The Outdoor Harp Guitar
The World's First Travel Harp Guitar!
From this .
. . . to this
in only minutes!
Join the movement! Players so far include:
Well, someone finally went and did it.
While I was brainstorming with several luthiers on how to fold that pesky Dyer arm in half, a fellow named Luke Brunner over in Switzerland built a better mousetrap. The first genuine portable travel harp guitar by Brunner Guitars!
And now, forget everything you've read, heard or thought about travel guitars, because this blows them all away. A) It's not cheaply built, B) it's not too small, and C) it doesn't sound lame.
It does disassemble (in literally seconds) and stow in an adorable little backpack gig bag, and can fit in most airline overhead compartments. And don't think of it as a "kit" guitar either. Though it separates into three pieces, it assembles quickly, cleanly and solidly - with almost no re-tuning required!
Once assembled, what you've got is a finely crafted, professional, full-scale, small-medium bodied harp guitar....that sounds fantastic.
Impossible you say? OK, check this out: First, listen to an unadulterated A/B/C comparison of the two instruments shown here compared with my vintage Dyer (below). Then, later, read the full story Lukas Brunner and the World’s First Travel Harp Guitars on Harpguitars.net.
In that feature, you'll see how I was originally highly skeptical myself. You'll also understand the array of unusual, innovative features that Luke has developed to provide such amazing sound. By dumb luck, just after these arrived, the maestro himself, Stephen Bennett, stopped by for a visit. He was initially disbelieving, then tickled to see how it magically assembled. Then complete surprise when I handed it to him and it was virtually in tune! After playing each for awhile, we both admitted that we wouldn't have any problem with owning one of these - for touring, recording, anything (the price is certainly right). Our only personal caveats were the string spacing - a bit less at the nut and saddle than the Dyers we're used to - and of course the fact that we each had a fantastic harp guitar (actually, a few) already. The string spacing is of course just an observation, not in any way a negative; I readily acknowledge that the nut width preference of harp guitarists ranges from skinny Taylor widths to the full two inches of the Lark in the Morning.
OK, let's discuss these in detail.
These are OHG # 2 and # 3, serial numbers 163 and 164. Philippe Fouquet in France has the first one (he was the instigator of the whole serendipitous project). As the photos show, #163 (right) has a spruce top with Indian rosewood back and sides, while #164 (left) has a cedar top with mahogany back and sides. 164 was deliberately left as unadorned as possible in order to offer the public the most affordable OHG option we possibly could (price is $3500, tone is a good $7k equivalent). 163 has mid-range options - a cutaway, a sound port (I love this - it gives the impression of a hollow arm), electronics (Baggs), and wood bindings.
Otherwise, they are virtually identical, each having near-identical construction, the Brunner truss rod, locking tuners, pearl headstock inlay, side fret markers, and six sub-basses (strung and tuned in Bennett tuning). For the latter, there is a larger hole drilled in the bridge for the last sub to accommodate the large ball of an acoustic bass string (i.e: one can use a .100 to get a low F or E. Currently an .080 - of either ball size - handles the low G perfectly. In fact, Luke put an .072 on # 164 and it sounds pretty good).
Note: Although Philippe Fouquet has left his OHG assembled and tuned for several weeks at a time, the manufacturer recommends that the Outdoor Harp Guitar be kept disassembled in its case when not being played regularly in order to reduce long-term movement of necks, joints or top. Depending on your ultimate chosen tuning and string gauges, you may wish to make eventual adjustments to truss rods or saddle height.
The scale on this "portable" harp guitar is a full standard 25-1/2" with a 1-3/4" nut width. The sub neck has a 30-1/2" scale (equivalent to the B or 4th sub of a 6-bass Dyer), a perfect compromise to handle a Bennett tuning of low to high G, or Fouquet's tuning which descends from D to F. Each has a zero fret. (If you're thinking of playing the second neck as a fretless bass or baritone guitar to flaunt a potential harp guitar organology challenge in my face, I've already thought of that! It might actually be cool. However, the necks are too close together for that to be practical.)
The original Outdoor Guitars had a portable 12-1/4" wide body. Later, a second larger body size was added to the line. The harp guitars have this generous 14-1/2' body with plenty of depth (4" - same as a typical Dyer). Again, it's not the size or materials, it's how Luke has put it all together. For a complete (and fascinating) look, please visit my companion piece.
Let's talk a bit more about the way the instrument comes apart and goes together. The key is the S.N.A.P. system (Simple Neck Attachment Procedure) that Luke invented and patented. This clever contraption holds the neck in position with a simple "click." By tightening the strapholder, the system is fully secured and the neck is pulled tight to the body. It comes apart just as quickly and easily. The bridge is in two parts, one glued to the body as normal, the other a removable section in which the string balls are captive. This, along with a special "through" nut and locking Gotoh tuners at the other end, allow the strings to stay at tension during assembly and disassembly. It really works! Luke recommends that the instrument be disassembled and kept in its case when not being played for long periods of time, to extend the life of the set-up and normal movement-over-time of the wood.
We now pause for this commercial break...
Amazing, huh? All you do is:
Outdoor Harp Guitar # 163
"I got the instrument and am very happy. It sounds great. Brunner is a genius. I'm happy because I will be able to bring a harp-guitar with me to practice at the hotel each time I'll go touring as a guitarist." -Claude Laflamme
Outdoor Harp Guitar # 164
Pearl dot fret markers were added after the photos above were taken.
DVDs by Stephen Bennett, John Doan, Muriel Anderson, Andy McKee,
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