The Bogengitarre Lives Again

Here’s the instrument that Jan Tuláček initially emailed me about last week, after spotting my blog about the bogengitarre.  Remember how in that blog, I pointed out the different “waves” of their popularity?  Specifically, the original Schenk period (around the 1840’s), then the “Second Coming” around 1900, with a few stragglers here and there…?

Well, Jan has now initiated the “Third Epoch” of the now-familiar (but still-untranslatable) bogengitarre.  This was instigated through a recent commission by a fellow named Thilo Hirsch, whose own specialty is the similarly obscure and forgotten Trumpet Marine (or Tromba Marina).  He leads several ensembles that bring this instrument back from obscurity.  His latest project is Die Bogenhauser Künstlerkapelle (no, I have no idea how to translate it…a little help here?), a small group that plays both rare historical music and new music.   Thilo’s new reproduction Schenk bogengitarre is used in this group (just as it was in the original 1897-1937 version of this unusual ensemble), played by Josef Focht (alert site readers may recognize his name as one of the modern kontragitarre players on our special Players section).  Sounds pretty interesting – I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing more about them!

Meanwhile, Jan posted his build photos here.  I’ve suggested he write captions and/or text to accompany this groundbreaking project, so maybe we’ll see something of the kind in the future.

Like all his instruments, it looks like a very faithful copy.  The remarkable hollow-headstock tuner array was re-created by Rubner, a German company Benoit has been using with great results for re-creating old kontragitarre hardware of various configurations.  What a resource!

I asked Jan if he had the means of offering plans for those interested.  While he didn’t make a full set, capturing only those measurements he needed, he is happy to help.  He studied and measured a/the Schenk in the Berlin Museum, a task also undertaken by “Second Coming” era Schenk-copier, Karl Muller, whose own drawings reside in the museum (reference photo at left).

Jan’s willingness to study and painstakingly recreate esoteric historical guitars has already made possible the new wave of 8-string players – can he do it again with the distinctive, if aggravatingly named, bogen guitar?!*

I’m hoping yes.

* P.S.  Jan’s best guess is also “bow” (as in archery).  I still don’t see it…(now, in Knutsen’s hollow arm, maybe…)

  1. Benoit Says:

    Man he is good! I love this guitars, they are so nice looking and the sound is quite amazing…
    PS: Do you have a contact info? I would love to get a copy of the plan!

  2. Jake Says:

    Very very nice.

    Reminds me of some Mozzani I saw recently:

    …although Schenk was of course earlier!

  3. Vienna’s 3rd man Says:

    Die Bogenhauser Künstlerkapelle = The Artist’s Ensemble of Bogenhausen

    Bogenhausen is a particular city-quarter of Munich:,-95.677068&sspn=28.749334,79.013672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Bogenhausen+Munich,+Bavaria,+Germany&ll=48.144785,11.628342&spn=0.094382,0.308647&z=12

    Künstler = Artist
    Kapelle = “Band” or Ensemble

    Greetings from Vienna’s 3rd man! 😉

  4. Vienna’s 3rd man Says:

    Bogengitarre = Arch-Guitar

    Bogen means arch… arch as in bridge.

    Be careful however… the name “Archguitar” is currently used for an unrelated type of guitar played by Peter Blanchette.

  5. Burkhard Says:

    > His latest project is Die Bogenhauser Künstlerkapelle
    > (no, I have no idea how to translate it…a little help here?)

    Bogenhausen is a district of Munich (which would translate to something like “Bow Village”)–quite apt for a group using a bogengitarre. Künstlerkapelle (Künstler = artist, Kapelle = chapel or band, in this case it means band) is a band of artists.

    So, they’re “Artist’s Band of Bow Village”. 😉

    They were named after the place they met–a villa in Bogenhausen. The villa was hit by bombs in 1944 and most instruments were destroyed. As I understand it, the actual group is called Ensemble Arcimboldo, not Bogenhauser Künstlerkapelle, but they value the musical heritage of said Bow Villagers. 😉

    This is just my superficial skimming of at their website; I haven’t yet read the whole article.


  6. Ken Bonfield Says:

    I think our friend Alan Carruth would be very interested in how this design works. Don’t you?

  7. Bernie N. Says:

    Would that be considered a zero fret on the guitar neck? Or is that the “arch”/bridge referred to?
    Beautiful hardware and build!

  8. Mathias Says:

    As one of the few harp guitar players whose mothertongue is german, I allow myself to support Jan’s thesis about the name Bogengitarre.

    “Bogen” is actually used as an expression in archery, but is also used in other ways. The matching verb would be “biegen” (to bend) adjective “verbogen” (bent). You could also use it for “curve” in certain situations.

    The word “rainbow” translates to “Regenbogen” – so “bow guitar” is not too far away from that.

    My first translation of “harp guitar” to german would be “Harfengitarre”. I was however pretty astonished, when I found an ad of a local “Gitarrenharfe” player. I checked her website and found, that she was referring to a
    Besides that, I was pretty astonished to an autoharp. If you google “Gitarrenharfe” and go to the picture section, you’ll find both harp guitars and autoharps.

    So to make things clear – I play Knutsen / Dyer – inspired instruments. Bogengitarren. 😉

  9. Gregg Says:

    Thanks Mathias – like I said in my original blog, we should really be holding the “Annual Bent Guitar Festival”…

  10. Vienna’s 3rd man Says:

    “Bogen” in Bogengitarre does not refer to the adjective “bent”, and has nothing to do with “archery”.

    Bogen refers to ARCH, as in bridge; …or “bowbrige” though I dislike that “bow” term

    Bogengitarre = Arch-guitar
    (But one must be careful with this translation, since a Bogengitarre is unrelated with the instrument to which Peter Blanchette has given the name “Archguitar”)

  11. Burkhard Says:

    To add to all this Bogen confusion: As I have a violin bow, I do also bow the sub-basses of my “bent guitar” …

    Mathias, I can add to your observation: I’m also pretty irritated by people talking about “Gitarrenharfen”. I don’t know how they came up with such a misleading name for what is really a Harfengitarre by its very nature, but the term seems to be quite prevalent among those (few(?)) Germans who know this kind of instrument. Strangely enough, the German Wikipedia doesn’t know a Harfengitarre, but has an article about the “Gitarrenharfe”. And Gregg, is this “Gitarrenharfe” article short and shallow! Sorry that I feel no urge to become a famous Wikipedia editor!

    Bye, now going back to bow and bend the strings of my Biegeharfe …

  12. Gregg Says:

    With my opinion of the English version of Wikipedia well-known, I’m not even going to touch the German version…

    Readers/writers: I appreciate all the help with translations. As this is just my blog (not a real forum), and I actually am curious about the “bogen” term as it relates to the original Schenk instrument (assuming it was his own term, which I’m taking on faith…), could you please sign your real names when posting on the blog (those who aren’t already or Forum members), and also point me to provenance to the many reasonable-sounding explanations you’re giving? (archery bows, arched stone bridges, etc…)?
    Not that it shouldn’t be fun, of course…

  13. Burkhard Says:

    I find the idea of string trees or “inverted string posts” giving rise to the “bogen” term not very compelling (that’s what Benoit, Bernie N., and(?) Vienna’s 3rd man are speculating, I take it?). Is this really THE characteristic distinguishing bogengitarres from other guitars? Some Framus guitars have a metal piece with six holes holding the strings down behind the nut. So, these are bogengitarres, too? And a Stratocaster with string trees? Is this an E-Bow guitar? 😉

    They have this beautiful bogen-shaped headstock holding all the tuners, THAT’s characteristic! But of course Dyer-likes are the real bogengitarres, as their arm is so beautifully bent–in contrast to kontragitarres or arched (wait! What?!) Gibsons …

    Whatever, it may historically be true that “bogen” was not derived from the headstock form, considering Germans call harp guitars “Gitarrenharfen” … *shudder* … but I don’t know.

    At least I can’t find any explanation of the name bogengitarre in the German-writing part of our Whole Wide Web.

    Gregg, at least the German “Gitarrenharfe” article links to your website … it is of some value, at last!

  14. Mathias Says:

    Hello fellow harp guitar players of all countries and languages,

    I don’t mean to be a smartass, but sometimes I can’t help myself. I just grabbed my Duden (german vocabulary book)

    I disagree with Vienna’s 3rd man about the following:
    ->”Bogen” in Bogengitarre does not refer to the adjective “bent”, and has nothing to do with “archery”.

    Why would you use the term ARCHery to describe the usage of a (hunting) bow in english, if they had nothing to do with each other?

    Same goes for Bogen. You can bow to a master (sich verbiegen), you can bend a piece of metal (biegen) and the arch of a bridge is called “Brückenbogen” because it’s bent and not a straight line.
    Depending on the location (for all non-german readers: we do have tons of dialects where words are used in slightly different ways) Bogen is also used for curve in a street. -> “Die Strasse macht einen Bogen” or “Die Strasse biegt sich”

    Btw. Bogen is also used for a sheet of paper (but not for a sheet that you put on your bed).

    So if you take one of the Brunner travelling harp guitars that has two straight necks – that’s a harp guitar, but not a Bogengitarre. Well maybe it’s just a doubleneck acoustic with no frets on the bass side and some extra treble strings 😉

    I hope I got this straight… (pun intended)

    P.S. To all the german speaking or generally European based HG player who read this. I’m based in Zurich, Switzerland. If you’re somewhat close and feel like jamming / trading licks and having a coffee, contact me.

  15. Burkhard Says:

    Mathias, not to nitpick: But a Brunner traveling harp guitar is still a bogengitarre … as the sides are bent! 😉

    But it’s bedtime now, so I’ll cover me with a nice warm Bogen and dream of archangels … greetings to Zürich and all the other Gitarrenharfen places!

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