Look, let’s clear the air here: the notion of a guitarist as chaotic and “anti-guitar” as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez teaming up with a company renowned for instruments as bespoke and bourgeoise as Ernie Ball Music Man just doesn’t feel right.
His unorthodox, ramshackle and downright destructive playing style definitely makes him a questionable contender for a guitar as beautiful as the Mariposa. I love Omar, but seriously - the man literally flings guitars across stage like a frisbee. Who the hell green lighted this as a signature model?!? Thankfully, the pairing is much better in person as it is on paper - the Mariposa might just be one of the coolest guitars I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
It’s difficult to describe the design of the Mariposa, but if your mind can conjure the image of an Ernie Ball Albert Lee combined with a vintage Japanese Teisco, you’d be somewhere in the ballpark. Adorned with an ornate, laser-etched floral pickguard and available in a range of four finishes with eye-catching matching headstocks (this review model was decked in a gorgeous Dorado Green finish), the Mariposa is constructed from lightweight Okeueme and is fitted with a meticulously roasted mahogany neck and speedy ebony fretboard with pearl block inlays. As awkward as it may look, it’s an extremely comfortable and balanced guitar to play both standing and sitting, with a great neck profile and near-perfect reach across the fretboard.
Ernie Ball Music Man’s recent output has seemingly focused on creating experimental, impeccably crafted instruments that sound and feel faultless, and the Mariposa doesn’t stray from the pack here. While there’s some quirks in the design that’ll attract criticism - I’d definitely worry about the vulnerable position of the pickup toggle switch for one - it’s otherwise a perfectly crafted instrument. What’s more important, however, is the thrill that comes with playing this thing. It urges you to play differently, but in a way that retains the integrity of your own personal style. I felt inspired to take more risks on the Mariposa regardless of whether I was strumming, picking and plucking; reaching for further frets to explore uncharted chord voicings and phrasing notes more obtusely than ever before. It’s truly inspiring to play an instrument as aesthetically pleasing, inviting and mentally rewarding as the Mariposa. Even the fret edging, tuning stability, intonation and tremolo action are of a top-tier pedigree when first embraced from the case: a telltale sign of passion and craftsmanship.
I think that some people will be frustrated with the Mariposa for some of the more simple elements of its design, and I can totally understand that. I mean, I do love a tone knob, but how many guitarists actually use them? Even though there’s limited tone shaping options, these EBMM hand-wound humbuckers sound absolutely first class. They’re awesome while clean but also distort in a manner which is both warm and slightly prickly, and it’s evident that Omar obviously played a key role in the design here. I found it quite easy to achieve early Mars Volta soundscapes or thrashy Relationship of Command-inspired tones quite easily with a handful of pedals and an AC30. On that note, the Mariposa is suited to players who are more inclined to fiddle with zany effects pedal combinations than they are coil-tapping or tone knob sweeping, and that’s certainly the best way to approach this guitar.
It’s quite difficult to honestly pinpoint any major flaw in Omar’s new Ernie Ball Music Man Mariposa. Somehow, the two parties have envisioned a guitar both familiar and futuristic, which somehow toes a fine balance between incredibly simple, aesthetically provoking and musically inspiring. Of course there’s quirks, but seriously: look at the Mariposa and tell me it isn’t the cherry on top of Ernie Ball Music Man’s ethos in design for the decade. Hats off to the risk takers here.
Hits and Misses
Beautifully crafted and extremely comfortable guitar
Roasted neck is a dream
Unfathomably inspiring for devoted players
Some will find flaws in its quirks