Style 'U' Harp Guitar Guitars

1917 Gibson Style 'U' Harp Guitar

Color: Sunburst Two-Tone, Rating: 8.75, Sold (ID# 01659)
Call to Inquire: (818) 222-4113


An Original 1917 Gibson Style 'U' Harp Guitar


1917 Gibson Style 'U' Harp Guitar with 10 sub bass strings


This very unusual, ninety-seven-year-old 'Harp' guitar weighs just 10.10 lbs. Single bound finest quality, scientifically graduated, "scroll-shaped" carved 'select' straight-grain spruce top with ivoroid bound,oval sound-hole inlaid with variegated woods of conventional design. Single-bound two-piece 'finest selected thoroughly air-seasoned' thin maple back and rims. 'Finest selected straight grain' Mexican mahogany neck with a nut width of 1 3/4 inches, a scale length of 24 3/4 inches and a huge very thick profile. Single-bound, convex ebony fretboard with 19 original thin frets, pearl dot position markers and black dot side-markers. Black faced (front and back) headstock with "The Gibson" inlaid diagonally in mother-of-pearl. Three-per-side open-back strip tuners with white plastic oval buttons. 'Finest selected straight grain' Mexican mahogany 'harp' neck with specific shaped headstock with ten sub bass string 'drums' set perpendicularly through nickeled islets. Nickeled turn-buckle straining-rod running from head of instrument to laminated head-block beneath sounding board. Six-string guitar with pre-compensated, height adjustable ebony on ebony base. Harp guitar with upright, hard maple bridge with ebony top. Double 'trapeze' German silver tailpiece with specific tortoise-celluloid elevated string attachments with ebony pegs inlaid with pearl. Trapeze tail secured to bottom edge of body with four screws. Original Gibson oval white label inside sound-hole with "Harp Guitar" and style "U" stamped in black and serial number "34616" written in pencil. The extreme length of this instrument is 45 inches, the body width is 18 3/4 inches, the extreme length of the sub-bass strings from the nut to the bridge is 34 inches and the body depth is just over 3 1/2 inches with the extreme depth being 6 inches. The guitar has been expertly re-fretted with the correct gauge thin fretwire and the pickguard is a reproduction (the original 'slightly gassed' pickguard is in the case). The edge of the German silver tailpiece has been expertly repaired or strengthened. Some of the bridge-pins have been replaced with very accurate reproductions. This is by far the cleanest and most original Style U Harp Guitar that we have ever seen and the sound and playability are quite remarkable. Housed in the original five-latch shaped, black hardshell case with burgundy plush lining (8.75).

Harp guitars were designed to provide players with an extended bass range, which was particularly useful for ensemble work. The ten 'extra' strings are tuned chromatically. To see one of these rare birds being expertly played watch Tom Shinness on Youtube at:

"The harp guitar is just an absolutely wonderful instrument, a gorgeous thing. At one time I would keep it at my house and I used to bash around on it regularly. It plays pretty well, nut it's just such a terrific thing to collect - it cries out to be seen, and that really is a good part of the reason I bought it. Ever since I knew they existed, I wanted one. Most of the inspiration came from seeing pictures of harp guitars in the Gibson Story book. I always hoped to get one like the reverse-scroll Orville Gibson harp guitar that's pictured in there, but I think there's only one in existence - so the chances were remote! Certainly the one I've got was the most expensive Gibson in its day - in 1928, for example, it was listed at $300 retail, $25 more than the most expensive Gibson, the L-5, and it's a lovely example, very clean, very nicely finished when I bought it, and it sounds absolutely enormous. You play it just like an ordinary guitar, and I use the bass strings for sustain, you can't finger them. It's a bit of a monster. It's so big you have to lean over it and sort of play down on it - you have to look down because it doesn't sit where you'd expect a normal guitar to be. To me it sounds big and honky, rather untamed. I have taken it along to studio sessions, all strung up and fully in tune, but it's never really made it on to any records. Not the most usable guitar, for sure, but I bought it very much as an interesting piece for the collection." (Steve Howe. The Steve Howe Guitar Collection, pp. 11-13).

Finest quality, scientifically graduated, select spruce top (sounding board), of regular straight grain, beautiful ebonised finish; finest selected straight grain Mexican mahogany neck; finest selected thoroughly air seasoned, thin, maple rim (re-inforced at regular intervals by perpendicular bars), graduated back; dark mahogany finish, highly polished; ornamented head-piece, veneered top and back; tilted neck with upper portion of finger-board resting on sounding-board; laminated extended head-piece with nickeled bearing for sub-basses supported by octagonal arm extending beneath the sounding-board to the rim at end of body. Upright, narrow, hard maple bridge, either leg resting on the sounding-board over individual, graduated tone-bars, running longitudinally almost from rim to rim, one either side of the sound-hole, slightly convergent to the grain fibre of the sounding-board which is pulsated freely by vertical pressure of the strings at the bridge instead of a leverage pressure as on other guitars on which the bridge is glued; elevated finger-rest with two German silver clamps (patented July 4, 1911); stationery tortoise-celluloid elevated string attachment with ebony pegs inlaid with pearl; top and back ivoroid bound on outer edge of rim; convex ebony ivoroid bound, artist extension finger-board, with nineteen ovaled frets extended into the ivoroid binding thus retaining full width of the finger-board; pearl positioned dots on finger-board and position dots on upper side of neck; oblong ivoroid bound sound-hole, inlaid with variegated woods of conventional design; finest quality machine-head with string drums set perpendicularly through nickeled islets, bone nut; nickeled turn-buckle straining-rod running from head of instrument to laminated head-block beneath sounding board. Extreme length, 45 inches; extreme width, 18 3/4 inches; extreme length of sub-basses from nut to bridge, 34 inches; extreme depth, 6 inches; length of scale from nut to bridge, 24 3/4 inches; weight approximately 12 lbs.  The list price in 1910 was $248.21.

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