-- Museum of Musical Instruments
(Back to Home)

   As interest in Hawaiian guitar playing grew during the 1920s, a German-born instrument maker named Hermann Weissenborn became the leading American maker of Hawaiian-style steel guitars. The beautifully figured koa wood he used for his instruments is native to Hawaii, and has long been used there for making guitars and ukuleles. Weissenborn guitars were made in four styles, each with increasing amounts of rope-pattern binding; the "style 4" was the most expensive at $79, with binding along every edge of the body, neck, and soundhole. The sloping shoulders and square hollow neck present no interference to the player because both hands approach the strings from above, as the instrument is held flat across the lap. Astoundingly light and resonant, Weissenborn instruments produce a tone with such a long sustain that it seems to take forever to completely fade away. Hawaiian music has never made a serious comeback since its decline in the 1950s, but modern performers such as David Lindley and Ben Harper have championed Weissenborn instruments with eclectic musical styles that incorporate imaginative ideas about slide guitar playing.

Close Window