2008 Allan Beardsell harp guitar
One of the (many) perks of this part-time job of
mine is that I’ve been privileged to have seen (and heard or played)
more harp guitars than probably anyone on the planet.
When it comes to new instruments – and new designs – few have
made an impression on me quite like the very first Beardsell harp guitar I
finally saw in 2011 at the 9th Harp Guitar Gathering®.
Distinctive, modern, imaginative, cohesive, daring, beautiful,
fascinating, visionary and many other words came to mind (and still do).
One word? Simply: cool.
And it sounds incredible.
In case you haven’t guessed, I love this harp guitar.
Is it for everyone? Probably not for those stuck on the Knutsen or Dyer (or Hedges) paradigm, and not for those looking strictly for pure Dyer tone, as this tends to out-power even a Dyer. Frankly, I think it may be one of the most phenomenal-sounding harp guitars made today.
Allan’s tone is, well, hard to describe. Look inside and you’ll perhaps see why – it’s like an Erector Set in there! All this engineering bravado can be seen through the larger of the two side ports (one on the second floor and one in the basement). Uniquely braced on top and back, the several additional struts/tension rods presumably allow the top to be more responsive, and is it ever! In this regard it reminds me of Luke Brunner’s newest Outdoor harp guitars or perhaps that new Reverse Tension harp guitar prototype I just played at HGG13. Comparisons aside, Allan’s sound is his own and best of all, with his unique and, dare I say, aggressive, side ports, the player literally bathes in tone.
Out front through the “standard” two
soundholes, the sound is similarly rife with overtones and sustain.
Even, balanced, punchy, full of sustain, it is simply wonderful.
Allan’s guitars and harp guitars typically display some gorgeous eye candy tonewoods. I wouldn’t have thought mahogany would blow me away but his cherry red 3D finish on this beautiful Honduras is seriously melt-in-your-mouth, not-in-your-hands “indescribably delicious.” I must get a harp guitar in this color!
It sports a nice Lutz sprice top (with a clear pickguard), plus other fine wood choices for trim – lots of that, in just the right degree of tasteful design, color and ply. From those singular black & white-rimmed oval soundholes to the mini arm bevel to the subtle tapered body shapes in all directions (I cannot figure out the geometry) to the thin laminate lines sprinkled about to the wonderful geodesic join of the bass arm to the head (take that, Larsons!), the artistry and lutherie of Allan’s creation just keeps on giving. At a glance, fit and finish are a 10, though to be professionally picky I’d have to take off a couple points for the couple seams/joins that aren’t flawless. Like anyone will notice.
Did I mention that Allan’s harp guitars supply a full chromatic octave below the neck? All it takes are 7 subs and sharping levers. Tuning (nominal, unsharped) is D down to E. The current owner struggled with the Peghed sub-bass tuners, so opted to swap them for these Keith locking banjo tuners. He found it a great improvement (the locking screws are probably overkill) and they fit the aesthetic quite admirably, in my opinion. The neck tuners are Gotoh 710s.
A fully modern instrument, the Florentine cutaway allows access to the highest frets. The arm bevel and tapered body make the large impressive instrument quite comfortable.
My friend and harp guitar master Stephen Bennett had the opportunity to play this very instrument some time ago and was hugely smitten with its open sound and easy playability, even with the 1-3/4” neck width (he prefers wider) . The only drawbacks for him were the tuners (now changed) and the lack of fretboard markers (the side dots being hard to see).
Pickups, naturally. K & K Trinity:
contact on the soundboard for the neck and piezo under-saddle for the
subs. Use a stereo cord and mix to your heart's content on your
pre-amp/console. Killer amplification...it may out-Medley
Keith Medley's intense sound!
It even includes a custom flight case (quite heavy, so be warned).
P.S: And I am not just saying all this because Allan was the only guy who sat for my entire 3-hour GAL harp guitar lecture in 2006 (true!)...but it seems to have inspired him!
Price reflects the secondhand status (Allan’s current price for an instrument with these upgrades is of course higher). There are just a few nicks here and there including a couple nail dings on the soundboard. 48 hour approval as always, operators (my phone machine and email) standing by.
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