Rich Mermer Thinline Lap Harp Guitar
An Electric/Acoustic Semi-Hollowbody Harp Steel with 3 String Banks!
Like the other Mermer instrument currently listed here, this one showed up out of the blue at the 7th Harp Guitar Gathering on Halloween weekend, 2009. Trick or treat, indeed! None of us had any clue Rich was working on not just one, but two completely new harp guitar prototypes. Though he calls them prototypes - as they are definitely unusual and experimental - they are both fully realized and designed (and built) instruments. For what planet is the question.
Actually, they're not all that odd - just new. For this harp steel, he was influenced by the concert zither, a table instrument which puts the bass and accompaniment strings on the far side of the melody strings. This is a pretty darn clever idea for a harp steel, something that the prolific and creative Knutsen surprisingly never came up with. Player Bill Storms did, and had Michael Dunn build one - a "backwards Knutsen" with 4 subs on the far side, and a bank of super-trebles near the player, the neck in the middle. That seemed to be a good idea!
Rich's is a bit different. It features 5 sub-bass strings (tuned any way you like), which would be played with the fingers, while the thumb plays the slide melody. Past this bank are 5 super-trebles, again to be tuned and used however your muse strikes you.
Interesting woods include a cedar top and back on a mahogany rim, with paduak and maple appointments.
The main back of strings and the sub-basses utilize Schaller tuners. The super-treble strings utilize a combination of zither pins and fine tuners at the bridge. Each bank has a separate pickup, the 3-bank custom system by Pickup-the-World. Tone is that of an amplified acoustic guitar using piezo technology. It includes a custom cable that splits into 3 male XLRs. Electronics require three channels of phantom power as no batteries are onboard. Rich can supply a mini mixer if needed.
An almost endless variety of tunings could be used - Rich started with:
Main bank: G-B-D-G-B-D (.050-.042-.034-.024w-.017-.016)
Sub-basses: D-G-B-C-D (.080-.074-.070-.066-.062)
Super-trebles: D-G-B-C-D (.017-.013-.010-.008-.008)
And then changed to current set-up:
Main bank: D-A-D-F#-A-D (.056-.046-.034-.024w-.018-.016)
Sub-basses: D-E-G-A-D (same gauges)
Super-trebles: D-E-G-A-D (.017-.016-.013-.010-.008)
Steel players will of course have their own favorite tuning, and alter the harp strings to match.
That would be you.
- Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
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