Organology: Harp Guitar "Relatives"

Note to the casual reader or researcher: This Reference Gallery features historical instruments that are not harp guitars, but “relatives” or distant “cousins” – presented on for historical and organological comparison.

by Gregg Miner

UPDATE March, 2015: December, 2014 saw the publication of The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (Second Edition), for which I was asked to edit the "Harp-lute" entry, along with "Light, Edward" and "Ventura, Angelo Benedetto."

While this term refers to a specific form of Edward Light instrument, I have long believed that it is also the term that should be used in the broader sense as a family name to include all the Light inventions and the many copies and variations by other makers. All appear to have been made in the 1798-1830 period, generally in London (the Levien in Paris). Edward Light was the original and most prolific inventor (his instruments being built by the shop of Barry), with competition from Clementi, Harley, Packer, Wheatstone, Ventura, and finally, Levien in Paris.

The original "proto" harp-lute was named the "Harp-Guitar" and was a distinct new instrument with its own form and construction that borrowed its tuning not from the guitar, but from the guittar (English Guittar), a cittern-like instrument.  Thus the harp-lutes had their own tuning and tradition of musical literature.

See Definition 2 of "Harp Guitar" and Lyre Guitars for more information on why these instruments are in this Gallery instead of others.

See bottom of page for image copyright information

Harp-Guitar, anon
Harp-Lute-Guitar, Harley,
c. 1805
Harp-Lute, Light
 Dital Harp
Harp Ventura,
A. B. Ventura

Apollo Lyre, R. Wornum, c.1813 "Bass-Lyre" Harp-Theorbo, Harley, 1800s

(not an arch-cittern as it is sometimes called and is superficially similar to)

Guitare-Harpe - Levien,
(the original form is revisited in a more sophisticated instrument)



What is a Harp Guitar?


Harp Guitar Family Tree

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Photo Reference Library of Examples.


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