||1912-1916 (Catalog I)
||1917 (Catalog J)
J: A Little Harp-Guitar Talk)
||1917 string choices
|Exactly like Catalog M
|1918-1919 (Catalog K)
L: A Little Harp Guitar Talk)
|| 1921 (Catalog
M: A Little Harp-Guitar Talk)
"Gibson" New Model Harp-Guitar
This fascinating article is from The Sounding Board
- Gibson's own publication distributed to its sales force as a marketing
aid. These were published throughout the 1910s and into the 1920s.
This particular issue is Vol. 3 # 3, from 1914. That means the article
is referring to the floating
tailpiece "jazz" bridge Style U. It offers the best glimpse into
Gibson's intentions for their harp guitar. Note the mention that the tops
(even though arched and quite thick) were specifically built for gut
strings, not steel. Not only that, but they recommended moving all strings
over by a string (use a B for the E, etc.!) - in other words, increasing
the standard gut tension considerably. Of course, the advantage of the sub-basses is the main
focus of the article, and it includes specific examples of chord structure
possible on the Gibson harp guitar.
Article collected by John
Stropes, Xerox shared by Frank Doucette.
Harp-Guitar: Tuning the Sub-Basses
by Walter Boehm
This article is from The Cadenza, August, 1910. In
it, Walter Boehm discusses the reasoning behind the tuning for Gibson's
10-sub-bass harp guitar. It is believed that Boehm proposed this tuning to
Gibson, which they adopted by about 1906.
Note: This is a single-issue Cadenza article only. The
caption at the end of the article ("To be continued in the September
issue") is a typo!
Cadenza copy provided by Tom Noe.
The "Gibson" Harp-Guitar
c.1906 Gibson brochure
(Harpguitars.net Members Only - password
This ultra-rare document, discovered in
2006, explains even more about the transitional instrument, with stringing
options (and special order instruments) with 7 or 11 sub-basses. We
still have found no mention of the more common transitional 9-bass model.
Mention of, and thanks to, Boehm is first seen here.
Book of Solos for
the Harp Guitar
1918 music folio by J. A. Witter
(Harpguitars.net Members Only -
Likely the only historical publication of its time. 12
arrangements for the Gibson harp guitar that provide an example of the
repertoire of one of the few dedicated harp guitar soloists. An
additional example of music by Walter Boehm is included.
The Gibson Story
by Julius Bellson
(Harpguitars.net Members Only -
A portion of the groundbreaking 1973 booklet by
the late Gibson historian.
In the 1911 catalog the new 10-string tuning was already referred to as the ""universal or Standard System." In the next four catalogs, Gibson adds the comment that
"Many of the above suggestions in tuning we owe to Walter Boehm,
one of the most respected Harp-guitarists of America."
The 1917 catalog says "State whether gut or wire are wanted," but goes further in the back of the catalog, offering
six options of strings for the neck strings (however, note that
gut was intended, per the Sounding Board article above). The sub-bass "Contra-bass strings" were available
(always) only in silver or copper, wound on a metal core. The two different colored metals for the wrap were not
chosen for tonal differences, but to "color-code" the strings for a visual guide, just as in
a harp (using copper for every third string)!
(E,B,G), with option of silver spun on
descriptions at left are directly from the 1917 Gibson catalog.
Unfortunately, the grammar and verbiage is pretty arbitrary and we
are not always sure exactly what components make up each type of
string. See notes below.
compound, spun on silk & silvered wire (E,B,G)
is the "compound"? Does Gibson mean a compound alloy
of silver and another metal as the outer wrap - wound over
silk with a silver wire core? Or does "silvered
compound" refer to the fact that the string is a
"compound string" of silver and silk? In what order? Can
a high E string be wound in three or even two layers?
(E,B), with option of copper spun on
the "silk" E silk spun on silk?
||silvered spun silk (E,B,G)
||No idea what
this refers to!
||compound strings (copper
spun on silk with wire center)
|Sub-bass ("Contra-bass strings")
two different materials are wound on a metal core.
two strings for 12-sub-bass model.
that for the "old 12-bass model" the original tuning of
Eb chromatically down to E (an octave below the neck's E string)
as given in the 1903 catalog is no longer specified. Instead, they
simply use the same tuning as the standard 10-bass model for the
first ten strings (still no E), adding a low A and G#. It may be
that this tuning and stringing is intended for later
standard-scale scroll-bridge instruments that were modified for 12
basses instead of the now-standard 10 - as opposed to the 1903
long-scale original 12-bass instruments.
The tuning for the 6 sub-bass version (from the 1903 catalog) is
given as "usually D descending to F. Some players vary this tuning
for flat keys." Therefore, the nominal tuning would be
(low-to-high): F (an octave below the 1st fret on the E string), G,
A, B, C, D. No options are listed for the original
transitional 9-bass version.
A full chart of all Gibson harp
guitar tunings is included in the Harpguitars.net
The Gibson harp guitars seem to have been the most
photographed version of all time.
There are hundreds of images out there,
of which we've just touched the surface. Please send yours in!
Back to Gibson Table of Contents
Article by Benoît
Meulle-Stef with the help of:
Mr Gruhn for original
catalogue material and help.
Gregg Miner for help
with English, photos and formatting.
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