Instruments & Gear: Fine Lutherie

Mike Doolin 20-String Harp Guitar

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Muriel Anderson demonstrates her custom harp guitar.

by Teja Gerken
February 16, 2015

Former National Fingerstyle Guitar Champion (she won the Walnut Valley Festival competition in Winfield, Kansas, in 1989) Muriel Anderson has recorded more than a dozen albums and founded the concert series All Star Guitar Night. She recently stopped by the Peghead Nation studio to play a few tunes and demonstrate her custom harp guitar, built by Portland, Oregon, luthier Mike Doolin.

Anderson’s goal in commissioning the instrument from Doolin, who is known for innovative designs that often include features like double cutaways or adjustable neck joints, was to create a nylon-string harp guitar that could fit into an airplane’s overhead compartment. The result is a 20-string instrument with a main neck the size of a “requinto,” which means that it is two frets shorter than a typical guitar neck and is tuned to F# (a whole step above standard). The “harp” section includes seven bass strings with sharpening levers (or as Muriel calls them “dragon whisperers”) that allow for quick retuning to open strings in various keys. There are also seven high-pitched “treble” strings on the main body, inspired by harp guitarist John Doan. The instrument has a German spruce top, cocobolo back and sides, and fan bracing with nine struts in a Hauser-style arrangement, which Doolin (who is currently on hiatus from building guitars) designed in consultation with acclaimed classical luthier Jeff Elliott.  

The guitar is one of Anderson’s touring instruments, and she has frequently used it on recordings, including her 2014 release Nightlight Daylight. She demonstrates the instrument here with her lovely arrangement of Don McLean’s “Vincent.”

SPECS: Classical-size body. Hollow harp guitar neck. German spruce top. Cocobolo back and sides. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 20 Strings. D-Tar pickups. Made in USA.

Category: Instruments & Gear

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Posted by Wesley Noggle on
She makes it look EZ can't get enough
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