Herringbone" Dyer-style Harp Guitar by Arul
Huge savings on a one-of-a-kind handmade harp guitar
When my museum restoration person walked in and saw this, he immediately said, "Wow, what a nice vintage Dyer!"
I felt the same vibe when I opened the box to find India's premier (only?) harp guitar maker, Arul's second instrument. Readers/shoppers may recall his first, which was to be the start of an ongoing business. Hopefully, it still will be. In the long interim, Arul has faced many struggles in preparing for production, not the least of which was a heart attack (and he's a young man) and a lengthy hospitalization. But now he's back and has created another unique handmade instrument.
Despite a few minor imperfections, this is a pretty gorgeous harp guitar. The low price is for a couple of reasons: to sell as quickly as we can, and because of the couple issues which prevent this from being the $5000+ harp guitar that it both sounds like and looks like from six feet away.
All solid woods, with an aged Sitka top supplied long ago by Fred Carlson and Indian rosewood back and sides. Beautiful Indian rosewood headplates, the bass head particularly so with its inlaid wood lines. Cedar neck with double-action LMI truss rod. Multi-ply Rosewood & Maple binding top and back with herringbone purfling on top and rosettes. Very lovely. Ebony bridge and fingerboard. Camel bone nut and saddles and bone bass nut posts. Professional tuners. Sitka spruce bracing. Entirely French polished with natural "button lac" which yields the rich reddish orange color on the entire instrument. Lastly, Arul gave a slight wedge to the body, with the treble side at the standard Dyer 4" and the bass side lower bout at 3-3/4".
harp guitar is wonderful to play and to listen to. It not only
looks vintage, it sounds and feels it, with fantastic
response. Nice clear high E string all the way up the neck,
great sub-basses that sustain for days (if you're into that), nicely
balanced, and with good overtones (more so
than his first "piano-like" instrument). All in all,
very Dyer-like (and one of the loudest Dyer copies you'll hear.
Trust me, this is not a wimpy instrument).
Fit and finish is similar to his last. Despite the great design aesthetics and overall execution, it is not flawlessly presented. The top is nice, though not pristine in figure (I find that the imperfections - which are enhanced by the dark lacquer - nicely fit the vintage appearance). There are a few minor marks, dings and scratches throughout (see for example the lower left photo: small, shallow marks that show up in certain light). The French polish, while beautiful from a few feet away, is of average quality. One could give it another final expert touch up and perhaps perfect it, but I'd leave it alone. There are no fretboard markers, due to lack of available materials. There are 4 tiny holes ready for micro-dot markers at the 3,5,7,& 10 fret positions, but I did not have them installed - figuring better to let the buyer put in their own choice as desired.
Nut/string width: the neck at the nut is 1-15/16" as a Dyer. The string spacing however is narrower, with E string centers at 1-9/16" - meaning that there is more space from the string (especially high E) to the edge of the fingerboard. To me, not a big deal. The customer can either play as is, or put in a new nut that is narrower or wider, as preferred. Once nut and strings are dialed in, the neck itself could even be thinned if desired. As I prefer a wider vintage nut spacing, I'd simply replace the nut and go. But this is perfectly playable as is. I haven't messed with the truss rod, as action is good and intonation perfect.
Neck tuners are nice (the new Stew-Mac "Vintage" nickel tuners), and we again used Gotoh 4:1 tuners for the subs. (NOTE: I had temporary Stew-Macs on for all but the 3 close-up photos of the back of the headstock) Arul drilled slight recesses for these, as he wanted to leave the headstock an extra 1/16th inch thick (not a bad idea, actually). The nut posts are a bit lower than typical, about 1/4" in height. This shallow sub-bass position is great for line-of-sight while playing, but might need to be raised for perfect tone and if one plays hard (as I do).
That's about it. Some minor imperfections that hamper the otherwise great quality of Arul's work, but allow you to get a great deal. At this super-low price, I would absolutely "bless it" as a professional workhorse harp guitar.
- Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
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