met James Kline in late 2001 while hiking on Mt. Tamalpais, north
of San Francisco. Jim had his 11 string arch guitar with him; I had
my 21 string kora, a fortuitous meeting of many strings. A close friendship
ensued and we discussed the possibility of my building a new 11 string
Here to hear
James Kline Playing his
Perlman Arch Harp
first arch guitar was built by Gary Southwell, an extraordinary
British luthier. This is the guitar that Jim recorded with from
1993 until 2002, at which time he began to play the Perlman arch
guitar exclusively. While similar to his old guitar- he did not
want any changes in the “feel’ of the instrument- the
new guitar was built with a different voice, the balance tending
more towards a guitar-like tone with a bit less lute flavor than
the first. There were some changes in construction and aesthetics.
a year later, Jim called me from France with the idea of an “attachment”
that would add 6 to 8 high harp strings to his guitar. The separate
harp had several advantages. He did not want to significantly modify
the guitar. He also travels a great deal. The baroque size arch
guitar is small enough to pose no problem as a carry-on item for
air travel while the harp fits into a fitted attaché case.
It also gave me the opportunity to optimize tone and balance; to
leave the arch guitar’s sound chamber undisturbed and create
a suitably small one for the harp. The harp is tuned from B (7th
fret, 1st string) to an octave above.
during our next visit, I brought along several cardboard patterns
showing the various schemes I’d thought of. We settled on
one and, as I was building, other ideas such as the ergonometrically
tapered body were incorporated. Harp sharping levers were added
to each string and an L. R. Baggs I-Beam Active transducer was added.
configuration gave Jim’s formidable arranging and compositional
skills a new outlet. His previous compositions expanded to take
advantage of the new instrument and new pieces were written. As
the repertoire shifted towards a more, in part, Celtic influence,
Jim decided to have me build a steel string version of what was
by now called the Arch Harp Guitar. Again, similar in feel, and
with the steel and nylon strung attachments to be interchangeable.
wanted this guitar to still have some of the qualities of a baroque
guitar and lute. I chose to use a European Spruce soundboard with
a hybrid bracing design, utilizing an X-brace with full fan bracing.
This necessitated using a pinless bridge design - bridge pins would
have penetrated the fan braces. This also worked well for Jim -
he was accustomed to the pinless classical guitar bridge and bridge
pins would have been a nuisance. The guitar and harp are equipped
with Highlander pickups.
new steel string arch harp guitar was a wonderfully successful instrument,
gauging success by Jim’s response. A CD featuring both arch
harp guitars will be out on July 13. I’ll have them soon afterwards.
always speaking of new possibilities. I’m currently building
a guitar that has the 8 high harp strings and the 11 string configuration
on a classical guitar body for a client that wants a more classical
guitar tone. I’ll publish photos when it’s completed.
String Arch Harp Guitar
IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW
harp guitar-nylon string-apart
harp guitar-nylon string
by Jennifer Sauer
James Kline’s website
The website of James and his group “Bardou”
The best harp guitar website
L. R. Baggs and Highlander are two extraordinarily high quality
transducer manufacturers. I use both, depending on tonal and configuration
Article by Joseph Thompson, Jefferson Classical Guitar Society.