A Harp Guitar Music Public Service Announcement


Details below

I did not expect to find myself in the unfortunate position of "badmouthing a competitor" - so please consider this simply a public service announcement from an acknowledged expert in the field.  I am asked about these instruments on a monthly basis (often too late), as they are offered week after week on EBay by a company called Tropical Moon Music (note: they went under many different names, and now may be the same "Ktone" that appears on Amazon).  They (or perhaps he) is a U.S. importer of a huge variety of Chinese guitars.  Now, many Chinese manufacturers can make perfectly acceptable copies of other guitars and stringed instruments, but these are not them.  These are crude, poorly designed and built instruments that are virtually unplayable without a significant amount of work.  I have examined the "Doolin rip-off" in person, both before and after it was completely rebuilt by a professional luthier (at a cost greater than the original price of the EBay bid).  The good news is, it worked, it didn't sound terrible, and even totaling up all the expenses, the cost was barely half the price of a "real" instrument."  The bad news is, aesthetically and professionally, it is worth (rebuilt) about 1/10th of a professional instrument in my opinion.  (Some open bidding at $1, and I certainly would not say that this is an unfair offer)

This alone would not warrant any comment from me - EBay is "buyer beware" in the riskiest possible way.  The real issue is that this company is unethically, amorally, and illegally stealing intellectual property in the way of original one-of-a-kind designs by independent luthiers, while also stealing copyrighted material in the way of photos lifted from my nonprofit site, Harpguitars.net.  In some cases they doctor the photos, and in some, not at all.  Blatantly offering a misrepresented instrument (showing not their's, but the professional instrument they copied) is not my concern - though it should be any shoppers'.  Only the theft.  Please do the harp guitar community and yourself a favor by avoiding this company like the plague.  Additional reviews and comments can be read on the Harpguitars.net Forum.

Gregg (Sir Gregory) Miner

Actual Tropical Moon Music EBay reference photo

Actual Tropical Moon Music EBay reference photo

Actual purchased instrument

Actual Amazon.com reference photo
This is a terrible copy of my c.1910 Knutsen harp mandolin This is an intellectual theft of Mike Doolin's custom harp guitar for Norman LeDonne

Even with a plywood (yes, plywood) top, it has a better sound than the Lark in the Morning.  And from ten feet away one cannot necessarily tell that it is a poorly made instrument.  However, the Lark, though it also looks "cheap" and gaudy, does play, if poorly, and its tuners manage to function.  This one does not.  The treble pins do not work at all, and the "sub-bass" tuners won't hold any actual bass string (it comes lightly strung as a "double neck guitar", not even a harp guitar!).

This is the instrument I examined.  It was represented as the exact specimen in the photo at left.  In some ways, it is "fancier" - the plastic "rosettes" are crude approximations of Doolin's personal rosette shapes.  Note how the headstock is misshapen - the "front view" of the Chinese plans was clearly drawn from the angled perspective view of Mike's instrument, giving it a squashed shape.  This one didn't intonate too bad.  Another one was received by the unlucky bidder with the 12th fret off by a full half step! 

Update, April, 2014:

And now, here is the "Ktone" offered on Amazon.

Actual Tropical Moon Music EBay reference photo

Actual Tropical Moon Music EBay reference photo

Actual Tropical Moon Music EBay reference photo

This is not only a rip-off'd design, but a theft of Harpguitars.net copyrighted material which was then subsequently Photoshopped to alter it.  The shown instrument does not actually exist.  They may build something like it, but what you receive will be nothing like the pictured instrument  Here is the original photo of the ripped-off design - built by Alberto Bonafini of Italy.  They then Photoshopped in the bridge and super-trebles from Mike Doolin's instrument.  They were too lazy to even bother to alter the grain of Alberto's unique instrument for their alleged offered "specimen."

For this rip-off, they stole the photo from Harpguitars.net and didn't even bother to alter it - they just listed it as "theirs." This photo is of Stephen Sedgwick's $5000" original harp guitar.  Here is the image on Harpguitars.net.  Anyone can see that it is the same copyrighted photo - same grain on the top, etc.  Some of us suspect that they may be just "fishing" - stealing a photo and design and creating an auction around it - if it wins a bid, they go off and quickly make a few poor imitations.  They then offer them to each underbidder (each cheaper than the previous).

Actual Tropical Moon Music EBay reference photo

After market Tropical Moon EBay listing

Actual Tropical Moon Music EBay reference photo

This one is a composite of a couple instruments from my Galleries.  The hilarious part is that they refer to it as a 6-string guitar neck when it is clearly a double-course 8-string mandocello-like neck.

This is a misguided copy of the Bruno 12-strings on the neck (paired strings) harp guitar.  Historically, the had either 4 or 6 subs, and would have been string in steel, like all American 12-string guitars.  This cheap copy comes inexplicably strung in nylon.

Tropical Moon keeps opening new EBay accounts.  This one was listed (2/2009) by user "harpguitarshop".  I don't know if they stole this photo, but I wouldn't doubt it.  There are many 11-strings out there - some are fully fretted, and some have some floating bass strings (like this one) - so they actually got their organology right!  The first one listed sold for $455.  I pity the buyer - one can buy perfectly usable professional 11-strings for under $2000 - half of that amount will be required to make the above playable.

Who is Tropical Moon, and who is their source?  One of the many unhappy customers looked into them and found this shipping bill:

CDs & DVDs by Stephen Bennett, John Doan, Muriel Anderson, Andy McKee, Stacy Hobbs, Tom Shinness, Dan LaVoie, James Kline, Larry Berwald, Bill Dutcher, Gregg Miner, Pasquale Taraffo
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