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What is a Mexican harp?




“Arpa” refers to a harp in Spanish as the ethnic instrument of music used in Latin American folklore. The way of playing Arpa varies in countries Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Chili, Venezuela and others. As well, its shape and figure are quite various depending on where it’s created. 


While the common classic harps require picking strings with finger pulp to make sounds, Arpa’s strings must be picked with finger nails. This leads Arpa to produce bright and crystal-clear sounds, being different from warm sounds of the classic harps.

メキシコアルパ赤切抜き1 .jpg
メキシコアルパ赤切抜き1 .jpg

Majority of Arpa players in Latin America are actually male, generally characterized with their mighty performances. When learning folk Arpa music handed down today, it is very common that they learn through their eyes, ears, and hands without relying on mere memorization of scores. This allows players to add a hint of originality or their own taste into the learned music, which is apparently the charm of Arpa. 


Arpa hires the diatonic scale, and all strings are set in a normal “do-re-mi” order. This looks exactly like white keys on piano. For accurate performance, there are two colored strings: one is blue for “do” (C) and the other is red for “fa” (F). Here, a question might hit some of you: how do players control a semitone with those strings? A close look at Arpa’s structure will let you find small levers (or gearshifts). This is the answer - a rise of the lever will make a semitone up. Not all Arpas have these levers, but, as in this picture, players of no-lever Arpa put a metal part called llave on their fingers to directly push the strings for a semitone operation. 


Indeed, since the Arpa that I’m using now has two parts with/ without levers, I control tones with levers and llave as well.

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