Sharp 2013 Custom Harp Guitar
- There’s no two ways about it…this instrument is simply extraordinary.
It was commissioned by guitarist Eric Song, who owns a few high end guitars and wanted to get into the deep end of harp guitar after trying a Lark in the Morning for awhile. No sooner did he receive this stunning instrument than family and new home obligations forced him to make the painful choice to give it up. And there he was, fully immersed in working up Hedges’ “Because it’s There” – on the fan frets, no less. Well, we hope Eric can join us in the harp guitar world again someday…
And what of Don Sharp? Well, he builds exquisite 6-strings that apparently sell in the $8000 to $12,000 range. This was his first (and he said, last) harp guitar, and he wanted to go all out. And so he did!
Where to start? Well, how about that insane spalted maple? He later said he would never again use it for binding, as it was so difficult to work with, so enjoy the results! It’s simply incredible, adorning the complete back and top, including his unique “Sharp bevel.” Rosettes, heel cap, end pin stripe, and of course it shines on the two headplates. It is absolutely out of this world.
Similarly gorgeous are the Madagascar rosewood sides, and especially, back. I understand that this wood has become all but impossible to procure (certainly for harp sets), so again, enjoy it now, while you can! Incidentally, a Madagascar rosewood body was my favorite of Duane Noble’s harp guitars (for tone, though certainly looks don’t hurt!)…before he ran out of it as well. I’m guessing it’s likewise working its magic on this harp guitar, as it sounds amazing. And the Italian spruce top (what Kathy Wingert uses) can only be helping! If I had to describe the tone (Oh wait – I do!...though it’s still an impossible task), I’d describe it as a cross between a Duane Noble and a Merrill. Pretty much smack dab between the two (not a bad place to be!). Plenty of overtones on both subs and neck (highest to lowest strings and frets), loud, complex, resonant, bright, powerful bass…all the good stuff. Though exceptional sounding, it seems still a bit tight (new) and I expect it will continue to open up. The owner described it as “Olson-esqe” (Jim Olson being a top 6-string builder). Frankly, I doubt he knew how lucky he was to end up with a harp guitar that sounded this good.
I’m not sure how much of this was designed by Don and how much was requested by Eric. It is a large instrument, with a whopping 17-3/4” lower bout (it doesn’t quite look or feel that way due to the waist and bevel). There is a lot of top real estate and air volume, most notably from the substantial arm, which is deep (and presumably hollow) all the way up to the lower edge of the bass headstock. This is an extremely interesting design and execution; however there is a noticeable and unfortunate side effect in that it is quite top heavy. Depending on one’s playing position and arm strength, this may be a real detriment. You need to hold the body (down) with your right arm while playing (a strap didn’t seem to help), so please be aware of that.
Similarly, the fan fret design should be taken into account while weighing your choice. I’m not a big fan of it (and don’t own any new instruments with fan frets), so am not the best person to advise on this one’s pros and cons. Just note that it’s the form with a straight nut and slant only at the bridge. Scale is 25.375” to 26.5: Let me put it this way: if not for that arm weight and having to get used to these “strange frets,” I’d be all over this harp guitar. Seriously. It is very cool.
The sharping levers work perfectly (and sound a bit better sharped than not, interestingly). By the way, though the bass strings are much longer than on a Dyer or copy (the longest vibrating length is 36.5”), a D’Addario .070” (for example) will reach on the last course just fine, with maybe 2” to spare.
Condition is as new, other than very minor dings in the finish of the bass head (string installation?).
This comes with a heavy “Nashville” flight case; with the heavy ~8-9 pound instrument, the total package weights about 46 pounds.
Bottom line: If you’re into McKee, Dufour, Alder, et al, I’d highly recommend giving this instrument some serious thought. While the sound is subtle and complex, I think you will find it significantly robust and kick-ass for your musical requirements!
– Gregg "Sir Gregory" Miner
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