This harp is a collaboration of ideas between Sandpiper and Sergio Alonso, of the group (Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano).
Initially conceived by Sergio because of the inherent limitations of traditional Mariachi harps, the design has evolved into an instrument having modern features while retaining the look of the traditional harp.
Strings: 36 or 38
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|Alonso Arpa de Mariachi|
Sandpiper Instruments and Sergio “Checo” Alonso, ethnomusicologist and harpist for the world renowned, Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, have collaborated in designing
a mariachi harp that meets the demands of contemporary mariachi music. This project was undertaken with one goal: to take the arpa de mariachi and modify it to allow greater
performance possibilities for the mariachi harpist, without sacrificing the aesthetic quality and integrity of the traditional harp. In designing the Arpa Alonso, Sandpiper
Instruments has first and foremost, preserved the essential characteristics of the Jalisco harp, recognized its structural and performance limitations, modified the
conventional methods in its construction, equipped it with new and indispensable features, and created an instrument with the potential to redefine the role of
the harp in the urban mariachi ensemble.
While there is no absolute standard in the construction of mariachi harps, there are several characterizing features that distinguish it from other types of Latin American folk harps. These features include the type of wood utilized, the general shape, and the overall look of the harp. Sandpiper has retained these features by using cedar for the construction of the soundbox, pillar, and neck, and using tacote for the soundboard. In terms of shape, we have also retained what is perhaps the most characterizing feature, which is the very deep and wide soundbox. At its base, the harp is approximately 13.5 inches deep and 18 inches wide. While the length of the harp’s original design (~ 58 inches) is greater than that of the typical Jalisco harp, Sandpiper can construct harps of shorter length to meet ones individual needs. Other characterizing features such as the unpronounced neck curvature, four soundholes on the soundboard, and the “barn door” base/legs are also standard on the Arpa Alonso.
A number of modifications have been made to ensure the strength, effectiveness, and longevity of the harp. Because of the neck’s tendency to roll over to the left side due to string tension, we have designed a neck similar to that of Sandpiper’s Paraguayan harps, where the strings run down the middle of the neck. This design allows greater symmetry and assures that the neck will not bend over time. The neck has also been equipped with adjustable bridge pins that enable left-right positioning relative to the string plane, improving the harp’s overall performance.
in terms of the strings, two have been added, making the standard model a 38-string harp. String tension and material has also been slightly modified by increasing the tension to that comparable to an arpa jarocha of Veracruz, while utilizing fiber core/nylon wrap material for the lowest bass strings. Brass pins have been fitted into the center sounboard rib at the points where the strings meet the soundboard, allowing for clean and crisp string vibrations. This method of fixating the strings to the rib improves the efficiency of the vibration exchange from the strings to the soundboard.
Modifications were made in reinforcing and strengthening common fracture points on the harp. In order to withstand the added string tension, we have placed the tacote at a crosswise grain, adding strength to the soundboard. We have also reinforced the pillar-soundbox assembly by using a “socket” type joint at the bottom of the pillar. Additionally, the neck has been designed so that it detaches from the top of the soundbox in the case of a severe impact from the side.
Several invaluable additions have been made to this design. We have integrated a full set of sharping levers which enables the harpist to quickly and easily execute chromatic harmonies, modulation, and transposition. The standard model is also an electro-acoustic instrument as it has been equipped with a transducer and pre-amplifier. The pre-amp is an on board bass EQ that is connected to a passive soundboard pickup and has volume, bass, middle, and treble controls.
After years of development, Sandpiper Instruments is proud to announce that it has produced the finest Jalisco harp available on the market. Its sound quality, playability, and visual aesthetic are unparalleled by any other mariachi harp made in the United States or Mexico. The Arpa Alonso gracefully compliments the aesthetic of the contemporary mariachi by projecting a powerful bass along with brilliant and resonating trebles. Whether playing in an amplified or an acoustic environment, this electro-acoustic instrument has a dominating presence within the mariachi unlike ever before. With bass, middle, and treble control, harpists have the added advantage of controlling their mix to their desired levels. Modulation and chromatic harmonies are no longer a problem. By tuning the harp in the recommended key of Bb Major, the harpist has the ability to perform and quickly switch between all of the most commonly utilized keys in mariachi music, including Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si-b, and their relative minors. The Arpa Alonso is carefully crafted by Sandpiper Instruments to assure many years of enjoyment.
Split Neck: The neck is inspired by Pablo Ramirez, who invented the symmetrical “split neck” of the standard Paraguayan harp. Because the strings come up
from the center, the neck withstands centralized tension, which eliminates the tendency to roll over to the left.
Loveland Sharping Levers: Loveland Levers, developed by Robert Bunker of Berthoud, CO, are the finest and most popular on the market. They are of brass and black polycarbonate/Delrin cam handles that lift to contact the string at a small fret pin, creating the sharp note.
Adjustable Bridge Pins: Threaded bridge pins allow for the center adjustment of the strings to correct sharping lever alignment. Bride pin hole covers on the left side of the neck can be removed so that one can position the strings to the desired location relative to the string plane by screwing or unscrewing the pins.
Electronic Amplification: Designed by Demeter Amplification in Van Nuys, CA, the On Board Bass EQ is equipped with master volume, treble, middle, and bass controls. The active balance control mixes a Fishman SBT-HP Harp Soundboard Transducer.
Nylon and Fiber Core Strings: Manufactured by Markwood Strings in Phoenix, OR, each of the 38 strings is put through a computerized analysis, which allows for instrument-specific string design. Strings range from G1 to B6 and consist of nylon (treble), nylon core/nylon wrap (middle), and fiber core/nylon wrap (bass).
Neck, Pillar, and Soundbox Assembly: The neck and pillar are separate pieces, which allows for a lighter assembly. The neck, because its held down to the pillar and soundbox only by the string tension, is designed so that it slips off of the top of the soundbox in the case of a severe impact on the side. The pillar-soundbox joint is reinforced to withstand the tremendous force exerted down on the harp by the strings.
Sound Board: The soundboard is made of tacote, imported directly from the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The wood is laid down with a crosswise grain, which increases the overall strength of the soundboard.
Adornments: Decorative features are inspired by Mexican artwork. Mother-of-Pearl soundhole inlay is modeled after the characteristic rosette of famed Luthier, Roberto Morales. The base is adorned with woodburn greca, characteristic artwork of the charro, designed by renowned fine artist, Lalo Garcia. Neck is adorned with decorative gallos, molded from silver broaches used to fasten the mariachi charro coat.
Other Features: Various options are available to meet the needs of the individual harpist. Soundbox and leg guards are available for those who perform in a variety of surface conditions. For harpists who prefer a more vertical position, removable legs that protrude out from the base is also available.
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