After dropping SB off, my first order of unfinished business was to try to hook up with Michi Matsuda and glom onto his ultra-modern harp guitar. And there he was, waiting for me! …but then we had to wait for Carolyn (Grant) for the keys to the case…
So we all hooked up later, when our private discussion turned into a circus, as onlookers by the score had to see this crazy thing finally unleashed from its container.
For those just joining our little world, this instrument was the first harp guitar built by the very creative luthier / Gryphon Stringed Instruments repairman, Michi (at right), at the request of harp guitar fan (but previous non-owner/player) Michael Simmons, of Fretboard Journal fame. The project was so cool and secretive that I did a Guess the Mystery Builder/Owner contest on the Forum during its creation. It took just under 3 months for Benoit Meulle-Stef to win.
First, tone – how does it sound? (as that is what everyone has to know first)
Hard to say – we had no quiet place to take it, and there was the usual noise. The Italian spruce top is highly domed, with an under-layer of Nomex (a sort of swiss cheese polymer) in place of standard bracing (a la Charles Fox, etc). I heard an interesting, meandering-into-archtop-territory sound. The only thing I can perhaps compare it to was Dave Evan’s new archtop-ish harp guitar build he had at HGG7. The subs sounded somewhat different (I didn’t tune them up to tension) but probably with plenty of character.
The back and sides are mahogany, with the body over 5″ deep. Michi used some interesting Japanese ash for the overlay that forms the foundation of the whole un-bolt-able sub-bass array. This piece floats about a 1/4″ off the arm, which itself curves down quite a bit to keep the array above in a normal Dyer-type plane.
A study in concentration as I put the “unlimited pitch-changing” sub-bass “nut-sliders” through their paces. Michi dreamt all this up, and, space-age appearance aside, it has great potential. Though I don’t know if they can produce a Dyer-style sound, the tone (and tension) does stay very consistent as one slides the device from full scale-length position up to a good fourth or more. Since all 6 subs have individual sliders, in theory, one could probably go from Standard to Bennett to Hedges to whatever tuning, all with one set of reasonably tensioned strings. You could literally tie your sub-bass scale in knots!
As you can see, the subs are tuned from the bottom. The neck bridge is fixed, the sub bridge is not. Oh, and it’s a Novak-type fan fret neck.
Michael (Simmons), why am I bothering to explain all this badly? Please write us an article!
Meanwhile…over in the Holloway booth….
That’s Teddy Randazzo again…he had stayed up all night with the Powell Bros, installing his new pickups in one of the Holloways (though the jury is not yet in, it sounded great in headphones!). He used this new (and wonderful) teeny, battery-free, capacitor pre-amp thingy by Mi-Si Electronics, who were exhibiting upstairs (you plug it into the wall for 60 seconds to get 8 hours of playing time).
Perhaps the most dramatic harp guitar-related sighting of the year though was this gentleman: Carlton, a once-only-mythical figure in our HG world – Muriel Anderson’s Seattle boyfriend (obviously relishing his secret notoriety).