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Graham McDonald
Jan-29-2018, 1:39am
A harp-mandolin project that got started last year but got put on the back-burner for a few months. Finally got tuners and strings on it and it works quite well. Standard mandolin tuning on the fretted neck and four extra bass strings tuned F#3, E3, D3 and D2. Still needs some tweaking on the gauges of the bass strings, but they add rather an interesting resonance. The bass strings are from 23-25"/58-63cm long so they use quite light strings to get the pitches below the open mandolin G string. Currently it has a couple of .022", a .026" and a .039" for the lowest D. Flat sitka spruce soundboard arched to a 12' radius dome with an H bracing system and a carbon fibre arrow shaft as the support for the head extension. It has a noticeable bow in it from the tension. Body is Australian blackwood with a Queensland maple neck and the tailpiece is one I got for a Portuguese guitarra a while back.

Cheers

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Bertram Henze
Jan-29-2018, 4:29am
Questions:
- are the harpstrings intended to be actually picked or are these resonance strings?
- are the bass side tuners on the headstock easy enough to reach?
- the straight rod looks - well - straight compared to all the other curvy/pointy shapes. Have you considered either a curved shape (like on a Celtic harp) or a thinner, bronze-colored metal rod that could pose as a faux bass string (with a faux tuner at the end, maybe)?

Not trying to hijack the concept, just curious about mechanical reasons.

OneChordTrick
Jan-29-2018, 5:58am
Looks great! What does it sound like?

Tavy
Jan-29-2018, 2:12pm
Cute, we definitely deserve a sound clip :)

I'm curious about the tuning of the harp strings - I would have thought either circle of 5ths or else open tuning, but you seem to devised something else again?

Jim Garber
Jan-29-2018, 9:57pm
I had a German harp guitar with 4 sub bass strings and I asked a few harp guitar players about the tuning for those strings. Usually they go down from one step below the bass string. For a 6 string sub bass it would be F-G-A-B-C-D. So for a standard tuned harp mandolin I would guess that tuning would be C-D-E-F. Of course, you can tune to whatever you want and might want to change tuning depending on the key. I think the general concept is to play the main fretboard and using the sub-bass strings as sympathetic but use them also when appropriate for melody or counter-melody.

Yes, I would love to hear a sound clip, too. Very cool modernistic design, Graham.

Graham McDonald
Jan-30-2018, 1:33am
My first thought on the sub-bass stringing was to make them F#, E, D, C, but it was Sunday afternoon when I strung it up and the music shop was closed so I had to use what strings I had available. I need to do some calculation on gauges. I now have the sub-bases tuned F#3, D3, A2, D2 which works well for tunes in D :grin:

I used the carbon-fiber arrow shaft as re-enforcement because it is light and stiff. The Sub-bass tuners are quite accessible and the strings could either be plucked as required or just resonate sympathetically. The alternative deign was to have a hollow arm with its extra volume be the support for the sub-basses, but I wasn't happy with the look of what I came up with. Always been fond of Steve Klein's electric harp guitar where each sub-bass has a carbon fibre tube as support. It is very much a prototype to see what would happen and there is some interested in such an instrument for improvised music. A recording soon.

Cheers

Bertram Henze
Jan-30-2018, 2:07am
Always been fond of Steve Klein's electric harp guitar where each sub-bass has a carbon fibre tube as support.

Didn't know that one. It looks indeed intriguing, and for 2 reasons:
- the tubes are exactly parallel with the harp strings, creating an optical challenge,
- the harp part is not connected to the headstock (there is no headstock indeed), making stability an act of magic, apparently.
I can see how that gave the idea, but it might be difficult to follow all the way with an acoustic instrument.

JL277z
Jan-30-2018, 2:20am
... Steve Klein's electric harp guitar ...


I can't imagine having even *more* sympathetic resonance on an already-ringy super-responsive electric instrument... :confused: just thinking of my Strat copy (tuned in fifths) where I'm finally having to learn palm-muting just to keep the bass-string sympathetic resonance under control. (Lots of sustain, lots and lots of it, more than I'd ever realized possible until I 'went electric' a few years ago.) Anyway, unless I damp those string, the bass strings are ringing away *way* too noticeably (even if they haven't been plucked or touched in minutes) and that sympathetic resonance often clashes with whatever chord I'm playing.

Graham McDonald
Jan-30-2018, 3:04am
Please forgive my playing, but you can hear the sub-basses gently humming in the breeze.

https://soundcloud.com/graham-mcdonald-4/midnight-on-the-water

cheers

JL277z
Jan-30-2018, 5:14am
Please forgive my playing, but you can hear the sub-basses gently humming in the breeze.

https://soundcloud.com/graham-mcdonald-4/midnight-on-the-water

Very nice! :mandosmiley: That's your acoustic, right?

IMO, first impression anyway, it has just the right amount of sympathetic resonance. :mandosmiley:

Oh, and you play quite well too, enjoyable to listen to. :)

(Now, if that had been an electric instrument instead, I'm guessing there probably still wouldn't be much of the over-ringing issue I'd mentioned in my earlier post *because* I think this particular tune stays mostly in the tonic chord the majority of the time. I like tunes like that! :mandosmiley: So that reduces the likelihood of the bass strings causing dissonance by ringing in the 'wrong' chord... er sumthin' like that.)

Anyway, Graham, I love your harp-mandolin! :mandosmiley: Very cool. :)

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FWIW, following is my disclaimer, full disclosure, etc etc (lest anyone out there think "Well what do you know about harp instruments anyway, you've probably never even seen one")... :) I used to have a big ol' Gibson arch-top "U"-style harp-guitar from the early 1910s (1911 or 1913 or somewhere along in there, I don't remember exactly now), it had a lovely sweet sound but it was very very quiet. I tried playing it, when I was a total newbie at standard-tuned guitar (I'd just learned my first 3 guitar chords, this was after I'd already been playing fiddle, banjo, mandolin etc for years) at a weekly jam at a friend's house, and that giant behemoth Gibson just couldn't be heard over the dozen or so other instruments that were there (energetic fiddlers, big loud Martin dreadnought guitars, oldtime 'frailing' style banjos, the occasional 12-string guitar, etc), kind of a waste of the Gibson's subtle sweet sound in that type of large boisterous group. But for duos and solos and whatnot it worked good. It had 10 extra (non-fretted) bass strings, a large floating bridge (not glued on), black top, and IIRC it had a curved (radiused) fretboard but I might be remembering that latter part wrong. The neck played like a dream, wonderful action, as I vaguelly recall it had a thick "v" neck but that didn't bother me at the time (it might now, I'm now accustomed to thinner necks), but I'm not a large lady and the guitar's body was so huge it was a bit awkward to reach around the guitar far enough to play properly. Anyway that was during my phase when I was fascinated by any type of sympathetic resonance, particularly the sounds of Norwegian Hardanger fiddles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZX0e65xMtw) (eventually bought one of those too) and Swedish nyckelharpa (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5O6uYK-ZtY0) (never got around to buying a nyckelharpa). That Gibson harp-guitar did not have the same degree of coolness though, guess it takes a bow to do that, but it was still a neat instrument, mellow and relaxing to play. :) I don't know why it was so quiet, although IIRC the top seemed abnormally thick (at least the area of the top visible at the soundhole) so maybe that had something to do with it, not sure.

Bertram Henze
Jan-30-2018, 12:35pm
It has that cathedral-like reverb, just like the nyckelharpa, and for the same reason. of course. And that brush across it all in the end is a nice bonus.

JeffD
Jan-30-2018, 12:44pm
Ohh wow. That really really gets to me. The sound is wonderful. I can envision lots of scenarios where it would have musical advantages.

Jim Garber
Jan-30-2018, 1:31pm
I like the harp tones in sympathy (!) to the melody. Nice sound, Graham!

For your convenience, here is the soundfile embedded.

https://soundcloud.com/graham-mcdonald-4/midnight-on-the-water

catmandu2
Feb-04-2018, 5:43pm
I love resonances - I think it's why I pursue so many different types of acoustic instruments. I was obsessed for many years with the ambition of acquiring harp-guitar (I was a big Michael Hedges fan). Well I never did get one unfortunately, but the passion for these harp-type resonances persisted and i just got into harps. I particularly like these large box instrument resonances, oud for example.

Here're a couple of mine just demoing sound - note the poor environment for recording :) such as balancing a guzheng in my lap..radios playing in background...

https://youtu.be/PDD0Ywl4FLk

https://youtu.be/a_UkSvm6IMs

JL277z
Feb-05-2018, 2:27am
... guzheng ...
https://youtu.be/PDD0Ywl4FLk

Cool sound! :mandosmiley:

Bluegrasscal_87
Feb-06-2018, 3:31pm
Please forgive my playing, but you can hear the sub-basses gently humming in the breeze.

https://soundcloud.com/graham-mcdonald-4/midnight-on-the-water

cheers

That's a beautiful sounding instrument!

JL277z
Feb-19-2018, 4:41am
Not wishing to get too far removed from the OP's post, :) but I just discovered this awesome somewhat-related video today while looking up something in a different post... it's kinda like a harp-lute? ... and look at the neck extension on that thing! :disbelief: It's called a theorbo and the player does occasionally pluck a bass string:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW1FigTC6Hw
(or direct link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW1FigTC6Hw)) Wonderful music. :mandosmiley: Love to see those smiles (at 1:20 and 1:28) too, :) it's great to see musicians really getting into their music. The player's name is David Bergmuller, according to a comment at the YouTube page.

But... can't be too much fun keeping a theorbo in tune though.

Bertram Henze
Feb-19-2018, 5:29am
But... can't be too much fun keeping a theorbo in tune though.

Absolutely, not to speak of folding it into a gigbag and, say, riding a bike with it on your back :whistling:

Apparently, there's further headstock complications and facial expressions around that instrument:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pMijSA0h64

In the end, where playability ends, The Machine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlyCLbt3Thk) comes into its own :cool:

Beanzy
Feb-19-2018, 6:41am
Back in 2015 the LMO & MOoD got to play with both theorbo and harpsichord at our combined concert in StPaul’s Covent Garden
The one in this pic packs down in two sections for travelling on the Underground
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John Kelly
Feb-19-2018, 7:21am
Fine instrument building, Graham, and the Soundcloud posting is very good. The final flourish really brings out the harp strings resonance.

catmandu2
Feb-19-2018, 5:39pm
But... can't be too much fun keeping a theorbo in tune though.

Some instr are definitely more laborious to pursue. But worth it!

Pertaining to harp-type mandos, gtrs etc - check out this (the unique aspect is the slide on nylon strings) https://youtu.be/bwfLnK1Lvr8

Sorry for furthering off piste - thx to graham's fine example, but my apologies and will abate if graham wishes! I have some questions pertaining more to harp building I'll ask by PM.

JL277z
Feb-20-2018, 6:35am
... Pertaining to harp-type mandos, gtrs etc - check out this (the unique aspect is the slide on nylon strings) https://youtu.be/bwfLnK1Lvr8 ...

I'm not sure that's a slide though - it says the instrument is a traditional Vietnamese "Dan Bau (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%90%C3%A0n_b%E1%BA%A7u)"...

It seems that those have a joystick-thing attached to the bridge (or somewhere), which produces a vibrato. I'm not quite sure of the mechanism involved though. (And here I'd thought that the whammy-bar was invented by 20th-century guitar builders.) :cool:

The Dan Bau's ethereal sound seems to be because (near as I can tell), you play only intentional harmonics (overtones), so it's apparently not like simply plucking a string.

In a different video (below), the player shows how you pull the lever to make the vibrato (fast-forward to 3:12).


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqWm2_gOq18
(or direct link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqWm2_gOq18))

Apparently the Dan Bau has only one string, there isn't a harp effect from sympathetic resonance of other strings, but it still has a kinda cool sound with the other-worldy harmonics and the vibrato. I think it's the harmonics ringing away, that might remind one of a harp-instrument.

(Corrections welcome.) :)

Anyway! Sorry to get off-topic. :redface:

Graham, I just re-listened to your wonderful recording of "Midnight On The Water" again, and I'm still in awe of how nice it sounds, great instrument and perfectly played. :mandosmiley:

Jim Garber
Feb-20-2018, 8:06am
Dan bau seems to be the acoustic equivalent of the Theremin — probably vice versa since the Vietnamese instrument came first I would think.

However I think that Catmandu was referring to the guitarist playing with a slide on a 10-string nylon classical guitar. Or is it 12 string?

JL277z
Feb-20-2018, 8:31am
... However I think that Catmandu was referring to the guitarist playing with a slide on a 10-string nylon classical guitar. Or is it 12 string?

Oh! My bad. :redface: I heard the vibrato Dan Bau in the early part of that first video and I just assumed that was the instrument being referred to, so I was immediately off on a Google hunt for info about Dan Bau without even finishing listening to the first video... darn... one of my "senior moments"... will listen to the rest of that video tonight or tomorrow, maybe I'll get it right this time. :redface: :))