-genres which are slight variations of the main category. For example, we can have jazz and bluegrass jazz….both within the same category but slight variations of one another.

The Joropo is no different; we have multiple variations: like the Joropo Llanero or the Joropo Central. Each one has multiple variations on progressions, each one named with a particular name, like Pajarillo, Quirpa, Quitapesares, etc.

We will dive into them and learn these differences for the genre, so be prepared to capture as much knowledge as possible!

Progressions and genres

This course will explore some of the most common sub-genres of joropo. These sub-genres follow differences in progressions and sometimes in the style of play. It is always important to recognize or distinguish between sub-genres and become familiar with the concept for when you move forward as a musician.

You can complement the information in this course with the following topic, where we discuss rhythm at a deeper level.

We will also see how previously learned notes and chords can be applied to playing this music. Along with this, we will also review some new notes and their chord families, as we have done in previous courses.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Dominant the Pajarillo progression with Joropo Llanero
  • Master the elements of C Major
  • Distinguish between different Joropo progressions
  • Play the family of chords relating to A Minor