Arpa jarocha

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Arpa jarocha
String instrument
Classification chordophone
Volume Loud
Attack Fast
Decay Medium
Related instruments

The arpa jarocha is a large wooden harp that is normally played while standing, although early examples from the 16th through the first three or four decades of the 19th centuries were smaller and were played while seated. It has a wooden frame, a resonator, a flat soundboard, 32-36 nylon strings (originally, gut strings), and does not have pedals. This harp is tuned diatonically over five octaves. The top of its soundboard sometimes arches outward due to the tension of the strings. [1] Unlike other Mexican harps, the arpa jarocha has its sound holes located on the back of the. sound board instead of on the front.

Harp class of musical instruments

The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia, Africa and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BC. The instrument had great popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where it evolved into a wide range of variants with new technologies, and was disseminated to Europe's colonies, finding particular popularity in Latin America. Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa, and other defunct variants in Europe and Asia have been utilized by musicians in the modern era.


Play style

As previously stated, the arpa jarocha was once commonly played while seated, similarly to its ancestor the Spanish harp from the 16th century. In modern times, since approximately the 1940s, the arpa jarocha has been built in a larger scale, following the general pattern of the Western Mexican harps from Jalisco and Michoacan. One of the first recording artists of the genre, Andres Huesca, actually used a Michoacan harp, due to the better volume for recording. The performer uses one hand to play the bass line on the low strings, and uses the other hand to play arpeggiated melodies on the higher strings. [1] The soundboard has also been known to be used as a percussive device, though this is rare. That practice is common in the Tierra Caliente groups of Michoacan, however. [2]


The arpa is one of the main instruments used in the conjunto jarocho; a type of Mexican folk ensemble. [3] The musical style in which arpa jarocha is also heard is "sones jarochos," which blends Spanish and African-influenced rhythms. [1] Within this genre, the arpa typically provides the main melodies, while instruments such as the jarana guitar and the requinto provide rhythms and counter-melodies.

Jarana jarocha

The jarana jarocha is a guitar-shaped fretted stringed instrument from the southern region of the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Typically strung with 8 strings in 5 courses, usually arranged in two single outer strings with three double-courses in between. The strings are usually nylon, although they were gut in the past. The body is somewhat narrower than a guitar because of its direct lineage from the Spanish baroque guitar of the sixteenth century. Sometimes mistaken for a ukulele, the jarana jarocha comes in at least five sizes, the smallest being the chaquiste, somewhat smaller than a soprano ukulele; then the mosquito, about the size of a soprano ukulele; the 'primera', about the size of a concert ukulele; the 'segunda', in length between a tenor and a baritone ukulele; and the 'tercera', somewhat longer than the baritone ukulele. Some luthiers are building jaranas of a size they label "tercerola" or "jarana cuarta", but there is some discussion as to whether these represent a distinct size or are merely particularly large variations of the standard tercera.

The term requinto is used in both Spanish and Portuguese to mean a smaller, higher-pitched version of another instrument. Thus, there are requinto guitars, drums, and several wind instruments.

Both men and women play this instrument, although a greater percentage are men. [4]


The arpa jarocha is from Veracruz, Mexico. one of the various forms of harp that evolved from models introduced by Spain in the 16th century, and traced even back further to the Arabs who had occupied Spain for 700 years. [1]

Veracruz State of Mexico

Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is Xalapa-Enríquez.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

The indigenous people of Veracruz had never before seen stringed instruments before the Conquest, and quickly adapted their own version which became a pivotal instrument used in many different musical ensembles in Veracruz, but also the rest of Mexico and the Latin Americas.


Some references have stated that the arpa jarocha was used in Jalisco, Michoacán, and among the Chamula Indians; this is incorrect. Each of those regions developed their own adaptation of the baroque Spanish harp. Also, there were regional harps in Zacatecas and in the North with the Yaqui Indians of the northern desert and southwest US. [2]

Similar instruments

There are multiple variations of the Arpa, depending on where it comes from. Arpa Llanera, Arpa Aragüeña, Arpa Criolla originating in Venezuela, and Arpa Indígena originating in Peru, Arpa Paraguaya originating in Paraguay. [4]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Courteau, Mona-Lyn and Daniel Sheehy (2003). "Part III Musical Instruments: 13. Stringed Instruments: Harp.". In John Shepherd; et al. Continuum Encyclopedia Of Popular Music Of The World. Vol. 2. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 427–437. ISBN   9780826463227.
  2. 1 2 Ortiz, Alfredo Orlando (1991). "History of Latin American Harps". Harp Spectrum. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  3. Atlas Cultural de México. Música. México: Grupo Editorial Planeta. 1988. ISBN   968-406-121-8.
  4. 1 2