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Featured Inventory Archives 1999-2012

Gruhn Gibson Harp Guitar

1915 Gibson Harp Guitar


Gibson had big plans for the harp guitar in the early years of the 20th century. Popular music was dominated at the time by Tin Pan Alley tunes or semi-classical music, and the guitar was NOT the dominant fretted instrument. Consequently guitarists found themselves having to play chords that may have been better suited for the piano or for wind instruments - in other words, in keys other than the guitar-friendly keys of E or A. Guitarists could play an E-flat chord, but the root of the chord would be almost an octave higher than the low-E on a standard guitar.

The harp guitar offered a solution in the form of extra open strings, tuned usually in a chromatic progression, that provided a resonant bass note for any chord. In floral prose in Gibson catalogs, Gibson sales manager and founding partner L.A. Williams compared the harp guitar to the conventional guitar in the same way the pianoforte compared to the harpsichord.

On paper, the harp guitar sounded like a godsend, and in practice, it sounded fine -- if the guitarist could play it. The average weekend strummer had to develop a new technique, using his thumb to find the appropriate sub-bass string. It's not a difficult technique to master, but it seems awkward at first. And that, along with the extra expense of a harp guitar, not to mention the inconvenience of carrying around such a large guitar, kept the harp guitar from fulfilling Gibson's expectations.

This instrument (inv. #AR3705) is a Style U (the only style Gibson offered after 1907) from 1915 and is in excellent condition. With original hard case it is offered at $6,500.

This instrument is SOLD

For further enjoyment...

Close of body
Soundhole and scroll area
Tailpiece
Neck and headstock
Headstock
Back of headstock
Back of neck
Neck heel
Back of body
Full back view