Perlman steel-string Arch Harp Guitar
Here is a very rare opportunity! James Kline (below) - master and co-creator of the Arch Harp Guitar is offering for sale his most recent instrument. This is his third arch guitar, which is strung entirely with steel, and built by master San Francisco luthier, Alan Perlman. Jim has decided to concentrate solely on his nylon string instrument, leaving this one in the possession of Alan in the States.
It is nearly identical to the nylon-string, which Kline fans know was the instrument Alan built as a variation on Jim's original Gary Southwell arch guitar, to which Alan later added the separate super treble soundbox. It is quite ingenious! I was fortunate to have met Jim and examine that instrument to see how they did it. It starts with an 11-string arch guitar, itself a modern miracle. Not just a small Baroque-style harp guitar, it has a more lute-like sound, rich with a color quite different from a classical guitar. The extra bass strings - in this case, floating, unlike most other fully-fretted Arch Guitars (a unique 1980s collaboration/invention of performer Peter Blanchette and luthier Walter Stanul) - are tuned by Jim to in a re-entrant tuning from the neck's E string: B-D-A-G-F#.
When Jim came up with the desire for treble strings, rather than build a completely new instrument, Alan figured out a way to add them as a separate soundbox attachment - leaving the original perfected instrument intact and enabling Jim to continue to travel at will without worrying about fitting the instrument into the overhead compartments (the guitar is in a padded bag, the treble box in a small attaché case). It fits snuggly to the side of the main body with simple straps holding it securely to the two strap buttons. Tuning is B to B, and all have sharping levers.
I'm still describing the original nylon instrument that I saw, heard and played. I recall it being extremely light, and soft but sweet in tone. On Jim's recordings, volume is of course relative, and it sings with a complex, robust palette (those of you who own "Beyond Six Strings" have heard this). In live settings, Jim relies on the pickups.
This steel-string instrument similarly has pickups - a Highlander system in the guitar, and a Baggs I-Beam on the harp box. I have not heard the instrument in person, but expect it is similar to the one I saw. You can hear how wonderful it is on Jim's Bardou duo recording "A Feather Upon the Shore" - a complete song of which is presented on Alan's site here. You simply must listen - it is Jim's only recorded solo on this instrument.
You're back? Wasn't that incredible? Now all you need is Jim's ridiculous amount of talent. He is often just left-hand tapping all the fretted parts while he plays full Celtic melodies on his 8 super-trebles. The new owner is of course welcome to change tuning to suit their tastes (for instance, the basses could be strung to descend diatonically from the 6th E string, the trebles tuned to a different scale). Alan would be best to advise on gauges and limitations.
Back to the instrument, which Alan describes thus:
It comes with a custom Cedar Creek case for the guitar and a snug attaché case for the treble section. Condition is like new, other than a few dings and one scratch below the bridge.
Your chance to own a true piece of harp guitar history!
- Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
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