Bajo Sextos is a Spanish term meaning sixth bass. In an area of northern Mexico and across the border into southern Texas a type of music known as nortena developed in the 1950s. It grew in popularity on radio stations and in small musical ensembles. The bass sound for those groups was provided by the guitar-like bass instrument. It is played much like a guitar, only with twelve strings. Both electric and acoustic versions are available.
The twelve strings of the guitar are arranged in six double courses. Tuning is from lowest to highest. The lowest note is E, moving upward to A, D, G, C and F.
Anglos and Mexicans alike have enjoyed the genre of music also known as Tex-Mex, conjunto and musica mexicana-tejana. The term Tex-Mex is sometimes used but conjunto is more accurate. Nortena music was the earliest form of the music with the other types later versions.
As a low range musical instrument, the bajo gives you the necessary rhythmic line found in conjunto ensembles. Because the instrument has a lower range that other guitars, it can carry the chord changes that move through the musical pieces. It is also used in some other types of musical groups, but the main focus of the instrument to date has been in the musical genre known as conjunto or nortena.
Sextos instruments were originally used in a limited part of the Western Hemisphere. This means that the demand for the guitar might be somewhat limited too. Other stringed instruments such as guitars and banjos are well known. This instrument is not. The construction of a bajo gives you the variety of woods and finishes that are nothing but quality. The back and sides might be made of Indian rosewood, mahogany or cedar. The bridge and fingerboard is often made of rosewood. The top is typically cedar, but more exotic woods are found in some models.
The finish of the instruments is beautiful. The thickness of such instruments might vary somewhat, so the player can choose the instrument that is most comfortable. Many of such specialized guitars are finished with a decorative motif. Handcrafting is an art for those who create the instruments. Those bajos are highly prized.
Nortena music performers are serious about the genre. The groups must use the bajo sextos to have a distinctive style and sound. The bass tones enhance the melody and provide the rhythm beat too.