Bargain Basement Entry Level Harp Guitar!
Viennese Kontragitarre
"Frank's First" - own a piece of harp guitar history!

First things first:  $350 for a playable harp guitar.  Why wait?  Start learning today!

Second: OK, it won't win any beauty contests, but seriously, why spend several hundred dollars to restore any other inexpensive instruments when you'll eventually be upgrading anyway?

Third: This is your chance to carry on the legacy!  This is the very first harp guitar owned by Frank Doucette, creative assistant at Harp Guitar Music and my right-hand man at  

At the time (1992), this was the only harp guitar Frank could find, already repaired, painted and refinished over.  He had luthier Denny Rauen of Milwaukee get it playable with a replacement bridge and strings.  When the neck subsequently snapped off, Denny repaired it with an external truss rod - which effectively has kept this thing from moving (and preserved the original action) for 16 years!  He should patent it!  Or maybe not.  I asked Frank to tell us the story of this now-priceless collectible:


"I was in Stropesí legendary fingerstyle program at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.  I was the lone diploma student, all others were degree students (I asked to be treated like a degree student in workload and what was expected of me in general).  One semester, Stropes decided to offer a harp guitar class.  I was certainly not the only person in Milwaukee with a harp guitar at the time but I was the only person to sign up for the class.  Most classes at the conservatory were open to anyone in the community provided they had completed prerequisite courses.  Naturally, specific courses were required to complete diploma and degree programs.  So, I got private harp guitar lessons with Stropes as part of my diploma from the fingerstyle program at the Wisconsin Conservatory.

I bought the instrument in 1992, when the world was a very different place.  There was no such thing as to use as a resource.  I placed an ad in a vintage guitar magazine for a harp guitar and I got two responses.  The first was for a Lyon & Healy which sold before the seller was able to supply me with pictures and full details about the instrument.  The other was for the kontra.  The seller sent pictures and promised that it was in good playing condition.  That was obviously inaccurate but I got a harp guitar that allowed me to get through studies with Stropes and gave me an introduction to the wonderful world of harp guitars.  It was worth the expense for that!

As soon as I got it I took it directly to Denny Rauen so he could help me figure out an appropriate set of strings.  The bridge was also irreparably damaged so he copied the design and fashioned a new bridge for it.  He used light gauge silk and steel strings for the guitar part (which is what is on there now).  I wanted to try a set of medium silk and steel strings as I thought that might work better for DADGAD but I never got around to it.  I started with a chromatic sub-bass tuning after John Stropes gave me a copy of the Gibson tuning article (posted on  Denny used 0.50 silk and steel strings for all of the subs - since changed by Gregg to .035-.054 for tuning of EFGABC#EF#G.  I got up one morning and went directly to practice harp guitar and found the sub-bass neck snapped off.  It is still pretty easy to see where the break was.  I brought the guitar back to Denny to have him repair the break and see if he had any suggestions on how to keep the thing from breaking long enough to get through my lessons with Stropes.  He came up with external truss rod idea, which has been on there for a good 15 plus years, and the thing remained rock solid through all Stropes threw at me.  Incidentally, I was one of Stropesí guinea pigs when he was transcribing Hedgesí Because Itís There, and I learned it on the kontra.  Yes, it was very difficult to do all the tapping on that thing but I got through it!"

What other charming features does this historic instrument include?  Well, someone painted the back and sides black, and refinished the cracked and repaired top (woods unknown).  Tuners (all 4:1 planetary) are a mishmash of various modern replacements, and one (the lowest sub) does not hold tension (this can be replaced for about $20).  The rest have been keeping Frank's DADGAD tuning intact no problem.  You can use any or all of the nine sub-basses while you work on developing your HG style.  With the heavy metal support, you can easily use silk & steel strings on the neck.  The subs are assorted (now used) classical bass strings (available here also).  The 6-string section actually sounds better than the Lark in the Mornings (very resonant!) - though it's got some buzzing on the high strings (neck not straight) and the intonation isn't great.  You could fix this if you need to (you could record with it just fine if you had it set up), or just use it as a learning/practice instrument.

Like most Viennese kontragitarres, the neck width is quite narrow - too narrow for Frank's taste, but perhaps ideal for electric guitar or narrow-neck acoustic players to learn on.  And this is exactly what Frank has been learning on all this time, until he could afford an upgrade (going from this to his new Wingert, arguably the finest harp guitar on the planet, was a bit overkill!).

Believe it or not, this is (so far) the only known instrument by this maker  (Josef Prisner, Vienna).  Incidentally, Frank paid $500 for it in 1992 and gave Denny about $500 to get it playable, but we are pricing it to get into the hands of another deserving harp guitar beginner (diploma not included).

So there you have it - rare, playable, historical and "formerly owned" by my indispensable sidekick!  Will you be the next?  Give it a new home! - Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"



  • Original label (barely legible, 19xx)
  • 9 sub-bass strings
  • 24-3/4" scale
  • 1-9/16" nut width
  • Dimensions: 16" lower bout, 3" deep, 47" total length
  • No case

    Price: $365 (Paypal) Sold
    Cash, Check or Bank Wire discount price: $350
    hipping: Request quote


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