The Harp Guitar

(Photo: Jessie Pearl)

"Hey, you got harp in my guitar!" "Well, you got guitar in my harp!" I can't top that joke, so I'm just swiping it from Weird Universe, which directed my attention to this weird but beautiful musical instrument: the harp guitar.

Instrument makers developed it from the classical European lute. By the 1790s, the basic form that you see pictured here was present. Though never popular, they survived until the present day.

In the video below, you can see a performance of dozens of harp guitarists. This was the finale for Fifth Annual Harp Guitar Gathering on Oct. 27, 2007. Stephen Bennett, the founder of that annual event, introduces their performance of "The Water Is Wide," an old English folk song. 

(Video Link)

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Yeah, you missed something. Every bass note the guy who starts it plays is on the harp part. And the 5th guy who walks in is also playing bass notes on the harp. Once the whole group comes in, I see several harp notes being hit. The thing is, it depends on whether you have the strings tuned to the notes needed for the particular song, so some of them might not have the right harp notes for this tune.

If you want to hear a more modern take on harp guitar, seek out Michael Hedges. He played regular guitar, too, but had many wonderful tunes on harp guitar. A master that we lost too soon. Try this one, one of my favorites:
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