A 26-String Guitar/Oud/Zither


Multi-instrumentalist and solo performance artist Todd Green commissioned this unusual one-of-a-kind hybrid, which I've been calling the "Harpouditar". This name reflects a combination of wire-strung harp or zither, mid-eastern oud and classical guitar. Todd calls it the "Swar Rebouditar", finding similarities to an East Indian zither called the "swar mandal" and a plucked instrument found in Afganistan and Pakistan known as the "rebab", as well as oud and guitar. In either case, it has two distinct sections: a guitar-like neck and bridge, and a harp-like arrangement of shorter strings that run diagonally across the lower bout, below the oud or lute-like bridge.

The guitar-like section uses a long classical guitar scale length (26-1/8 inches) and has seven courses of strings. Six of these are configured so as to be analagous to a standard 6-string guitar, however the three treble courses (nominally the g, b and high e strings) are doubled, to give something of the sound quality of the doubled strings of an oud. The seventh course is also doubled: two short, thin, steel strings on the bass side of the neck serve a similar purpose the the 5th string on a 5-string banjo, acting as unfretted drone strings. The fingerboard that runs beneath the strings is ebony, and is set flush with the top of the instrument, as on an oud or lute, rather than running above the top as on a guitar. Also, the fingerboard has only five tied-on nylon frets, leaving the rest of the neck fretless (this is similar to the aforementioned rebab, which has only three frets). The bridge is similar to a lute or oud bridge in that the strings come directly off the front edge of the bridge-wood, without a separate string saddle. The strings run fairly close to the spruce top of the instrument, which is protected by a clear tap-plate. The top is braced to give a warm, rich classical guitar quality to support the oud-like aspects of doubled strings and fretless upper neck.

The harp or zither section has 15 strings (allowing a 2-octave range of diatonic tuning), which are a combination of plain steel and plain brass. These are tuned with zither-pin type tuners, and have a magical, sparkley sound remniscent of a wire-strung Celtic harp. They are easily accessed for plucking by simply pivoting the right arm a bit, and also give a lovely sympathetic wash to the overall sound.

The body shape is designed to balance comfortably in a classical guitar type of playing position, with the instrument resting on the left leg of the player.






There is a large body of contemporary and historical guitar-like instruments with added harp-strings. An amazing website has been established celebrating these sometimes obscure creations generally referred to as "harp guitars". Check out's my favorite guitar-related site on the web!