Harp Guitar

hahrp guh-tar
The harp guitar is a string instrument that refers to a wide range of chordophones. The typical harp guitar has a guitar-based body with a varying number of unfretted harp strings that stretch adjacent to the guitar strings. These strings are sometimes called floating strings. The harp guitar has appeared in various shapes and tunings throughout its centuries of history.
History of the Harp Guitar
The harp guitar’s history dates back centuries and records identify its early lute-like ancestors to have emerged in the 1600s. There were a huge array of designs in instruments that look like harp guitars in Europe during this time, including an arch back cittern with harp-like bass strings that began to be sold by luthiers in the 17th century in France and Italy. François Joseph Naderman of France is widely regarded to have produced the first recognisable harp guitar in 1773. Just like today’s models, these designs could include bass strings or treble strings as the floating harp strings above the guitar body. The harp guitar began to appear in America in the 19th century, with Norwegian immigrant Chris Knutsen developing the instrument with an upper hollow arm to hold the bass strings in the 1890s. These harp guitars began to appear in ensembles during the early 20th century, but the popularity waned after the 1930s. As popular music artists like The Band began to experiment in the 1960s and 70s, the harp guitar made a return and is still produced by luthiers and instrument makers today.
Inventor: François Joseph Naderman

Where to Buy

£500 - £6,000

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How to Play

A guitar with one or more additional fretboards, allowing the player to create bass notes in addition to guitar chords.

In Popular Music

The harp guitar was played by Robbie Robertson of the rock group, The Band, when he performed in their concert film 'The Last Waltz' directed by Martin Scorsese. It has also been a key instrument of choice for recordings by finger-style guitarist Andy McKee.

Famous Players

Muriel Anderson, John Doan, Andy McKee

Close Relations

Guitar, Harp
Video Credit: Jamie Dupuis
Understanding the Harp Guitar
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