The style went through several changes during pre-statehood, mostly during the developments of Mexican folk and cowboy Western music. After statehood, New Mexico music continued to grow in popularity with native New Mexicans, mostly with the Pueblo, Navajo, Apache, Spanish, and the descendants of the American frontier.
Shortly after statehood, during the early 1900s, elements of Country music and American folk music began to become incorporated into the genre.
The 1950s and 1960s brought the influences of Blues, Jazz, Rockabilly, and Rock and roll into New Mexico music; and, during the 1970s, the genre entered popular music in the state, with artists like Al Hurricane and Freddie Brown receiving airtime locally on KANW, and international recognition on the syndicated Val De La O Show.
Other artists prominently featured on the Val de la O Show were other Southwestern artists, performing Regional Mexican, Tejano, Texas country, and Western music, which brought a more general audience to New Mexico music.
The sound of New Mexico music is distinguished by its steady rhythm, usually provided by drums or guitar, while accompanied by instruments common in Pueblo music, Western, Norteño, Apache music, Country, Mariachi, and Navajo music. Country and western music lend their drum and/or guitar style sections, while the steadiness of the rhythm owes its origins to the music of the Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo.
The differing tempos comes from the three common Ranchera rhythm speeds, the polka at 2/4 (ranchera polkeada), the waltz at 3/4 (ranchera valseada), and/or the bolero at 4/4 (bolero ranchero).
The language of the vocals in New Mexico music is usually Mexican and New Mexican Spanish; American and New Mexican English; Spanglish; Tewa; Hopi; Zuni; Navajo; and/or Southern Athabaskan languages.
Nationally and internationally, New Mexico music is considered a genre of World, Country, Regional Mexican, and American folk music. Sometimes music streaming platforms mis-categorize the genre under other folk music genres.