Best harmony guitars

Best harmony guitars DEFAULT

Harmony Company

The Harmony Company is a former guitar manufacturing company that is currently a brand owned by Singapore company BandLab Technologies. Harmony was, in its heyday, the largest musical instrument manufacturer in the United States. They made many types of string instruments, including ukuleles, acoustic and electric guitars and violins.

The company ceased in 1975, with the "Harmony" brand being relaunched by BandLab in 2018 to produce electric guitars and amplifiers.[1]


A collection of Harmony guitars: SS Stewart gold acoustic, H73 Roy Smeck, H37 Hollywood, Silvertone 1446, H44 Stratotone

Harmony was founded in 1892 by Wilhelm Schultz. In 1916, Sears, Roebuck and Co. purchased it, in part to corner the ukulele market. At the time Harmony was led by Joe Kraus, who was chairman until 1940.[2]

In 1928, Harmony introduced the first of many Roy Smeck models, and went on to become the largest producer in the U.S. They sold 250,000 pieces in 1923 and 500,000 in 1930, including various models of guitars, banjos, and mandolins.

In the late 1930s, the firm began making violins again after a 19-year hiatus. They also bought brand names from the bankrupt Oscar Schmidt Co.—La Scala, Stella, and Sovereign. They sold not only Harmony products, but instruments under the Sears name, Silvertone, and a variety of trade names—Vogue, Valencia, Johnny Marvin, Monterey, Stella, and others.[citation needed] In 1940, after Kraus had a conflict with management, he left, but then bought enough stock to restart the company independently.[2]

Between 1945 and 1975, the Chicago firm mass-produced about ten million guitars. The company reduced their output over the years, later focusing on student models sold through JCPenney. The Harmony brand peaked in 1964-1965, selling 350,000 instruments, but low-end foreign competition led to the company's demise 10 years later.

The pickups on almost all electric guitars and basses that Harmony produced were manufactured by Rowe Industries Inc. (later known as H.N. Rowe & Company, Rowe DeArmond Inc., and DeArmond Inc.) of Toledo, Ohio. Many of the instrument amplifiers badged with the Harmony name were manufactured by "Sound Projects Company" of Cicero, Illinois.[3]

The Harmony Guitar Company ceased in 1975,[4] and sold the Harmony name. In the early 2000s, an unrelated company, the Westheimer Corp., based in Lake Barrington, Illinois briefly imported "reissue" Harmony guitars.

In 2018, BandLab Technologies claimed to be "relaunching" the Harmony brand with a new series of electric guitars and guitar amps.[5][6] The brand has since been relaunched with American-made models such as the Rebel and the Jupiter. [7]


See also: Harmony Company models

  • Silvertone model 1219 Buck Owens "American" (1971) by Harmony Company[8]

  • H19 Silhouette
    (Silvertone 1480)

  • H88, H44 Stratotone, compared with travel guitar

Further reading[edit]

  • Acoustic Guitars: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York: Chartwell Books. 2011. ISBN .


External links[edit]


The Top 10 Guitar Harmonies of All Time

What’s better than a master guitarist pouring their guts out through their strings?

How about two master guitarists simultaneously pouring their guts out through their strings? You read me?

Do I hear three master guitarists? Will these questions ever stop?

Whatever the case, synchronized guitar work—which requires skillful harmonization—can take the multi-guitar lineup to its full potential—that is, make all lead parts sound bigger and badder. Here are some of the baddest.

10. Racer X, “Scarified”

That Paul Gilbert and Bruce Bouillet play these stunning neoclassical arpeggios with such apparent ease is enough to make any insecure guitarist closet his ax for good. The fleet-fingered duo speed-pick their way through a cycle of 4ths, sweep-pick across all six strings, and tap the fretboard like some four-armed guitar god that worshippers both fear and revere.

09. Metallica, “Master of Puppets”

It’s rare for James Hetfield to play lead, but when he does he makes it count. The solo he composed for the gentle middle section of this rager about drug abuse is a true attention-getter thanks largely to the sweet melody and high-register trills. In addition, the harmonies here proved that Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett were more than just heavy-handed thrashers.

08. Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan, “Shy Boy”

How does David Lee Roth make himself look good after parting with Van Halen? Well, he hires two Eddies. Sure, Sheehan is a bassist, but he plays the thing like a six-stinger. The breakdown at the song’s end, though short, displays some truly terrifying, ultra-meticulous two-hand tapping. The section functions much like a dangerous high-speed stunt—where a good deal of the audience’s thrill derives from a secret, morbid desire to see the stuntmen fall.

07. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, “Three Guitar Special”

As the hired guns for Wills’s Western swing band, electric guitarist Eldon Shamblin, pedal-steel man Herb Remington, and electric mandolin player Tiny Moore held down three-part harmonies as though they were a horn section from a big band, all the while shredding through sophisticated jazz-based chromatic passages and arpeggios. Check out the ballsy amplification, especially of the mandolin. And this is 1947!

Note: We can't find "Three Guitar Special" on YouTube, so we've included the audio of "Twin Guitar Special" from 1941:

06. Ratt, “Round and Round”

Of those hair-farmin’, lip-poutin’, pantyhose-wearin’ pop-metal bands from the Eighties, this combo—featuring guitarists Warren DeMartini and the late Robbin Crosby—has the distinction of scoring a dual-guitar hit that wasn’t just a sappy ballad. After DeMartini takes a Halen-esque lead, Robbin Crosby joins in for the sustained string bends and descending scales that steal the spotlight from vocalist Stephen Pearcy.

05. Thin Lizzy, “The Boys Are Back In Town”

The trademark sound of the Scott Gorham–Brian Robertson tandem became the prototype for virtually every twin-ax metal band that followed. This sound is immortalized in this Top 40 hit, in which the guitarists' singing lines, adept phrasing and gradual ascension of the fretboard took the song to a dramatic climax above and beyond that of the final chorus.

04. Slayer, “South of Heaven”

Love them or hate them for pioneering a style of metal lead that is more noisescape than it is either tuneful or technical, the team of Kerry King and the late Jeff Hanneman created some of the most instantly recognizable harmony leads around, owing mostly to intervals that will creep the hell out anybody within earshot. If the chromatic descent on this unusually slow pounder doesn’t make you crap your pants, you’ve earned the right to join the Freemasons.

03. Boston, “More Than a Feeling”

When Les Paul pioneered multitrack recording, it was inevitable that someone like Tom Scholz would take it to the limit—by recording a solo six times over. Armed with pristine distortion, this one-man guitar army launched with this song what is perhaps the most evocative melodies in rock. Eventually, the consistent string bends, slurs and vibrato start to feel almost like a synthetic string section on the recording—a fact that would have disqualified Scholz from this list had he not hired Barry Goudreau and Brad Delp to help him reproduce the harmonies live.

02. The Allman Brothers Band, “Jessica”

This joyous tune recorded shortly after the death of superhuman slide guitarist Duane Allman, with Dicky Betts and Les Dudek on electric guitars. They followed this theoretical formula on one of the most famous rock instrumentals of the Seventies: simple, catchy melody times two equals mondo hooks. The countrified harmonies that constitute this instrumental’s “verse” section are, arguably, the most lyrical in all of classic rock.

01. The Eagles, “Hotel California”

Californian country-rock? Yeah, right. But throw in former James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh with Don Felder and Glen Frey and you’ve got a dreamy and dramatic chorus of electric guitars stacking arpeggios over a quasi-Spanish chord progression. Ah, you can almost detect the warm smell of “co-lee-tas” in the air…

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Identifying and Dating Harmony Guitars

Dating Harmony Guitars

Harmony guitars are fairly easy to identify and date yet there still remains a lot of unsolved questions for the average collector which I am attempting to answer here.

The single best resource on the internet is the DeMont Harmony Database but it is no longer updated.

I am attempting to bridge the gap where he stopped and with what we know today.

I cite my information as best as I can but there are points that are common knowledge among the Harmony community or are observations and conclusions that I have reached from my work.

Pictures are mine unless otherwise cited.

If you are unable to identify your instrument, use the Contact Me button above and I'll do my best.


Harmony instruments have their name on them more often than Kay instruments do but there is still a significant number of these instruments which do not sport the name of the manufacturer. Many Harmony instruments have a brand name which was given by a retailer who purchased the instrument for sale as a house brand in their own shop. You can find Harmony guitars branded Airline to Heathkit to Wizard and more!

I have compiled guides on identifying these instruments and who sold them.

My original article (which includes pictures) of the various brand names that Harmony guitars appeared under can be found here:

Harmony Guitar Brands and Aliases (not updated)

My current list (which does not have pictures but is updated) has even more brand names that Harmony guitars appeared under.
Department Store Guitar Brand List

Headstock Variants

Quintessential Harmony headstock shape

Thin, small nub
Kay-esque single point
[Late 1960s-1970s]

Tuning Machines

Harmony guitars primarily used Waverly tuning machines on their models throughout the lifetime of the company. Kluson tuners started appearing in the 1940s.

My guide to identifying Kluson tuners can be found here
My guide to identifying Waverly tuners can be found here


Harmony acoustic instruments are praised for their use of solid woods. They require more care than laminate guitars (to prevent cracking) but provide better tone.

Carved vs Pressed

Most Harmony archtop guitars have heat pressed tops which are formed in molds to make the archtop shape which produces a good sound but is nowhere near as desirable as a true carved top. 

There do exist models where the bracing is carved out of the same piece of wood as the top.


  • Poplar is the most common wood used 
    • Often finished in a brown lacquer to mimic mahogany
  • Mahogany 
    • Appears on higher end flat top models like the Sovereign series 
    • Also appears on mid to high end archtops as early as the 1940s. 

Neck Reinforcements

Double bar reinforcement slots on a 30s archtop
  • Pre-1940s - Single or double rectangular steel bar
  • 1940s - Often none
  • 1950s-1970s - Single rectangular steel bar

Truss Rods

Harmony unveiled the Torque-Lok dual-rod truss rod system in 1956 which was paired with their Slim-Line neck for 'professional' and 'fast' playing.

Unfortunately the design has flaws. As tension is added to the rod, the nut is forced downwards into the channel but the upward pressure which makes adjustment difficult. The rod also stops short of spanning the full length of the neck which reduces its, already weak, effectiveness.

1950s Harmony "Torque-Lok" Truss Rod
Partially removed for demonstration


  • Brazilian Rosewood
    • Continued to appear on mid to high-end models far into the 1960s
  • Ebonized hardwood (maple, birch, etc)
    • (Read my Article here about the process)
    • Very common on low-end models throughout Harmony's history
    • Ebonizing process causes the wood to 'dry rot' which reduces its strength and leaves it brittle and prone to cracks and chips.
    • Very unpleasant to refret. 
  • Indian Rosewood
    • Started appearing in the 1960s as a cheaper alternative to Brazilian
    • More porous and differently colored than Brazilian Rosewood 

Position dots

Inlay materials are typically real pearl up until the 50s when celluloid "pearloid" becomes commonplace.

    • 3/16" white dots in an alternating 1 and 2 dot pattern appeared in the 1930s
      • Kay also used this pattern and dot size
    • Ornate stenciled designs can also be found
      • Painted on, typically, with white lacquer


  • Composition
    • Standard nickel frets are the most common
    • Brass frets appeared in the 1940s
  • Size
    • Thin, short frets were common before and during WWII
    • I cover a variety of exact fretwire dimensions on my article Vintage Fretwire Dimensions


Harmony guitars are, in most cases, very easy to identify via their comprehensive stamping and dating system. Ink stamps are typically found on the back of the instrument and are visible through the f holes or soundhole. It is not uncommon for the stamps to be poorly inked, faded, or obscured.

Harmony date stamps variants
Image Credit: UNKNOWN
Please contact me if you made this so I can applaud you
  • "F-##", "S-##"
    • Means Fall or Spring which refers to the season in which the instrument was built
      • It does not mean First or Second half of the year
      • The existence of "FL" date stamps and of Christmas-exclusive models bearing "F" stamps (for Fall) supports this conclusion
    • "##" refers to the year in which the instrument was built
    • If followed by a letter or letters, that indicates the inspector of the instrument that approved it. 
Harmony H-54 built in the Fall of 1951
"3585" has no known meaning and can be ignored
Image Credit: Ebay
  • "####H####"
    • Preceding numbers are likely a batch number and have no discernible meaning
    • Following numbers are the model number of the instrument and can be easily researched on such websites as the DeMont Harmony Database
      • Harmony was known to reuse model numbers
  • "Carved Top"
    • Often printed in red ink, indicates a high end model with a carved arch top
  • Dovetail Stamps
    • Sometimes the dovetails will have stamps on the heel that can only be seen during a neck reset
    • Possibly another method of dating the instrument? I'll have to find more examples
4847 stamp on dovetail on a 1948 archtop
  • Miscellaneous Stamps 
    • "PVC"
      • Unknown meaning, possibly referred to the binding material?
From a 1940s "Gene Autry"
From a 1940s Harmony Monterey


Harmony guitars typically don't have any paper labels glued inside them from the factory. Most paper labels are from the distributor like B&J which had their own serial and model number labels. Starting in the 1960s, select models had labels which were visible through the soundhole or f-holes.

  • "A Quality instrument handcrafted by The Harmony Company"
    • Appears on 70s Harmony guitars, a few USA but mostly Korean built
  • "Special Notice This guitar is designed for nylon or gut strings do not use steel strings"
    • Appears on 60s-70s classical guitars warning players not to use regular acoustic strings


Harmony purchased their pickups from outside suppliers and, to my knowledge, did not wind their own.


Harmony pickups were built primarily by DeArmond-Rowe Industries which constructed the famous "hershey bar" and "gold foil" pickups (not to be confused with later Japanese gold foil pickups). If your Harmony has electronics, chances are that they are DeArmond. DeArmond also assembled the wiring harnesses for pickguards that used their pickups

Luckily, DeArmond units are well documented and typically have a date stamp on the back of the instrument in Month Day Year format like MAR 18 1966. This will align very closely with the date of construction of your instrument. The best resource for DeArmond pickups is


Gibson P-13 pickups are often referred to as the precursor to the famous P-90 pickup and were built in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a rumor that Gibson sold Harmony a "boxcar" of pickups and Harmony used that stock until they ran out. Nobody knows the specifics but we do know for sure that Harmony used Gibson pickups (and Gibson lap steel wiring harnesses) in some of their instruments.

1950s Gibson P-13 Pickup (no polepieces) on an H-56 Roy Smeck

Do not confuse these pickups with Speed Bump pickups from Kay or pickups from Alamo. Too many people falsely attribute these pickups to each other but they are not associated in any way except appearance

Common Issues 

DIY repairs are the quickest way to damage and devalue an instrument

Always consult with a reputable luthier (not a guitar tech) before performing any work

Never ever use super glue, epoxy, gorilla glue, or Titebond III

Guitars that are 'repaired' with these are often beyond saving

  • There are cracks in the wood
    • This occurs when an instrument is exposed to a climate different than the ideal (70 degrees Fahrenheit and 45-50% humidity) and the wood has shrunk
    • Do not try to fill the cracks with glue or put clamps on the guitar to press it together
    • Your guitar needs proper humidity and cleats
  • The neck heel is pulling away from the body
    • Do not shove glue in there or drive a screw through the heel
    • Your guitar needs a neck reset 
  • The frets have large divots in them
    • Frets are like tires on your car, they need replacing after being used a lot
    • Your guitar needs a refret
  • The strings are buzzy or the neck is bowed
    • Most Harmony guitars lack adjustable truss rods (or rods that still work) and so forward bow cannot be easily repaired.
    • Your guitar needs a fretboard planing and refret or more ideally a truss rod installation
  • The strings are too high off the fretboard
    • As string tension and climate shift the wood in a guitar, they inevitably need the neck to be steamed off and a new angle carved relative to the body.
    • Your guitar needs a neck reset
  • The bridge is lifting and coming off
    • Many bridges are glued directly onto the lacquer which causes them to lift and raise the action. 
    • Do not use glue to fill the gaps or drive screws into the bridge to bring it back down. The only fix is to remove the bridge, prep the area, sand the bridge to match, and reglue it.
    • Your guitar needs a bridge reglue and often a bridge plate patch
  • There is no sound coming from the electronics
    • This can be a variety of things from dead capacitors, dirty potentiometers, shorted wires, and even dead pickups.
    • Don't replace any vintage components unless you absolutely have to
    • Your guitar needs an electronics evaluation and cleaning
HARMONY GUITARS - WHO plays a vintage Harmony and WHY? - Inspiration comes CHEAP

Welcome to Reverb Experts: where we talk to enthusiasts, aficionados, and industry pros about their favorite gear. Today we're talking to Ron Rothman, proprietor of Rothman's Guitars and author of Harmony, The People's Guitar. Ron gives us some insight into the world of Harmony, which was at one point the largest manufacturer of stringed instruments in the world.

Q: There are an incredible variety of different Harmony models out there. What accounts for the wide range of instruments they built?

The Harmony guitar company was one of the largest manufactures of musical instruments. In their day, they made more guitars than all the other guitar makers combined. They supplied many of the big mail order catalogs through the years. Sears marketed many of the Harmony instruments under the Silvertone label, which were the same Harmony-made instruments except for the label. Those actually accounted for almost half of the instruments made. They made different models, for each style of guitar popular during their history.

Harmony Rocket H54 1961

Q: What do you consider the most iconic or important Harmony models?

Of the calls I've had, there are several that stick out in my mind as some of the most sought after Harmony guitars. The Harmony Caribbean or Colorama guitars are rare, but most don’t play that well. Great to look out, but if you are looking for a playable guitar, any of the electrics can still be a good value. One of the most coveted guitar and sought after by players and collectors alike is the 1955 Harmometal bound Espanada.

When it comes to one of the more desirable instrument, the Harmony bass is still one of the more desirable “off brand” vintage bass guitars. The Harmony H22 Bass has been one of the more sought after instruments. I have been playing a H22 bass, both 2008 and vintage, they both bring a unique voicing that only come from a vintage Harmony. The Jumbo H1265/6 with it's torotoise headstock veneer and pickgaurds, is also known for it's majestic look. And the Sovereign from 1967/68 with the “Africa” tortoise pickguard is one of the most sought after acoustics. Really any top-of-the-line Harmony guitars are quite desirable.

Harmony Monterey H950 1950s

Q: What should buyers look for when shopping for Harmony instruments?

Playability. Unless you want something to hang on the wall, if the guitar doesn't play well, that's all it is, a wall hanger.

Q: How has general interest in Harmonies changed over the years?

Many of the less expensive acoustics and archtops just don't play well and the cost of making them playable is not worth the investment. Most collectors are now searching out the top-of-the-line acoustics and electrics. They are being more selective in where their interest is, mainly looking for guitars that play.

Q: What’s your personal favorite Harmony guitar?

I have been performing with both H22 bass and Chris Isaak model (Silvetone 1446). Both offer a unique sound, with a vintage cool factor. One of the better sounding I owned was a 2001 Rocket (limited import by MBT). Some of the Korean imports are better made and better playing, and for that reason are more usable guitars.

Q: What got you interested in the world of Harmony guitars?

My experience with these guitars goes back to the early '60s. My first guitar (as with many guitar players) was a Harmony acoustic and learning to play guitar was inspired by one of these student instruments. The guitars in my store at that time were mostly Harmony made, and I would spend hours looking through Jobber catalogs at these guitars. Targ and Diner, Buegelson and Jacobson, and C. Bruno had pages of assorted Harmonys to look at. Through a series of articles in 20th Century Guitar magazine and my Guitar news, came my book.

Q: Any other sources you can recommend for those looking for more info on Harmony?

One of the best sources for Harmony Guitars is the Harmony Database. This is probably one of the most comprehensive source of information on Harmony guitars, there is. There is also a Facebook page that has been supplying catalog information on Harmony Guitars

Harmony H684 Rebel 1974

For more information on Harmony, be sure to check out Ron's book: Harmony, The People's Guitar.HarmonyShop Now

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