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Krash

Harmony Sovereign bridge

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The bridge on my 1260 doesn't have bridge pins. Don't have a digicam, but it looks just like this one -

 

h1260.jpg

 

Was this done just to save money? How does it affect the tone?

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I don't know what Harmony's motivation was, but Ovation and Takamine use pinless bridges to this day. I think Breedlove uses them on at least some of their models too. I have a Tak EAN70 with a pinless bridge, and owned both an Ovation Legend and an Ovation Celebrity that had them as well. The Tak and the Legend are hardly cheapo's; I always assumed it was for convenience - it makes string changing easier IMO, because you don't have to fiddle around with getting the bridge pins to seat as you tension the strings.

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That was my first guitar. I think that the bridge design might have owed something to Danish furniture imports that were influential and popular in the late 60's

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There is a down side to pinless bridges. You can't shave the bridge down to buy a little time before a neck reset. There seem to be a lot of Harmony Sovereigns like that model for sale on Ebay really cheap these days. I think they are the best bargain in vintage acoustic guitars out there. People sell them when they need a neck reset not realizing that all acoustic guitars from the 1950's and 60's will eventually need a neck reset. It's not the sign of a cheap defective guitar but more a natural occurence with wooden guitars.

 

So why is a 50's or 60's Harmony Sovereign 1260 a better guitar than a Martin D-18 from the same time period?

 

1. Adjustable truss rod instead of a simple steel rod.

2. The back is a solid single piece of Honduran mahogany...not two pieces bookmatched and spliced together. This is a good thing in that it reduces weight and the back is free to vibrate more.

3. Glue used is hide glue instead of aliphatic resin

4. Finish is spirit varnish instead of nitrocellulose

5. Examples can be had for around 300 to 400 dollars on the used market as opposed to ten times that for the Martin.

6. The plate under the bridge of a Harmony is spruce and not dense hardwood..a benefit of utilizing the pinless bridge. It allows for a lighter top with a higher stiffness to weight ratio.

 

 

Fingerboard and bridge are Brazilian rosewood just like on the Martin

Top is almost always red spruce on both guitars.

Neck on both is one piece mahogany with a dovetail join on both.

 

Martins do use mahogany for the blocks and kerfing, and it's arguable whether this is better. It does add to the weight of the guitar. Harmony, like Guild and some other makers, uses a lighter wood that looks like poplar.

 

Some people argue that the Martin has X bracing and that this offers superior sound. I've played enough Harmony Sovereigns to disagree. Ladder braced Sovereigns have a brighter and crisper sound. A sort of scooped mids clean tone. In my opinion it's more open sounding with a tighter bottom end that projects better. The superior glues and woods probably are a fator in this too.

If you want a sound sample of a Harmony 1260 all you have to do is have a listen to the most famous acoustic guitar intro in the history of rock: The intro to Stairway to Heaven was played on a Harmony 1260.

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Wow - the more I learn about this guitar, the more surprised I am. It was my first, and when I bought it in '69 I knew nothing about guitars. Went to Manny's in NYC with my roommate, who had been playing for some time and knew a bit more than I did, and bought it because it was in my price range ($50 w/case), had a nice action, and the salesman played it and it sounded great. Wasn't playing much in later years, and when I developed a problem with my hands in '90's, had to give it up altogether. Got back to playing electric in '04, than bass in '05, and my hands have improved enough that I'm going to give the old Harmony another try. Ordered some light strings (Nano PB's), and soon as I get them I'll clean it up, restring it, and see how it plays.

 

Had never seen any mention of Harmonys online til I got on HCAG in Sept. Several people here had them on their gear lists, and they seem to be well regarded. It's a shock that they compare well with Martins from the same era. Not 100% sure it's a 1260, but it looks just like several pics I've seen of that model. The label's still in it - I'll try to get a good look when I restring, and see if it has the model #.

 

It probably needs a neck reset - it had developed a slight heel gap many years ago, but it never got worse so I didn't worry about it. If it's playable I'll leave it as is for now.

 

And, yes, I have the sheet music to "Stairway" somewhere in the case - learned to play it way back when. :)

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If you want a sound sample of a Harmony 1260 all you have to do is have a listen to the most famous acoustic guitar intro in the history of rock: The intro to Stairway to Heaven was played on a Harmony 1260.

 

Cool tidbit, I hadn't heard that before.

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