2008 Allan Beardsell Harp Guitar #1
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Those who attended the 14th Harp Guitar Gathering in Connecticut in 2016 were treated to a rare surprise...not one, but two harp guitars built by the inimitable Winnipeg, Manitoba master luthier Allan Beardsell were on the premises! Attendees will remember the story. I had just sold to professional harp guitarist Randall Sprinkle the consigned Beardsell I had listed, when I had the chance to purchase the one on this page. I jumped on it immediately.
Here we are comparing them for the audience. We later sat for some quiet time, passing them back and forth, with master Stephen Bennett weighing in as well. Randall and I agreed that they were somewhat different, but neither was "better" than the other. We also agreed they were two of the best sounding harp guitars on the planet.
True. Randall already owned a fabulous Tony Karol, and later bought from me the stunning Lance McCollum harp guitar which he had premier luthier Kathy Wingert convert to six sub-basses. And he bought a Duane Noble for this son. That is good harp guitar company indeed! He plays all three, but the Beardsell immediately became his go-to instrument.
It has a narrower nut width than my Merrill and Dyer, so not quite as comfortable for my personal technique. Thus I had no qualms about installing it for 7 months in our Carlsbad harp guitar exhibit, where it was a fitting contribution to the modern harp guitar story.
It's back home, and - treasure though it is - it needs to be played, and I simply don't have the time to do it justice (nor the space to store it). I consider it all but priceless, as it is the first harp guitar commission Alan received and sold (to 2011 Gathering attendee Esau Simmons. Randall's was actually the first one completed, the prototype to get Esau's perfectly engineered.).
I'll repeat here my introduction and assessment that I wrote for the Beardsell prototype harp guitar, as all of it applies equally to this one. If anything, this one is more stunning.
One of the (many) perks of this part-time job of mine is that Iíve been privileged to have seen (and heard or played) more harp guitars than probably anyone on the planet. When it comes to new instruments Ė and new designs Ė 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 Gatheringģ. 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.
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.
Allanís tone is, well, hard to describe. Look inside and youíll perhaps see why Ė itís 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 Brunnerís latest Outdoor harp guitars or perhaps that new Reverse Tension harp guitar prototype I played at HGG13. Comparisons aside, Allanís 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 ďstandardĒ two
soundholes, the sound is similarly rife with overtones and sustain.
Even, balanced, punchy, full of sustain, it is simply wonderful.
Allanís guitars and harp guitars typically display some gorgeous eye candy tonewoods. The Honduras Rosewood back with center sapwood on this one is simply fantastic.
It sports a red spruce (Adirondack) top (with a clear pickguard), plus other fine wood choices for trim Ė 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 Allanís creation just keeps on giving. Fit and finish are a 10.
Did I mention that Allanís 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 sub-bass Peghed tuners are wonderful, quick and lightweight. Please note that there are some players who just cannot get the knack of these, and I for one never understood why. They require just the slightest bit of in-and-out pressure to work smoothly; I'm a klutz and have never had a problem. They're lightweight and stylish and ideal for Allan's instrument. You'll see that the original owner of Randall's prototype couldn't deal with them and had to retrofit with heavy 4:1 banjo tuners. They also work well, but it was a totally unnecessary modification in my opinion. The neck tuners are Gotoh 710s.
A fully modern instrument, the Venetian cutaway allows access to the highest frets. The arm bevel and tapered body make the large impressive instrument quite comfortable.
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, if you want to go the rock star route.
It includes an expensive custom flight case (quite heavy, so be warned).
Price reflects the secondhand status (Allanís current price for an instrument of this quality is many thousands higher). There are just a few nicks here and there including a couple nail dings on the soundboard. 48 hour (or as needed) approval as always.
Truth be told, there have been a few harp guitars I've later regretted selling. This will undoubtedly top that list.
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