Harp Guitar

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KellarW

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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Hi RMMGA'rs,
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of seeing and hearing Stephen Bennett at
Winfield play his great grandfathers 1909 Dyer harp guitar. In his hands it
sounded like the ultimate fingerstyle instrument. He allowed me to examine it
up close after the concert. One neck was a standard 6 string with 1 3/4 inch
nut supplemented by, I believe, 7 lower drone "harp" strings attached to a
curved, hollow second neck braced against the other standard neck. I think it
was made of mahogany/spruce and surprisingly light. I asked the guy from Mass
Street Music who was there moving Taylors , Martins, Collings, etc about harp
guitars and he said that he had dozens in stock starting at $19.99.... I think
he was being sarcastic. Anyway I found a Gibson harp guitar from 1919 in the
Elderly inventory with case for $3500. The trouble is I would like to know if
I have any chance of geting the hang of playing a harp guitar (not being
incredibly talented like Stephen Bennett) before plunking down that much of my
hard earned money.
I have looked around on the web without finding a lot about harp guitars
new or old. I would appreciate any advice from any knowledgeable RMMGA types
out there regarding this amazing instrument. Can a mortal such as I learn to
play it? Where can I handle and noodle around on one before taking the plunge?
Who is making them now and do you think an old vintage harp guitar a better
deal?
Thanks in advance for your responses...
Kellar
Winkelmeyer

neil harpe

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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>Anyway I found a Gibson harp guitar from 1919 in the
> Elderly inventory with case for $3500. The trouble is I would like to
know if
> I have any chance of getting the hang of playing a harp guitar (not being

> incredibly talented like Stephen Bennett) before plunking down that much
of my
> hard earned money.

The Gibson Style-U harp guitars are not the choice of any serious modern
player that I am aware of. Most people seek out the flat top instruments, of
which the Dyer is considered the ultimate. There are several modern makers
producing similar type instruments, today. One is Ralph Bown, in the U.K.
Along with the Dyer instruments (actually made by Larsen Brothers), Lyon &
Healey (Washburn) and Oscar Schmidt also made harp guitars during the early
1900s, when they were the "rage".

I have some photos on my Stella Guitars web site, if you'd like to see the
Stella variation harp guitars from around 1915.
http://www.stellaguitars.com/schmidt_harp_guitar.htm

I do NOT have any, at the moment, though!!

Neil Harpe
http://www.stellaguitars.com


David Kilpatrick

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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In article <20001002182547...@ng-bg1.aol.com> , kel...@aol.com
(KellarW) wrote:

> Hi RMMGA'rs,
> A few weeks ago I had the privilege of seeing and hearing Stephen Bennett
at
> Winfield play his great grandfathers 1909 Dyer harp guitar. In his hands it
> sounded like the ultimate fingerstyle instrument. He allowed me to examine it
> up close after the concert. One neck was a standard 6 string with 1 3/4 inch
> nut supplemented by, I believe, 7 lower drone "harp" strings attached to a
> curved, hollow second neck braced against the other standard neck. I think it
> was made of mahogany/spruce and surprisingly light. I asked the guy from Mass
> Street Music who was there moving Taylors , Martins, Collings, etc about harp
> guitars and he said that he had dozens in stock starting at $19.99.... I think

> he was being sarcastic. Anyway I found a Gibson harp guitar from 1919 in the


> Elderly inventory with case for $3500. The trouble is I would like to know if

> I have any chance of geting the hang of playing a harp guitar (not being


> incredibly talented like Stephen Bennett) before plunking down that much of my
> hard earned money.

> I have looked around on the web without finding a lot about harp guitars
> new or old. I would appreciate any advice from any knowledgeable RMMGA types
> out there regarding this amazing instrument. Can a mortal such as I learn to
> play it? Where can I handle and noodle around on one before taking the
plunge?
> Who is making them now and do you think an old vintage harp guitar a better
> deal?

Certainly the Robert-Venn Luthiery workshop in Tempe, Phoenix, makes them
and in Britain Pete Howlett makes them - as well as his 'Sharp' guitar, a
harp body with no extra strings!

The Harp Guitar is not really a drone string instrument, it's a relative of
the Renaissance lute, which added a set of bass strings in a scale. You can
play any of these bass strings open. Rob MacKillop has a new 11-string alto
guitar with nylon strings built by Colin Morison in Scotland; this costs
around $4,500 but it's Brazilian/spruce, and the alto scale (5th fret scale
length) plus the bass 5 string section works extremely well. You will of
course get some drone or sympathetic effect from the open harp strings,
which adds to the sound of guitar, but the technique used also demands the
ability to stretch the thumb over and hit (or damp) as needed.

The Scottish group The Corries used Combolin and zither guitar instruments
built by Roy Williamson. Some of these did have true sympathetic treble
strings. To my own regret, on the 30th anniversary year of the invention of
Combolin - probably the most complex stringed instrument ever made in the
guitar family - my offer to Acoustic Guitar magazine of a researched feature
with a photograph of the instrument (only two were made) was turned down.
The Combolin has harp guitar type bass strings, a guitar neck, a mandolin
neck, and a zither array created from the backstretch of the strings between
the bridges and the tailpieces - accurately tuned. Plus sympathetic internal
strings, I think. This enabled some exceptional sounds from just two
musicians.

I love the idea of harp guitars but they are never seen s/h in Britain!

David

Kevin Hall

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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Kellar;
Those old Gibson harp guitars are carved top instruments, heavy, and not
really worth a whole lot as an instrument. They can be very pricey to fix,
and don't sound that great once they are fixed. They are primarily of
interest to collectors. Being funky to look at and fairly scarce, they
bring silly amounts of loot, but you could have a much better sounding
weapon made fresh, I suspect.
Harry Eibert, in Syracuse does a lot of repair work for John Bernunzio, and
I believe he has built a few harp guitars. His are patterned after the Dyer
rather than the carved top Gibsons, and they have to sound better than the
Gibs. He even made a harp uke a few years back.

If I were you I'd think long and hard about parting with serious money for
one of those old lads.

Good luck.
KH
Timberline Guitars.
KellarW <kel...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:20001002182547...@ng-bg1.aol.com...

Lumpy

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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KellarW wrote:

> ...I found a Gibson harp guitar from 1919 in the
> Elderly inventory with case for $3500...

> ...do you think an old vintage harp guitar a better
> deal?...

Michael Hedges once said that Gibson only built two
Harp Guitars. Hedges owned one and he wanted to find
the other and buy it. So presumably, the one at
Elderly is either the one that used to belong to
Hedges or the one that he always wanted. Either way,
that should drive the cost up, I'd think.

lumpy

neil harpe

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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Lumpy was saying....

"Michael Hedges once said that Gibson only built two
Harp Guitars. Hedges owned one and he wanted to find
the other and buy it"

Lumpy, Hedges must've been pulling somebody's leg if he said that....because
Gibson made many hundreds of harp guitars (entirely too many, in some folk's
opinion)....Style-U being the most common.

I seem to remember Michael Hedges playing a Dyer harp guitar.

NH

David

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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Well, just a note to mention that RMMGA's very own Lance McCollum has been
known to build a harp guitar or two, and has a reasonable time frame for
doing such a job. His guitars are excellent, and his intuition of the
various structural aspects of unique instruments would make him highly
qualified to do such an interesting job. He also has some extra long spruce
planks he scavenged from the mast of an old sailing vessel during the
pirating days of his youth.
When we sell a few thousand more pickups, I'm calling Lance for a doubleneck
harp guitar.
Yeehaw!
David Enke
Pick-up the World
www.pick-uptheworld.com
pic...@rmi.net
800-375-2656

McCollum

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Oct 2, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/2/00
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"Hojo2x" <hoj...@aol.com> wrote in message
news:20001002211902...@ng-co1.aol.com...
> >
> Another person who builds harp guitars is Lance McCollum. He builds VERY
nice
> ones, by all accounts.


Thanks Wade. I guess the major amount of money I spent advertising in
Acoustic Guitar with pictures of my harp guitar hasn't caught many people's
eye ;) So let me set the record straight: I BUILD HARP GUITARS. I build
really good ones :)

And I'm going to toot my own horn shamelessly here...If Michael Hedges were
still alive, he would be playing one of my harp guitars. This was the
plan...but unfortunately it died with him. I received the ultimate
compliment from him after meeting him at a show where I had brought my first
harp guitar, which at a previous show I had told him was in production, and
he asked to see it when it was completed. At that time Michael was getting
approached by luthiers at every other show wanting to demo their guitars, so
I was flattered that I would be meeting with him again. I arrived before
the show at sound check, waited until he was free, and met Michael and his
sound engineer who was a fantastic guitarist in his own right (sorry his
name escapes me right at the moment). I handed Michael the guitar and it
was in standard tuning. And Michael strummed it once, smiled, and asked me
if he could change the tunings. I, of course, said "Have at it! - I've been
wanting to find out what it could do." In the following 15 minutes, I was
treated to the most outrageous private medley from Michael's harp guitar
song list. He must have gone through about 15 tunings and after every one
his jaw was literally dropped. And the comments were just as overwhelming.
(Can you guess I was just about wetting my pants in delight???) He inquired
as to the price and said he had to go off to sound check, but asked me not
to leave. (Like I would want to leave!!!) We talked at intermission and
then met again after the show. This is where I got the ultimate in
compliments. I asked him if he was interested in buying the harp guitar and
his response was: "I would love to buy this guitar right now, at full
price, (I'd offered him a discount) but the guitar is so inspirational, that
if I were to buy it now (at the beginning of his touring) I'd want to stop
doing everything else and write harp guitar pieces. So if it is still
available when I get off tour, I will buy it. If not, we'll build another
one together." What more could I say. I couldn't even give him the guitar
at that point and he'd given me the best compliment I've ever received to
this day. Unfortunately Michael died on his way home from his tour. Not
more than about 50 miles from his house. Even writing about this makes me
sad.

I'm occasionally brought back to that pleasant meeting, because while he was
on tour, he had recommended my name to at least two people regarding harp
guitars and both have since become owners. One of them, Steve Rundell, who
you will be hearing about soon, even named his guitar "Michael" in honor of
his favorite player. I have a picture of Michael playing my first harp
guitar, it's a reminder of a very special evening. It's on my website if
anyone wants to see it.

Michael was and continues to be my favorite fingerstyle guitarist. No I
don't try to play his songs, but I feel his influences in my playing, as I'm
sure many of us do.

Thanks for letting me ramble. Oh, and by the way, Michael owned two Dyer
harp guitars and one Gibson harp guitar, and a Klein electric harp guitar
(he helped design the Klein). I had the pleasure of owning on of the
really old Gibson harp guitars that turned out to be historically very
significant (but that's another story for another day - you know - about the
one that got away).

Lance McCollum
McCollum Guitars
http://www.mccollumguitars.com


Dick Schneiders

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Oct 2, 2000, 8:25:46 PM10/2/00
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>Michael Hedges once said that Gibson only built two
>Harp Guitars. Hedges owned one and he wanted to find
>the other and buy it. So presumably, the one at
>Elderly is either the one that used to belong to
>Hedges or the one that he always wanted. Either way,
>that should drive the cost up, I'd think.
>

Actually Gibson made hundreds of these as harp guitars were very popular in the
1920's and 30's. I have seen several different ones at guitar shows and every
one of them were terrible sounding instruments, and very expensive.

However, as others have said, the Dyer harp guitars (made by the Larson
Brothers) are mostly wonderful sounding instruments, if you can find one that
is in playable condition. I once barely missed out on getting a decent one of
the smaller Dyer harp guitars at Elderly by only a couple of hours. It was, I
thought, reasonably priced at under $2,000. This was a few years ago, and also
came on the heels of my seeing Bennett play his at Winfield. I also have a
couple of his cd's where he uses his Dyer on several tracks. Now they are
going to be much more expensive and I know that the larger ones like Stephen's
are in the $3,000 and up range.

There was a British luthier posting on the newsgroup several years ago when I
was interested in harp guitars that made some patterned after the Dyers and I
was almost convinced to buy one of his when he moved back to England and I lost
touch with him.
His name was Pete, as I recall, and also made wonderful ukes and guitars.

Avoid the Gibson harp guitars, as they aren't really viable instruments for
playing.

Dick Schneiders

Gerry Nelson

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Oct 2, 2000, 8:22:57 PM10/2/00
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Hi Kellar,
I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Bennett at the Chet Atkins
Convention this year and also playing his guitars. I have to say it's
an incredibly addictive instrument to play. Three guys including
myself, played them one night and the first thing we had to say
was 'WOW! Where can I get one of these?'.

Don't worry about not being able to play it. When you play normal
fingerstyle on the guitar, the bass strings will resonate in sympathy
BUT you also have the option to pluck them when you're able. Play
around with it enough and you WILL get the hang of it. The whole thing
vibrates and you'll just find your head naturally leaning towards the
pointed part.

A company called Lark In The Morning(http://www.larkinam.com) has them
made in Mexico for about $1700 but I don't know how good the sound is.
Stephen's other harp guitar (not the Dyer) was made by a dental
student - not sure of the name. He's expecting a new one from the
Merrill company - I think their address is www.merrillguitar.com but
the harp guitar may not be on their site yet. I mailed them about it
some time ago and they expected it to be in the $5k range.

Stephen can tell you more about it. His address is s...@harpguitar.com
and his site is www.harpguitar.com

I'm hoping that it will be my next instrument. I loved playing it. As
everyone here has mentioned, the Gibsons are not recommended.

Good luck in your search.

Gerry Nelson


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Hojo2x

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Oct 2, 2000, 9:19:02 PM10/2/00
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As Dick Schneiders has indicated, the Dyer flat top harp guitar design is
generally considered far superior to the visually impressive but physically
clunky and sonically worthless Gibson archtop harp guitars.

The Lark In The Morning Mexican-made knockoffs of the Dyer design are -
unfortunately - very crude and not serious instruments, despite the serious
price tag that comes with them. I played one at the Seattle Shark In The
Morning store and was hugely disappointed; other folks who've tried them
elsewhere report similar results.

I think the British luthier you're looking for, Dick, is Pete Howlett. He
looks in on the newsgroup from time to time.

I've got two e-mail addresses for Pete, but I'm not sure which is current.
Here's what I have: puke...@surf-zone.co.uk,
islandkoa...@ukonline.co.uk

Another person who builds harp guitars is Lance McCollum. He builds VERY nice
ones, by all accounts.


Wade Hampton Miller

Charlie843

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Oct 2, 2000, 10:56:00 PM10/2/00
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Wade said:>Another person who builds harp guitars is Lance McCollum. He builds

VERY
>nice
>ones, by all accounts.

Yet another maker of harp guitars is (self promotion coming...) Charlie
Hoffman. I have quite a few photos of the two harp guitars I recently
completed on my web site.

Charlie Hoffman
www.hoffmanguitars.com

Lumpy

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Oct 2, 2000, 8:22:13 PM10/2/00
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> Lumpy was saying....

> "Michael Hedges once said that Gibson only built two
> Harp Guitars. Hedges owned one and he wanted to find
> the other and buy it"

Neil Harpe (what a name for this thread!) said:
> Lumpy, Hedges must've been pulling somebody's leg if he said
that....because
> Gibson made many hundreds of harp guitars (entirely too many, in some
folk's
> opinion)....Style-U being the most common.

Maybe so. More than one poster contend that there were
more than just two. I have no personal knowledge. What
I remember was Hedges in a televised solo concert. He
brought out a red, archtop Gibson and described it
as I mentioned above. It didn't seem tongue in cheek.
Maybe he was referring to some particular finish or
something else.

I stand (apparently) corrected.

Lumpy


Hojo2x

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Oct 3, 2000, 1:07:21 AM10/3/00
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Charlie -

How long does it take you to complete a harp guitar, do you have any available
right now and how much do they cost?

Plus, how do you tune the darn things?


Wade Hampton Miller

JOHNPEARSE

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Oct 3, 2000, 1:18:16 AM10/3/00
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I used to play a great deal of harp guitar at one time...before I discovered
the guitarra Portuguesa!
The harp guitar I have was Mario Maccaferri's personal Selmer, with an internal
sound-chamber and four bourdon bass strings. Incredible sound - but I was
always nervous about taking it on the road so I used it mostly in the studio.
Now it sits in its case in my music-room.
I suppose that I could be talked out of it for vast amounts of bucks as I am in
dire need of two new string machines - and those suckers are EXPENSIVE!
John Pearse..

David Kilpatrick

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Oct 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/3/00
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>
> There was a British luthier posting on the newsgroup several years ago when I
> was interested in harp guitars that made some patterned after the Dyers and I
> was almost convinced to buy one of his when he moved back to England and I
lost
> touch with him.
> His name was Pete, as I recall, and also made wonderful ukes and guitars.
>
Peter Howlett - visited RMMGA UK meet in Belper. DK

Bob Dorgan

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Oct 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/3/00
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McCollum wrote:
>
> "Hojo2x" <hoj...@aol.com> wrote in message
> news:20001002211902...@ng-co1.aol.com...
> > >
> > Another person who builds harp guitars is Lance McCollum. He builds VERY
> nice
> > ones, by all accounts.
>

Great story Lance. Thanks for sharing that.
Michael's music touched a lot of lives in different ways.
Bob Dorgan

Wayne Kelly

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Oct 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/3/00
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KellarW wrote:

>
> I have looked around on the web without finding a lot about harp guitars
> new or old. I would appreciate any advice from any knowledgeable RMMGA types
> out there regarding this amazing instrument. Can a mortal such as I learn to
> play it? Where can I handle and noodle around on one before taking the plunge?

> Who is making them now and do you think an old vintage harp guitar a better
> deal?
>

I know of one luthier living in Western Canada near Calgary who builds harp
guitars. His name is Charles Shifflett and his web site, including pictures of his
harp guitars, is at the URL below:

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/CShifflett/HOMEPAGE.HTM

Chifuru Noda

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Oct 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/3/00
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hoj...@aol.com (Hojo2x) wrote:

> As Dick Schneiders has indicated, the Dyer flat top harp guitar design is
> generally considered far superior to the visually impressive but physically
> clunky and sonically worthless Gibson archtop harp guitars.
>
> The Lark In The Morning Mexican-made knockoffs of the Dyer design are -
> unfortunately - very crude and not serious instruments, despite the serious
> price tag that comes with them. I played one at the Seattle Shark In The
> Morning store and was hugely disappointed; other folks who've tried them
> elsewhere report similar results.

There are many harp guitar designs, and I agree that the Dyer design is
the best in terms of playability.

In the Dyer design, the harp strings are close together at saddle so you
won't have to reach too far to hit harp strings. In other designs, you'll
have to reach pretty far to hit harp strings.

I own two harp guitars (one no-name from 1910's, and another Dyer-clone
made by Lark in the Morning). Please check them out at

http://www.geocities.com/chiefnoda/

If you follow the link to "More Photos", you get to see them. Note that
the harp strings' spacing at saddle.

There's an MP3 audio of Bach's Cello Suite that I played on the Dyer clone.

As to the quality of Lark in the Morning (LIM) Dyer-clone, their virtue is
price! If you never played a harp guitar, and wanted to try it, LIM is
great. You can get it around $1600 (I got mine from Acoustic Outfitters in
Stratham, NH) (or $1800 direct from LIM), as opposed to $3000 or more
custm-made from a good luthier. LIM harp guitar is made in Mexico and it
shows - it's all laminated, the neck is classical neck (with no truss rod;
meant to strung with X light and I don't even know how long it's going to
last). But as I said, it's cheap and you can experiment. The tuning holds,
it's fairly loud, it looks cool. I guess it should be considered "a
student-grade harp guitar". So far, I have no complaints and I'm having
more fun than the price indicates. I bet I can sell it when I ready for a
more serious instrument.

Cheers
Chief

KellarW

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Oct 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/3/00
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Wayne,
Thanks for your response. I actually found the Shifflett web page on a
Google search. His instruments look most impressive but I am not sure I am up
to 20 strings.If I make the plunge for a harp guitar I think I will go for a
Dyer style with 5 to 7 bass strings in addition to the usual 6. I may already
be biting off more than I can chew. Kellar

JD Blackwell

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Oct 3, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/3/00
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Dusty Strings in Seattle has sold Howlett harp guitars. I've (tried to)
played one and it's a nicely executed instrument.

JD

David Kilpatrick <da...@maxwellplace.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
news:970568548.20482.0...@news.demon.co.uk...


>
> >
> > There was a British luthier posting on the newsgroup several years ago
when I
> > was interested in harp guitars that made some patterned after the Dyers
and I
> > was almost convinced to buy one of his when he moved back to England and
I
> lost
> > touch with him.
> > His name was Pete, as I recall, and also made wonderful ukes and
guitars.
> >

Charlie843

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Oct 3, 2000, 8:30:06 PM10/3/00
to
Wade asked:>

>How long does it take you to complete a harp guitar, do you have any
>available
>right now and how much do they cost?

Wade:

Right now I would estimate two years to completion (I am at the early stages
of a large batch so it will be a while before I can start the next batch).
Both of the originals are sold and gone. I am uncertain about cost but
estimate that it will be about $6000.(THe first two were rather seriously
underpriced for the work involved.)

Thanks for asking.

Charlie Hoffman
www.hoffmanguitars.com

pete_u...@my-deja.com

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Oct 4, 2000, 1:57:42 AM10/4/00
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Because my name has surfaced quite significantly in the newsgroup
postings I think I beter give ya'll a realty check.

The Dyer Style Hrap guitar is a wonderful instrument full of visual and
acoustic character. I built five in 1998 when I was living and working
in Ohio and ended up developing 'The Sharp Guitar' from it. I have
looked at the other luthiers who have posted especially the touching
eulogy from Lance. I don't wish to decry their work or committment to
lutherie so please read the next statement with care all of you - these
things are not difficult to build or play. They take a wee bit longer
than your average flat top and out of my workshop, start at $3000 for
what would be a style#4 Larson Dyer Style Harp guitar spec. I'm not
undercutting the other fellows - it's just that there is no mystery to
building these. Just sound commonsense wood engineeering.
Having said that, it is an esoteric instrument, not for everybody and
the market is very narrow. I sold to individuals and through three
stores - Elderly (who currently have a Sharp Guitar for sale at $2500)
Dusty strings and some place in Virginia. According to the sales
feedback, the buyer response was the same - where the isntruments were
sold, the purchaser knew exactly what they wanted and didn't have to
sit in 'wonder' as they played them - you see, the secret of their
beauty is that when you get past the 7th fret, you then have a church
organ in your hands and the guitar takes on a very cathedral tone...
For those who are interested I have an ukulele website where you can
see a 'harpuke' - it's the baby of the Sharp Guitar. You will find it
at www.islandkoaukuleles.com. Post me personally if you want more info
on the Dyer Style Harp guitars as I don't visit this newsgroup very
often.
Pete

Gorblimey

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Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
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<pete_u...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:8regsl$7i2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

(entire post snipped due to overdose of guitar content)

What I want to know is; does Pete take to the harp guitar with the same
gusto as he plays ragtime on a parlour? I think we should be told.

Pete

joem...@my-deja.com

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Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
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In article <8regsl$7i2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>

But....one must keep in mind that no matter what one builds today it is never
going to sound like an original Dyer. Not that every builder wants them to. I
am sure they would prefer a bit of their own signiture. Carl and August
Larson were incredible builders and the originals are getting near 100 years
old. That, you can't build. To say you can knock off a Dyer in your workshop
and that they are easily played, seems a bit of an overstatement to me. If
you just want to let the bass ring sympathetically, it would be no different,
but if you plan on really working the instrument, simple dosen't come to
mind. Tricky perhaps. The originals are pure magical sounding, spirited, not
just wood engineering. Of course this is a players, not a builders
perspective.

joe myers

Bob Dorgan

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Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
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joem...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
> In article <8regsl$7i2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>
>
> But....one must keep in mind that no matter what one builds today it is never
> going to sound like an original Dyer. Not that every builder wants them to. I
> am sure they would prefer a bit of their own signiture. Carl and August
> Larson were incredible builders and the originals are getting near 100 years
> old. That, you can't build. To say you can knock off a Dyer in your workshop
> and that they are easily played, seems a bit of an overstatement to me. If
> you just want to let the bass ring sympathetically, it would be no different,
> but if you plan on really working the instrument, simple dosen't come to
> mind. Tricky perhaps. The originals are pure magical sounding, spirited, not
> just wood engineering. Of course this is a players, not a builders
> perspective.
>
> joe myers

One thing you might not know Joe--
Pete Howlett is a hell of a player.
I don't know anything about harp guitars, much less how one make or
model stacks up to another, but Pete is a player.
Bob Dorgan

joem...@my-deja.com

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
In article <39DB42...@epix.net>,

My comment "from a players perspective" was certainly not to trounce Pete as
a player in any way. It was more to state that I come from only the players
perspective not a builders. His thread seemed to me to be completely builder
oriented? Hence my response. The harp guitar can be intimidating, even to
really good 6 string players. I have handed mine to several good players to
try, and have seen many of them confused and not sure where to go with it. As
always, good players can make it all look so simple because it feels and
becomes simple to them. Not everyone's a hell of a player and for fellows
just getting into the Harp Guitar "simple to play" may be healthily
encouraging, but a tad misleading. I guess I would like to see more about
playing them than building them. Perhaps I should not stick my nose in the
acoustic builders group, but I never see anything about the Dyer's anywhere
else. Again, no digs meant to any player, I would not do that.

pete_u...@my-deja.com

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
In article <8rfm0a$5d4$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

joem...@my-deja.com wrote:
> In article <39DB42...@epix.net>,
> d77...@epix.net wrote:
> > joem...@my-deja.com wrote:
> > >
> > > In article <8regsl$7i2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>
> > >
> > > But....one must keep in mind that no matter what one builds today
it is never
> > > going to sound like an original Dyer.

I think I ought to nip this in the bud. Please read my post carefully
ya'll. They are easy to build but not to play!!! And Bob, thanks for
the amazing endorsement of my playing - unasked for and very humbling.
I guess when you blow your education for playing a guitar there has to
be some reward somewhere. Many, many thanks Bob.

When I attack the harp guitar I get very lyrical, put it into a G6 or
drop d tuning, wang all the sympathetic strings to g's,d's and the odd
f# and start doing celtic stuff and that lonesome spooky Skip James
material.

I've sent a post out to joe - every Dyer has it's own sound. Of the
five I built I was sound consistent on two of them. The variables are
so great. Perhaps one of the best 'experts' on this sound arguement
which always seems to pointlessly irritate people and touch all sorts
of raw nerves is Marc Silber who seems to have seen and played more
than us all. I hope you don't think I was making claims on the Dyer
sound - we don't know what it is because they weren't all that
consistent...and I never crow about the sound on my instruments
matching or being like the priginals. It's a fake claim because what we
have now is not what they left the workshop sounding.

Pete

pete_u...@my-deja.com

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
Waht the hell is that on the end of my post? Ignore it.

Giri Iyengar

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
Bob Dorgan wrote:
>
> joem...@my-deja.com wrote:
> >
> > In article <8regsl$7i2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>
> >
> > But....one must keep in mind that no matter what one builds today it is never
> > going to sound like an original Dyer. Not that every builder wants them to. I
> > am sure they would prefer a bit of their own signiture. Carl and August
> > Larson were incredible builders and the originals are getting near 100 years
> > old. That, you can't build. To say you can knock off a Dyer in your workshop
> > and that they are easily played, seems a bit of an overstatement to me. If
> > you just want to let the bass ring sympathetically, it would be no different,
> > but if you plan on really working the instrument, simple dosen't come to
> > mind. Tricky perhaps. The originals are pure magical sounding, spirited, not
> > just wood engineering. Of course this is a players, not a builders
> > perspective.
> >
> > joe myers
>
> One thing you might not know Joe--
> Pete Howlett is a hell of a player.
> I don't know anything about harp guitars, much less how one make or
> model stacks up to another, but Pete is a player.
> Bob Dorgan

And an excellent builder too. I've played some damn fine
Weissenborn-style lap guitars built by him. The best W-style
I've ever played (of about a dozen different makers) was an
all Imbuia Island Koa one.

I'd listen to him. He's not denigrating the Dyer guitars or
any builder. He's simply saying it's not a huge amount of
extra work to build one and that he sells his for a reasonable
price. I don't know how Joe read all this other stuff into
Pete's post.

Giri

joem...@my-deja.com

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Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
In article <39DB8C6F...@mail.ford.com>,

Wow....sorry....I didn't mean to open up a defense core for Pete. From what
I have heard in the past and present he is a fine builder, player, and
person. I was only really responding to a direct quote from message 23
"these thing are not difficult to build or play". To build, I wouldn't know.
To play, I do, and in my opinion they're a bit tricky. I read nothing into
the post, just replying to what actually was said. Again, I'm not trying to
ruffle feathers, just voicing an opinion.

joe myers

pete_u...@my-deja.com

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
I read nothing into
> the post, just replying to what actually was said.

Hey you guys, just lay off - it hurts! Only kidding.

I stand by what I said but maybe as a great lover of all types of
guitars I took to the Dyer immediately and found it's sweet spots and
potential in about half a day... the only discomfort I experienced was
the real skill required in hitting strings 10,11 & 12 accurately and
remembering the tuning order. I dont know if joe does it but most of
the players I have spoken to tuned the sub bass diatonically. I never
did because of the dropped D and G6 tunings I used, I wanted different
colours in the bass so #7 string was tuned to F#, #8 string was down
to G, #9 was tuned to D, #10 string down to C, #11 at A and #12 F#.

The real fun was messing with these and using loads of sharps when
playing in the keys of A and E. Now give that to a competant guitarist
and see what he does with it.

BTW on my own guitars they have no side or face dots - when people want
to play them it really sorts the sheep from the goats. Now not one of
my clients have ever asked for this -I'm building a second guitar for a
guy called Dylan Fowler who is a DADGAD player of great competence -
session musician and drop dead amazing player - even he went for the
side dots...

joem...@my-deja.com

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
In article <8rgc3m$prc$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,


You never think you need the side dots, of course until you notice they're
not there. One very strange quirk about the Dyers are that the usual 9th fret
inlay is on the 10th fret on the Dyers. That took a small adjustment to get
use to. Not quite sure the reason the Larsons did that? (perhaps mandolin
thing?) As far as tunings, I use many, many different ones. recently I've
tried to write a lot in one tuning to save time and get more familiar working
in each. I have experimented a bunch w/gauges and tunings on the bass. I'm
using bronze 56's on bass strings 7 ,8,and 9. Then I use a 50 gauge on
string 10. 60 on string 11 and a 63 on string 12. The 50 gauge in the middle
gives me a alternative to hit in a high tuning than the others. I find it a
useful placement there. Sometimes I feel the Harp is something I'm taming
rather than actually playing. Bass string stoppage is essential or you've got
a mighty rumbled mess at times, especially amplified (a whole new topic). I
too stay diatonic for the most part, but it's nice to through in something
odd for color. I suppose ultimately I would like to get a little more
dissonate and avant garde with the Dyer, but still have it accessable to
humans. lots of luck...... ...


joe myers

Bob Dorgan

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
joem...@my-deja.com wrote:
>
> In article <39DB42...@epix.net>,
> d77...@epix.net wrote:
> > joem...@my-deja.com wrote:
> > >
> > > In article <8regsl$7i2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>
> > >
> > > But....one must keep in mind that no matter what one builds today it is never
> > > going to sound like an original Dyer. Not that every builder wants them to. I
> > > am sure they would prefer a bit of their own signiture. Carl and August
> > > Larson were incredible builders and the originals are getting near 100 years
> > > old. That, you can't build. To say you can knock off a Dyer in your workshop
> > > and that they are easily played, seems a bit of an overstatement to me. If
> > > you just want to let the bass ring sympathetically, it would be no different,
> > > but if you plan on really working the instrument, simple dosen't come to
> > > mind. Tricky perhaps. The originals are pure magical sounding, spirited, not
> > > just wood engineering. Of course this is a players, not a builders
> > > perspective.
> > >
> > > joe myers
> >
> > One thing you might not know Joe--
> > Pete Howlett is a hell of a player.
> > I don't know anything about harp guitars, much less how one make or
> > model stacks up to another, but Pete is a player.
> > Bob Dorgan
> >
>
> My comment "from a players perspective" was certainly not to trounce Pete as
> a player in any way. It was more to state that I come from only the players
> perspective not a builders. His thread seemed to me to be completely builder
> oriented? Hence my response. The harp guitar can be intimidating, even to
> really good 6 string players. I have handed mine to several good players to
> try, and have seen many of them confused and not sure where to go with it. As
> always, good players can make it all look so simple because it feels and
> becomes simple to them. Not everyone's a hell of a player and for fellows
> just getting into the Harp Guitar "simple to play" may be healthily
> encouraging, but a tad misleading. I guess I would like to see more about
> playing them than building them. Perhaps I should not stick my nose in the
> acoustic builders group, but I never see anything about the Dyer's anywhere
> else. Again, no digs meant to any player, I would not do that.
>

Thanks for clearing that up.
I had no idea where you were coming from.

Harp guitars are intriguing to me but I know so little about them, if
you handed me one, I'd probably ask where the bow was!
Bob Dorgan

McCollum

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/4/00
to
Pete,

While I respect that you're an accomplished player, and that you build
part-time (correct me please if I'm wrong), the reality is, for me, that
harp guitars take up three times the space in my shop. They take about half
again as much time as a regular guitar. And as for the standard Dyer model,
maybe that would be easier to build, by sticking to those plans, but I've
pushed the envelope a lot further and there IS rocket science in the design
of my guitar. Especially since one of the next ones will have a 14-string
neck and 6 bass strings. An original Dyer (of which I've played many)
compared to my harp guitar sounds like a cheap Kay. And the major problems
with the original Dyers are structural issues. They will not hold to the
tension of modern strings. I run 63s and 66s for the bass strings. And you
can put any set of strings you want on the 6-string without worrying about
the top. I worked with D'Addario on getting those gauges of strings with
small ball ends and they have since included them in their production and I
also have since incorporated them into my baritones. Anything over a 66
becomes a double wrap and starts to sound thuddy. Back to my point, though.
I use carbon graphite laminate in some of the braces, the bridge is a
two-piece bridge, to help the separation between the bass strings and the
six strings. I don't use banjo tuners any more, as I find that they are not
as reliable in holding the tuning. In essence, I did a lot of homework on
harp guitars and how other builders have modified theirs and what their
findings were following those modifications before I built my first one.
Also, one thing I would like to point out is that one harp guitar uses twice
as much wood as a single guitar (as far as materials for back, sides, and
top). And the fact that it is extremely hard to find wood, of excellent
quality, in that size. Any time I run across something that is viable for
use on a harp guitar I stash it away, not knowing when I will run across
something that size again. When Charlie Hoffman started building his two
recent harp guitars and I heard the price I chuckled, knowing that they were
way too underpriced for the work he was about to put into them. I guess
Charlie agreed, as he posted that they are now starting at $6000, at least
:) Charlie came up with a new method for joining the upper horn to the neck
block which I am in process of stealing which has allowed me to lower the
price on my harp guitars to $7500 (from their original $9000). So we're NOT
in it just for the high dollar. This new design feature has allowed a much
easier way to do a dovetail neck set and not have to deal with so many
compound curves as my first four. It's great if you can manage to sell them
for $3000 and still put food on your table. But with the extra time,
materials, and space that the harp guitars are taking away from the regular
guitar production, I believe I'm providing my customers with full value for
their dollar.

Lance McCollum
McCollum Guitars
http://www.mccollumguitars.com


<pete_u...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:8regsl$7i2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

john...@my-deja.com

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Oct 4, 2000, 8:30:27 PM10/4/00
to

> And an excellent builder too

I agree. Last spring I had the pleasure of spending 3 hours at Buffalo
Brothers in San Diego. I played all of the usual high-end suspects:
SCGC, Collings, Froggy Bottom, Tippin, Goodall, Lowden, etc. My
favorite guitar in the shop was a deep-body walnut/Adirondack 00 built
by Pete. It was just a wonderful blues/ragtime guitar: clear, crisp,
with a lot of puhch. The last I checked, the guitar is still listed on
the Buff. Bros. website. I'd buy it but I'm already guitar poor.

John Thomas

joem...@my-deja.com

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Oct 4, 2000, 9:37:35 PM10/4/00
to
In article <39DB6C...@epix.net>,

Yeah, a few players I've handed mine to looked as if they may as well be
holding a giant tuna. On some days I feel that way. One strange bird they
are. And that they were developed in the late 1800's and early 1900's is
also peculier.

joe

Dick Schneiders

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 9:50:23 PM10/4/00
to
>One very strange quirk about the Dyers are that the usual 9th fret
>inlay is on the 10th fret on the Dyers. That took a small adjustment to get
>use to. Not quite sure the reason the Larsons did that? (perhaps mandolin
>thing?)

I have an old brazilian Washburn parlour (spelling for Pete's benefit :-) )
that has the inlay like this. I have often wondered and asked but never gotten
a definitive answer as to why.

Of course, I never need to use the fret board markings!!!

Dick Schneiders

Dick Schneiders

unread,
Oct 4, 2000, 10:20:20 PM10/4/00
to
>One strange bird they
>are. And that they were developed in the late 1800's and early 1900's
is
>also peculier.
>
>joe
>
>>
>

Joe,

I know you probably know this, but your earlier comment about the Dyer harp
guitars being close to 100 years old and this comment (at least when it comes
to the Dyers) is a little bit of a stretch.

The exact dates aren't totally known, but I believe the earliest Dyer harp
guitars were about 1912. These were based on the designs of the harp guitars
by Knutsen that started around 1898. The Larsons improved on the Knutsen
design and made far better and sturdier instruments, from what I have been able
to read. The Knutsen design patent expired in 1912.

Also, most of the pictures of guitars from this time, both harp and regular,
that are in my book Guitars and Mandolins in America Featuring the Larson's
Creations (written by their grandson and Larson collector, Robert Carl Hartman)
have the inlay at the 10th fret. Perhaps this was the norm in those days and
was changed at a later date.

Dick Schneiders

joem...@my-deja.com

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Oct 4, 2000, 11:12:53 PM10/4/00
to
In article <20001004222020...@ng-ft1.aol.com>,

Dick, Yeah, a little stretch. I suppose 100 sounds a bit better. The Hartman
book is great on all the Larsons. I wrote him and he dated mine at 1917 from
the info I gave him. Accuracy? I am also curious as the the case that I have
for it. It appears to be an original hard shell case. Very form fitting. But
I have also heard that they never had original cases for them. Sort of a
Brown leather art deco deal. Another book of interest is American Lutherie
#29 Spring 1992. A nice history of the instrument.

joe myers

joem...@my-deja.com

unread,
Oct 5, 2000, 3:00:00 AM10/5/00
to
In article <sto28bb...@corp.supernews.com>,

"McCollum" <mcco...@netshel.net> wrote:
> Pete,
>
> While I respect that you're an accomplished player, and that you build
> part-time (correct me please if I'm wrong), the reality is, for me, that
> harp guitars take up three times the space in my shop. They take about half
> again as much time as a regular guitar. And as for the standard Dyer model,
> maybe that would be easier to build, by sticking to those plans, but I've
> pushed the envelope a lot further and there IS rocket science in the design
> of my guitar. Especially since one of the next ones will have a 14-string
> neck and 6 bass strings. An original Dyer (of which I've played many)
> compared to my harp guitar sounds like a cheap Kay.

Quite a boast. Perhaps you played some extremely aweful Dyers. I assure you
mine and the others I have played are some of the warmest, robust charmers on
the planet. Some don't want rocketships to the moon. Acoustic asthetics are
personal tastes and anyway, in the end... it's not the car, it's the driver.

joe myers

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