Gear Review: Mariposa Guitar

The words “progressive” and “experimental” are often used to describe the American guitarist Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López. He is perhaps best known for being the guitarist, songwriter, and band-leader of the group Mars Volta from 2001 until their breakup in 2012. In addition to numerous solo efforts, he is the guitarist for the alternative rock group At the Drive-In. His adventurous musical style made Rodríguez-López an ideal collaborator with Ernie Ball Music Man on their 2021 Mariposa guitar line. 

As a stand-out creator, engaging with Rodríguez-López on a Music Man design made perfect sense. Rodríguez-López not only enjoyed the company’s other models but had been using their guitars on tours exclusively since 2015. After gaining experience with the Music Man's Albert Lee and St. Vincent models, which he used extensively on tour, Rodríguez-López provided his considerable creative input to help craft early designs of the Mariposa, which incorporate the features that he liked from both models. Of course, Rodríguez-López’s personal models needed to be left-handed, so the company committed to designing and evolving two versions, a right-handed model for retail and a left-handed one for his stage use. Note that Music Man does not currently offer a production left-handed version, but they have indicated that it may happen. Stay tuned. 

As with the company’s successful Albert Lee and STV models, the Mariposa features a bold, angular body fashioned from Okuome and stylish hardware. What is notably absent from the guitar is a tone knob. Instead, the Mariposa makes use of Music Man’s “tethered tone circuit” which leverages the high-end (treble) rolloff that results from turning volume controls down.

Rather than a tone knob, the tone is controlled by the player using two volume controls, which not only change output levels but take advantage of the passive interaction between the dual volume pots. This creates a natural variation in the high-end when volumes are set at different levels. As a creator, Rodríguez-López appreciates the amount of tonal flexibility and ‘flavor’ he can achieve effortlessly by manipulating the volumes of the Mariposa’s two custom wound Music Man humbucking pickups configured via a three-way toggle switch.

The 2021 Ernie Ball Music Man Mariposa guitar collection features four striking finishes (Sahara Sunset, Galaxy Pearl, Imperial White, and Dorado Green) each accented with gold hardware and gold hat knobs. The solid pickguard is laser etched with an ornate gold design, including a flower motif designed in collaboration with Miami-based artist, Peter Santa-Maria, coordinated to compliment the new finishes. The broad, flat surfaces of Mariposa’s lightweight Okoume body are reminiscent of a butterfly’s wings (Mariposa translates to butterfly in Spanish), lending themselves to an artistic hand. The instrument’s roasted maple neck with its ebony fingerboard showcases the guitar’s clean pearlescent block inlays. 

Schaller M6-IND rear-lock tuners, as seen on other Music Man guitars, and a compensated nut, help to provide stable intonation in any situation. Found at the bridge are Music Man’s Modern (down only) tremolo setup with a stylish chevron cover and vintage bent steel saddles in matching gold.

The simplicity of Mariposa’s electronics might seem counterintuitive to some and maybe even limiting. But those who feel that way should consider the progressive work of Rodríguez-López, the artist who so closely collaborated on the guitar’s design. Sometimes, the most simple artistic tools are the ones that can provide the most creative freedom.

Price: $3,099.00 

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