Harp Guitars

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Harp Guitars: An American Lutherie Anthology

You might think you know something about harp guitars, but you’ll know a lot more after reading the newest 100-page book in our American Lutherie Anthology series: Harp Guitars! Sure they’re the giant, archaic monsters we’ve seen with mandolin orchestras, but they’re also modern instruments fulfilling the musical dreams of current musicians. And someone might want you to fix or build one someday! Our new book includes a bunch of the major articles we’ve done on harp guitars, including an historic overview of European and American versions, as well as the design process behind new models of steel string, classical, and electric versions that are taking the instrument into the future. Also included are reduced versions of three of our popular harp guitar plans, drawings of a wide variety of new designs, a panel discussion from our 2006 Convention, meet-the-maker interviews with three builders of harp guitars and other instruments as well as collector/harp-guitar enthusiast (aka Pope) Gregg Miner.


Shipped to all 2023 members mid-October

Restoring a Martin Harp Guitar

by Ted Davis

This book says a lot about how the harp guitar has gone from zero to hero during the Golden Age of American Lutherie. The late Ted Davis was one of our early authors, and his 1984 article about restoring a badly abused Martin harp guitar was the first thing we published about making or fixing these wonderful contraptions.

GAL Instrument Plan #7: 1912 Martin® Harp Guitar #11495

by Ted Davis

The instrument is an astonishing piece of work, and so is Ted Davis’ plan, presented in his old-school mid-century drafting style.

Premiata Liuteria

from a talk in 1985

by Mario Maccaferri

Maccaferri speaks about his life as a musician, luthier, and inventor. This was in pre-war Europe, and the harp guitar was still used in popular music. Mario designed extra-string instruments that were built by the Selmer company along with his widely accepted 6-string models.

Harp Guitar: That Extra-String Thing

by Jonathon Peterson

Most Americans who even knew what a harp guitar was thought of it as a less-than-useless dinosaur. Then came Michael Hedges. Jon Peterson’s look back at a strange instrument seems prescient in light of all that has happened in the thirty years since then. We look at instruments by Torres, Hauser I, Scherzer, Staufer, Mozzani, Gibson, Knutsen, Martin, and others. Turns out the harp guitar has deep and strong roots.

Meet the Maker: Michael Sandén

by Jonathon Peterson

A Swedish guitar maker comes to America. This was a long time ago, but Michael had already made a lot of different kinds of extended guitars, starting with the ones he built with his mentor, Georg Bolin.

Dyer Harp Guitar

by Todd Brotherton

When Michael Hedges brought the harp guitar to the progressive music scene, he was using a Dyer instrument very similar to this one built by the Larson Brothers.

GAL Instrument Plan #32: Dyer Harp Guitar

by Todd Brotherton

Note that the large bridge patch in this instrument was not original, but added during a restoration by Bay Area luthier Mario Martello. Mario got it right; the modified guitar is stable, it plays well, and it sounds great.

A New Look at Harp Guitars

by Jonathon Peterson

Having looked back at the roots of the harp guitar, Peterson next looked forward. A number of luthiers were finding fascination and great potential in the big beast, and were laying a foundation for its modern era.

Meet the Maker: Tom Shinness

by Jonathon Peterson

Shinness is a harp guitarist who builds his guitars by cutting and pasting parts of real instruments together into new configurations. He’s a proponent of whole foods, exercise, and positive mentality as a means of achieving greater musical creativity.

Meet the Maker: Stephen Sedgwick

by Jonathon Peterson

Harp guitars fascinate a lot more people than actually play them, so it takes a brave luthier to jump into the field. Sedgwick is a delightfully modest man who is determined to make harp guitars or bust.

Meet the Maker: Benoît Meulle-Stef

by Jonathon Peterson

Meulle-Stef is a French harp guitar luthier who lives and works in Belgium. The harp guitar has deep roots in Europe and he is familiar with all of them. His own instruments have a grace that harp guitars often lack.

Harp Guitars: Past, Present, and Future
A Discussion of Extra-String Theory

from their 2006 GAL Convention panel

with Mike Doolin, Kerry Char, Gary Southwell, and Fred Carlson

By the time this article was written seventeen years ago, the harp guitar was already well into its modern renaissance. Players wanted banks of super-treble strings as well as an extended bass range. Luthiers responded with new designs and different string configurations that made their instruments more user friendly, more graceful, and musically more pertinent.

Developing the Modern 20-String Concert Harp Guitar

by Jeffrey R. Elliott

Even if you don’t care much about harp guitars you’ll enjoy the thought processes that went into the progression of instruments documented in this article. If you are into harp guitars this is a must-read. The fresh and thoughtful design developed by John Sullivan, John Doan, and Jeffrey Elliott owed little to similar instruments of the past.

GAL Instrument Plan #61: 1986 Sullivan/Elliott Harp Guitar

by Jeffrey R. Elliott

If you want to build a harp guitar, you can’t go wrong with this time-tested and well accepted design. You might say it is the standard modern harp guitar.

Meet the Collector: Gregg Miner

by Kathy Wingert

Gregg Miner is dedicated to collecting instruments and restoring them to playing condition. Through his research he has acquired a wide network of historians, repairmen, and luthiers. He’s often called the Harp Guitar Pope for his extensive work in collecting, cataloging, documenting, demonstrating, and promoting the many varieties of harp guitars and other extended guitars. What a blessing.