Six Decades of Listening to Wood Sing

By Michael O'Brien
November, 2019

Introduction by Gregg Miner

The Harp Guitar Gatherings are always full of different yearly surprises. One of them at HGG16 in 2018 was a gentleman named Michael O’Brien, who brought with him an intriguing work-in-progress harp guitar of his own design and construction (at right). I was quite impressed with his original modern design elements, including the “two-color” top, with the arm made of cherry highlighted against a “standard guitar shaped” spruce top. It reminded me somewhat of a Doolin 6-string dropped into a hollow arm harp guitar…turns out it was Michael’s own similar double cutaway 6-string top plantilla. While clever, this is a tricky aesthetic look to achieve (Mozzani and Maccaferri come to mind) and I looked forward to its completion. Michael, already an accomplished 6-string guitarist, was clearly anxious to see it finished himself, as it would be the first time he tried playing harp guitar!

That same weekend, I gradually learned about (just some of) Michael’s background – including the fact that he had once been a member of AMIS (the American Musical Instrument Society, of which I am now on the Advisory Board) before my own time. Guitar-related? No, harpsichords! And that was just the start. I’m glad he wrote his own introduction in his article because I couldn’t possibly do it justice. Though I notice he did leave out some of his other accomplishments and sidelines, such as “professional farrier” (Google it for the surprise).

obrien2-thompson.jpg (354153 bytes)obrien3-thompson.jpg (399429 bytes)In October, 2019, Stephen Bennett featured him at HGG17 (he’d been doing harp guitar Skype lessons with SB all this while). We heard his talent on not one, but two, great-sounding custom O’Brien harp guitars, after which he was joined by his similarly talented daughter Emily, a virtuoso recorder player.

It was a busy weekend and I regret that I didn’t get the chance to play the instruments myself, but I was duly impressed with Michael’s ideas and results. Oh…and (naturally!) he’s a terrific writer as well. Take a look!

"Six Decades of Listening to Wood Sing"

Click above link for the 17-page high resolution PDF article that can be viewed at any size and in single or two-page view.


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