I finally get to blab about the Most Anticipated Harp Guitar of 2012….
It is, of course, a Fred Carlson creation, built for already-a-Carlson-customer-you-spoiled-brat, Jeff Titus.
Jeff (who has graced a couple of Gatherings, and a couple of Harp Guitar Music CDs) previously owned just one harp guitar – Fred’s Oracle. If you’re sensing a theme here, that means, like Jeff, you’re a major Michael Hedges fan.
“Oracle” was one of Hedges’ albums, as was “Taproot.” But Jeff (and thus, Fred) wasn’t planning another instrument to honor the late harp guitar genius, they were just brainstorming on a “what if” scenario. Like: (Jeff:) “What if I wanted a baritone guitar, but make it a sympitar (Fred’s invention), but I want to be able to also play the sympathetic strings, and why not be able to pluck or strike them with hammers, and gee, while I’m at it, additional ‘tapping’ pads for midi drum triggers would be nice. Of course, it’s gotta be a killer acoustic, but every single string has to be electronic as well, midi-capable, and, oh, I forgot…the sympths should have sharping levers to change pitch on the fly.”
OK, I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s essentially exactly what Jeff envisioned, and Fred A) laughed, B) cried, C) brainstormed, D) figured out conceptually, E) artistically, and F) built.
Now do you understand why the harp guitar world is endless and eternally cool?!
Left: Jeff with the basics finally in one piece.
And finally, completed!
For more photos of the completed instrument, see Fred’s page here.
He’ll eventually add a Text section as well to describe the many intricacies. Basically, you’re looking at a standard baritone-scale 6-string neck, albeit with some scalloped frets.
The 12 jawari bridge sympathetic strings, present on all of Fred’s Sympitars, are not hidden within the neck where they ring sympathetically, but are fanned out in the harp frame outside the neck, to double as harp strings. They can buzz sympathetically, or be plucked, or specifically, be struck like a piano or hammered dulcimer by tapping the colored bars (I haven’t seen this work, so will have to believe it when I see it!).
The interesting design element that curves horizontially through the body is not just decorative, it cleverly houses 8 wooden pads that activate midi triggers that will presumably play any sampled effect Jeff can dream up, percussion or otherwise.
Bottom line, Jeff has his creative work cut out for him!
Fred has hundreds of in-process build process photos. I hope we’ll get that story as well. Meanwhile, courtesy of the mad genius himself, here are a few to whet your appetite:
One feature many of us were anxious to see the results of are the new space age sharping levers custom built by Jim Hoyt (father of pianist/harp guitarist Brad Hoyt), who has been discussing this with some of the luthiers at the last few Harp Guitar Gatherings. With additional collaboration with Fred, they have got the very amazing prototypes working!
Fred says Jeff loves them, and Fred is pleased as well – in comparing them to Truitt levers, saying “the real point is they can be operated (nearly silently) from the back of the headstock with the left hand, so pitch changes during a piece become realistic. Can’t do that with a Truitt lever, and there’s the important difference, and the reason to do it at all.”
Fred, you have outdone yourself (no small feat)!
Jeff, I have to plan a field trip up the coast, asap!