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...that's the biggest disaster, people goin' around goin': 'mah baby left me, mommma...' [laughter]. Hel-lo, y'know? It's like absolutely bizarre. Nobody cares whose voice you sing in as long as it yours - Jerry Ricks, Port Townsend 97

Author Topic: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas  (Read 1835 times)

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Offline frailer24

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Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« on: November 02, 2014, 07:17:12 PM »
I've a late 50's early 60's Harmony made Stella, set up with floating bridge and tailpiece. This thing actually doesn't sound too bad! Sustain is similar to a National singlecone, and plays like butter. I have heard them being cast off as junk, just wondering what y'all think. -Larry
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2014, 07:46:37 PM »
If you mean it frets like butter I'd say someone has done a recent neck reset, or it has been unstrung for 50 years. If your hands like the playing and your ears like the sound, it's a musical instrument. I looked for the one I first played on, and learned to fingerpick back in the '60s, when we cleared out the house, but my mom must have passed it on to some neighborhood kid, which is cool.

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Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2014, 01:12:10 AM »
Indeed, when I found it, the neck was off the guitar. Had to reset the neck, cut a new bridge, and replace the rusted tailpiece. I am just amazed at how good a tonewood birch is.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline harriet

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2014, 01:27:53 PM »
IMHO they are great intimate little guitars for slide with character, loudness and sustain - I have 2 ladder braced stellas from that era and then other brands from the 50's but I don't play chorded in standard so don't know if there is anything distinctive to playing them without a slide. Not had to do a neck reset on any of mine for slide. And they are cheap from ebay.

Offline Kokomo O

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2014, 06:26:30 AM »
My recollection from my first bout with guitar playing in the late 60s/early 70s, when I had a 000-sized Harmony, is that back then playability was not their strong point. But if you've reset the neck and it came out nicely playable, that's a real bonus, as Wax says, because they certainly could sound good--mine did, and I wish I still had it. Some that I've played in recent years sound downright great, albeit quite different from the older Oscar Schmidt Stellas.

Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2014, 03:44:12 PM »
Agreed. They have a sound all their own. Took a bolt and wingnut through the heel, but action at the 12th is 5/32. Works for me!
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline onewent

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2014, 04:46:54 PM »
I've found the post WWII Harmony guitars to be lacking in tone for blues or fingerpicking style .. takes a lot of right hand effort to get any semblance of tone, and nothing close to the ladder braced tone of the pre WWII concert-size Stellas and Regals.

  However, played open with a slide, I think they sound great!

Set up properly, they can be as playable as any guitar, and the metal truss rod is a big plus to gain that playability.

frailer, 5/32 (10/64) is considered 'high' action when assessing the geometry of a guitar setup, but if it works for you, than it's not a problem.  I usually shoot for 4/64 - 6/64 measured from top of 12th fret to bottom of string.

For a dedicated slide guitar, these are cheap and available, and readily replaced if lost or stolen!  Tom



Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2014, 07:53:39 PM »
The worst action I have is 1/4 on an old Sovereign. My left hand frets heavy anyhow.
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Offline harriet

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2014, 02:16:44 PM »
Here's what my blond stella sort of sounds like,

This a sample of some slide I have been working on - first a north hill rhythm Michael Messer taught me then it goes into an attempt at Fred McDowell's John Henry learned basically from the SGGW and then referring to the original recordings. 

The guitar cost about $75 on ebay several years ago and has had nothing done to it other than swapping the bridge with another from that era.


Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2014, 09:42:03 PM »
Harriet, yours sounds a good deal like mine. Plastic or wooden bridge?
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Offline harriet

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2014, 03:02:46 AM »
Hi frailer24 - wooden. It came with a plastic bridge with screws on each end  and I swapped it for the  skinny wooden one in the pix that I got on Ebay. :)

Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2014, 03:16:59 PM »
Great job!
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline harriet

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2014, 04:52:06 PM »
Thanks :).

Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2014, 05:52:32 PM »
Carved mine out of an old archtop base that snapped. They do sound great for slide.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline RobBob

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2014, 06:29:58 AM »
I remember these guitars when they were new.  Glad they work for you, we suffered in owning them back then.

Offline Big River

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2014, 09:44:35 AM »
Sorry, but I have to give a dissenting opinion on these Harmony guitars. I grew up in the sixties and many of us were on a budget and we had to play on these instruments because we could not afford the Gibson's or Martin's we really wanted. I have bad memories of many Harmony guitars with their high action and dead tone. I think the Stella name is part of the reason for whatever  amount of interest in this model although the original Stella's back in the thirties were a much higher quality guitar (particularly the 12 strings) and have nothing in common with Harmony guitars of the sixties other than their name.
In the same price range today for a Harmony you could buy a used (or sometimes new) parlor sized Godin (Simon & Patrick, Seagull, etc) or a Recording King that, to me, are much better sounding and playing guitars.
I guess this falls into the "whatever turns you on" category, but just because something is "vintage" does not mean it is worth seeking out.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2014, 07:01:59 AM by Big River »

Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2014, 02:21:51 AM »
Happy to have all opinions. I too suffered with it before the rebuild. It is a family heirloom, so I had to try. :)
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2014, 03:56:15 AM »
It seems to me that the later they get, the less interesting they are on the whole.  I have a 46 Harmony Stella which I love, is a joy to play (never had a neck reset). 

Once you get into the 60s though, they are different and perhaps generally, more suited to nice raspy slide stuff.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2014, 07:30:07 AM »
SloBlo of this parish has a very nice later example....

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Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2014, 07:33:00 AM »
Agreed- It makes a fine, sharp, crisp slidey noise. 

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2014, 07:43:30 AM »
NS - if you're ever defrocked,  a career in advertising awaits !

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Offline sabocat

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #21 on: November 23, 2014, 03:17:35 PM »
Personally I think they stink.  I will go further and say the pre-War Supertone versions also stink.  They lack volume and are plain thin and almost hollow sounding.  Throw into the mix that inky necks abound.

Now a confession.  I do own a late 1930s all-birch Supertone.  Lousy sounding guitar but it is still blast to play.  Hard to find anything else out there you can have more fun with for $30.  And with its art deco "panels" it is pretty cool looking.


Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2014, 05:37:48 PM »
60's Harmonys were mostly crap except or a couple of notable exceptions. If you could find a good Sovereign (Anjou shaped or with waist) they could be pretty solid, but Harmony had real neck build issues and you had to search for ones where they accidentally got it right.. Their real surprise though was an all Mahogany guitar that if the neck were on right was a pretty fine guitar. I always regretted not getting the $40. one Izzy Young had at the Folklore center back in the day.
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Offline Bed Bug Bill

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #23 on: April 02, 2015, 03:14:37 PM »
I think you've all been hanging around the with the wrong type of Supertones.
I have a mahogany /spruce which is a very good guitar and an all  Koa ,which is a great guitar.Both from the 20's.
Both made by Harmony and sold through Sears,as Supertones.
The only thing 1920's Harmonys and Stellas have in common with 1960's guitars of the same name, are their burning properties.

Offline iwbiek

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #24 on: April 02, 2015, 04:34:38 PM »
I loooove my Harmony Patrician blond archtop, but I know they were top of the line.

Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #25 on: December 13, 2016, 12:33:59 AM »
Welp, I ended up going to a pawnshop the other day, and walked out with 3 more of these little Stellas. A few diy repairs later, I have 3 more camping guitars!
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline RobBob

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2016, 12:27:53 PM »
I know where there is a Patrician Harmony Mandolin that is in pretty good shape and can be had for $150 or less.  Recording King has a new guitar that may fill the niche:
https://bernunzio.com/product/recording-king-rps-7-ts-22325/][url]https://bernunzio.com/product/recording-king-rps-7-ts-22325/[/url]

Offline frailer24

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Re: Opinions on 50's/60's Harmony Stellas
« Reply #27 on: December 20, 2016, 06:58:33 PM »
Have yet to play an RK but I hear good things
That's all she wrote Mabel!

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