About John Doan

John Doan is a master and muse of the harp guitar and stringed instruments. He is a music historian, performer, and professor at Willamette University.

10th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat June 22nd – 25th 2017, 9th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat Great Success

John Doan’s Tenth Annual Harp Guitar Retreat is set for June 22nd to June 25th 2017.  I hope you will be able to make it. (see below for a daily itinerary, Saturday concert, testimonials, photos, fees, and registration information).

Harp Guitar Retreat Class with John Doan

The Ninth Annual Harp Guitar Retreat was a huge success with classes, private lessons, Harp Guitar Gallery, Music Nights, Concerts, and plenty of time hanging out talking about life and, what else, harp guitars!  We begin each day with a three hour group class where we are hands on the instrument exploring harp guitar playing techniques, music ideas, and even ensemble playing.

2. Harp Guitar Retreat Harp Guitars

We always have a great line up of harp guitars of all sizes and makes, all for you to test drive at your leisure.

3. Gerry Camp shows John Doan Emerald Harp Guitar

Gerry Camp brought his prototype 20 string Carbon Fiber Emerald harp guitar made in Ireland.  It is virtually indestructible and we were all impressed what a good sounding instrument it was, especially plugged in or with the new Tonewood Amp attached to its back. Continue reading

“Harp Guitar In The Woods” Saturday, June 25th 6:30pm Potluck, 8pm Concert

Version 2

I will be performing an outdoor harp guitar concert in the woods at my home on top of Prospect Ridge Saturday, June 25th.  You are invited to a potluck dinner at 6:30pm where we can visit followed by an intimate concert at 8pm.  Plan to bring an entree or a dessert item.

For tickets, you may order them via PayPal to ensure a spot at one of the most exciting events of the year – trust me.

This year the music will be about the evening sky.  A special piece will be premiered at sunset titled “Harp Guitar Sunset” where I will be accompanied by several other harp guitarists attending the 9th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat.  I hope you can be a part of this special occasion.  This is not just a concert, but an experience!

17. Harp Guitar Retreat 2014 Sunset

Seating is limited (last year’s event nearly sold out!).  Admission is $30.00 per person.

To purchase tickets, use our handy PayPal ticket service to ensure a seat. Once you have secured your admission you will be sent the address and directions to the event. RSVP if you will be coming to the potluck. I hope to see you there!

John Doan

9th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat June 23rd – 26th “From Basics to Beyond”

Harp Guitar Retreat Morning Class

Harp Guitar Retreat Morning Class

The 9th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat June 23rd -26th, 2016 is a great event to learn harp guitar basics and beyond (see below for a daily itinerary, Saturday concert, testimonials, photos, fees, and registration information).

This is different than a festival environment that focuses on various performers who entertain us with their playing, this is a workshop and immersion experience with the entire emphasis placed on you and how you want to grow as a musician with a harp guitar in your arms.

You will be introduced to:

1. Various techniques and concepts of playing the harp guitar

2. Exploring ideas on how music works through hands on application and all sorts of discovery activities.

3.Composing and performing through personal coaching

4. and being inspired.

If any of the above interests you please consider reserving your place for this summer’s 9th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat held at the home of John and Deirdra Doan.  At the retreat you will have access to John’s years of experience as a pioneer of the harp guitar, an Emmy-Nominated and award winning recording and performing artist as well as a University music professor.

The setting is nothing short of breath taking with expansive westerly views of the Willamette Valley from atop a towering extinct volcanic plug that the house is built upon (the only eruptions forecasted are of music and laughter).

John Doan - living room concert - the chair awaits in his home.

It is an intimate stress-free environment with all levels of playing/performing encouraged and accepted for an educational seminar involving a very limited number of participants.

Harp Guitar Retreat 2013 BBQ7


You may come out to learn about playing the harp guitar but you will also leave with some new friends.

The retreat starts with a Thursday night dinner and informal performance for those who would like to play. The class and lessons are laid back and are aimed at working with players who have just started playing the harp guitar and with those who want to put an edge on what they already have accomplished with the instrument and their music.

Weekend morning classes begin with reviewing various exercises from the new harp guitar instruction book John Doan is preparing for publication as well as various activities playing the harp guitar by ear without the distraction of following a written page. Continue reading

New Travel Harp Guitar by Swiss Builder Lukas Brunner

Far off into the Alps of Switzerland there exists a instrument workshop where Lukas Brunner dreams up designs for harp guitars that sound as crisp as the winter air with bass notes that dip down like the deep valleys below and with super treble strings that rise up like the mountain tops.


Nestled between Swiss mountain peaks is the small village of Lavin where harp guitarists seeking shelter from the winter snow will find a warm place to sit and pluck awhile at the Brunner Guitar shop.

In my travels in Europe I have managed to make a few visits to this magical world where savory chocolate, precision clocks and fine craftsmanship are the order of the day.

Lukas Brunner and John Doan

This is where I met Lukas Brunner who makes travel harp guitars that can be transported in a small bag, placed in an overhead or beneath the seat in front of you on an airline and can be assembled in a few seconds, for the most part in tune and ready to play a concert on!

John Doan in Concert in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

John Doan in Concert in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

After having the airlines loose my Elliott/Sullivan harp guitar three times (and fortunately also finding it three times!) it became a good idea to tour with a harp guitar that comes apart, fits in a small case and can always be with me on the road or in the air.

Brunner HG in case









My good friend Philippe Fouquet and follow harp guitarist from France told me that he got a newly designed harp guitar from Lukas Brunner and raved about many improvements to this newest model and suggested that I look into getting one.

Philippe Fouquet HG (1)








I put in an order this past year and I just received the latest model of Travel harp guitar from him this week.  I am excited to share this instrument with you here and in my future concerts that I fly to.

Brunner Travel Harp Guitar

Brunner Travel Harp Guitar

It is stunning to behold.  Lukas has such a remarkable eye for design and detail.  Most notably his new design has the twenty strings centered on the body instead of running over to the treble side like my previous instrument. He achieves this with a single attachment for the guitar and bass string instead of two separate necks he used before. The black finish is exquisite and even dramatic.  This took quite a bit of extra work to achieve.

This new instrument has an evenness of tone that prevails across the entire range. He has added internal bracing this time round that helps structurally and evens out the sound quality of the soundboard.

Brunner Travel Harp Guitar close up on face

Brunner Travel Harp Guitar close up on face

There is a reverberant sound throughout and a great balance of the three pitch areas is achieved acoustically and not just by the use of a mixer.

Brunner HG 2015 Full from bass side Brunner HG 2015 Full back

Technically, the body dimensions are defined as B-medium: length: 19 1/8″ (48,6cm), 
width: 14 1/2″ (36,8cm)
, depth: 4″ (10,2cm). The overall volume and vibrancy is somewhat less than the inch larger sound box of my Elliott/Sullivan harp guitar (that also has a hollow arm under the bass) but this new smaller sound box without the hollow arm still holds its own and is quite good to play acoustically.

The Indian rosewood used for the back and sides is really beautiful and the Red Cedar top is very lively.

The bass string lengths are 30 1/2″ (774mm) while the guitar string lengths are 25 1/2″ (650mm) (both standard on Brunner harp guitars).


Brunner uses Gotoh oval chrome tuners for the super treble strings that he places on a ledge (an early innovation he debuted on his previous model).  On the bass shoulder bout can be found a sound port to give the player more sound to listen to while playing.

Brunner Harp Guitar from the Super Treble side revealing the upper sound port through the sound hole.

Brunner Harp Guitar from the Super Treble side revealing the upper sound port through the sound hole.











There were several details Lukas added to this instrument that were very brilliant like the bridge attachment not touching the face as well as being cut at an angle for a more sure fit.

Brunner HG 2015 Face close from bass








The beveled edge on the lower bass bout is beautifully done in curly Maple making it easy for the arm to rest while playing.

Brunner Harp Guitar from Bass side featuring curly Maple binding with beveled arm rest

Brunner Harp Guitar from Bass side featuring curly Maple binding with beveled arm rest










I was looking for an overall appearance of the night sky and the beveled arm rest worked in visually as a crescent moon. I love how he managed to put the inlays of evening stars at harmonic points of the string, something easily overlooked when thinking of them as ornaments.

Brunner harp guitar close up of star inlays and side sound port

Brunner harp guitar close up of star inlays and side sound port

Brunner Harp Guitar headstock

Brunner Harp Guitar headstock









The headstock is smartly designed with all the guitar tuner buttons off to the right and the bass tuners compactly set within the bass arm atop of a pillar to the far left.  My previous travel harp guitar was considerably heavier with two full necks.  The absence of the additional neck makes the instrument lighter and easier to work with.

Brunner Harp Guitar from the top down

Brunner Harp Guitar from the top down









All of these headstock tuners are locking tuners that only respond to adjustment while attached to the instrument and under pressure. This allows the tuning knobs to be knocked or turned while detached from the body without any impact on the tuning once the instrument is assembled (which only takes a few seconds to do!).  What is remarkable and has guitarists gasping is that once the guitar and bass string attachment is snapped into place the instrument is virtually in tune!

The bass tuners are more like fine tuners and generally should work best if the basses are left at the same pitch from tune to tune. The lowest E goes easy enough up a half step to F as does the B down to Bb.  I will be exploring using a lighter gauge string for the first sub bass so I can bring it up to E on occasion when I use a capo on the guitar.  I hope that works as they are so snug and low profile, which is perfect for it being a travel instrument.

Brunner HG 2015 back neck joint








The magic behind the travel harp guitar is how the guitar and bass strings come off the body.  That all starts by loosening the screw at the top of the sound box. Once loosened one very carefully presses down on the knob while holding down the neck so it comes up under control instead of quickly popping up.  With a little practice this is a smooth transition.

Brunner used good old Swiss precision tooling for the contact points that he originally worked out with his uncle who is a master tool smith.  The precision allows for stability of the instrument once assembled and as above mentioned, contributes to the instrument being in tune when put back together.

Brunner Travel Harp Guitar Close Up on Super Treble Strings

Brunner Travel Harp Guitar Close Up on Super Treble Strings

Once plugged in it sounds completely natural and will be a joy to play in concert thanks to the LR Baggs Anthem SL setup. As you look into the sound hole you can see a small dial that allows for adjusting the volume without reaching for a mixer or coordinating with the sound engineer.

In conclusion, there is so much that has gone into this newest model and I am thrilled with the results.

The overall length is shortened compared to his previous travel harp guitars which is great for travel. Brunner still managed to lengthen the super trebles a bit for a fuller tone and the sub basses still have good length to give a full tone as well.

As with his earlier model, the zero fret, the larger sound hole and the beveled arm rest work really great.

I have added a NeckUp Guitar Support for playing but it was great that I really didn’t have to have it given how the strings have been moved over to be centered on the face of the instrument.

I have a little bit of a learning curve to do to get use to the 16 fret neck versus the 21 fret of my Elliott/Sullivan harp guitar (the higher frets used mainly for indicators for locations of harmonics up the neck, but no big problem).

I am excited to bring it to your community for a future concert. This is truly a new year filled with hope and excitement for future music making.

(Special thanks to Lukas Brunner for all the fine photos of the new travel harp guitar).

Harp Guitar Reigns (Rains) at Faerieworlds

Version 2

This past weekend I had the honor of performing my harp guitar music at Faerieworlds located in the enchanting forests not far to the west of Portland.  It is here where many of the local food and craftspeople, acoustic musicians, and various woodland and not so woodland citizens congregate to celebrate the end of summer.



2. IMG_1931


The day I performed the crowds still came in spite of the rain.





Many people came to just to see old friends.


There were many colorful booths that attracted a loyal clientele.


Some people walked to the event from where they had been camping.

5bSome came on all fours.

In spite of the rain Ali Baba’s Tribal Treats always had long lines.



Faerieworlds is a great place to come to meet people you might have things in common with.


If it wasn’t sprinkles of rain there were bubbles filling the air.

I brought with me a good friend and truly awesome guitarist, Adrian Bellue who was quite busy snapping photos of the most interesting people at the festival.



I persuaded him to add to his collection of selfies a groupie of the two of us.

He brought with him a portable guitar and began to draw crowds by his amazing and unbelievably intricate playing.  Not knowing if I would be able to get the crowds attention after his impromptu performance I joked with him to take a long walk on a short peer while walking backwards!



Although I didn’t see Adrian for sometime after that I did manage to find the stage where I was to perform.

Thinking I was the only one playing a harp like instrument that afternoon I was surprised to find that there was not only one harpist but two playing right before me!


Most of the audience immediately ripped out their cell phones and began videoing the beyond amazing “Harp Twins” who are identical twins who appeared to be playing exactly what the other was playing!

Version 3

They were definitely a hard act to follow so I set out to sound like three and a third guitarists playing at once with my 20 string harp guitar.

Once Adrian discovered I was performing he stopped taking photos of his favorite subject and captured a rare moment when the audience was not either taking pictures of my playing or taking their own selfies!



After my concert set ended with a roar from the crowd Adrian and I thought to belly up to the Kombucha bar to have one last drink before hitting the road.

And those were some of my adventures at Faerieworlds. I hope you will be able to check it out next year.  You never know what will happen!

Oregon Lute Players Pluck at Potluck In Salem

I recently had the pleasure of hosting several lutenists from Oregon in my living room. I had played the lute for many years, had studied with Toyohiko Satoh, Paul O’Dette, Catherine Liddell, Robert Strizich, Donna Curry and Frank Eyler and was deeply inspired by the humanity of its music and the range of emotions it spoke through its life celebrating dances to the soulful and melancholy tinged reflections of our existence that all but entered into a sacred music. When I think of the English renaissance lute I think of plays by William Shakespeare, outdoor Renaissance Fairs, Elizabethan times filled with discovery of new foods, up to then unknown creatures, and indeed awareness of expanded worlds and religious controversies that caused us ever since to partake in extended discussions of who we are as a people and where we are going.

This weekend brought all that to life as old and new friends joined together with a common interest in the Lute.

WandervogelBut the lute has had many variants such as the Gitarrenlaute – also known a the guitar lute popular with the German Wandervogel “return to nature” movement of the early 20th century.



Phil Petrowski brought his guitar lute popularly known today as a lutar.

He objected to it being called a “guitoot”!

Lute teacher proud of great student

Mark McBurney gives an impressive performance with his proud teacher Hideki Yamaya looking on.

Ken proudly displays the baroque lute he made


Ken Wryn of Northwest Lutes proudly displays a baroque lute he made.
Hideki tries out ken's lute





Hideki tries out another of Ken’s lutes and wonders if he will go “baroque” if he bought it.



Phil and Hideki try to determine whose lute is bigger


Phil and Hideki discuss who has the biggest lute.




Bradley dares Hideki to play all three lutes at once

Bradley Wycoff shows Hideki his lute and asks if he ever played three lutes at once.

Missy and Phil sit mesmerized by the music


Missy Wryn and Phil sit mesmerized by all the lute music.



Dick laughs when Hideki says he knows a little lute music for his instrument

Dick Weleber laughs when Hideki says he knows a “little” lute music for his instrument.

Hideki proves that big music can be played on little instruments

Hideki masterfully proves that big music can be played on little instruments!

Everyone starts to dance to Hideki's Disco version of Silvius Leopold Weiss

Everyone starts to dance to Hideki’s Disco version of Silvius Leopold Weiss (just joking).

17. Hideki plays intro to Dueling Theorbos


Hideki and I discuss if there there is any extant lute duet music titled “Dueling Theorbos.” (sorry, I will try to behave myself)

John has the audience in stitches as he starts to play the lute.

John has the audience in stitches as he starts to play the lute.

John asks if Ken would donate one of his lutes to his collection.



I ask Ken if he would donate one of his lutes to my collection.



John Doan tries to convince Bradley to donate his lute to his collection.


I take a break from all the kidding around and debut a new piece I wrote for the lute.




I was very encouraged by the caring response of many who commented on the new piece.

“It was most enjoyable to listen to you play your variation on Green Sleeves.  Usually, I cringe when someone plays that tune ; I’ve heard it more than a dozen times – infinity!  Yet, you transformed Green Sleeves from a way-too-familiar tune into – no, not “into” but “down into” a shadow laden cavern where ancient rituals emerge to feed the flickering flame of wearied compassion.” Ken Wryn

I really love ken’s enthusiasm and imagination!

Your performance of the variations you composed on Greensleeves, was marvelous. I think that some of the finest music I have heard that has been composed in the past 50 years has been for guitar and now the lute!

Dick Weleber

I think in the future if I ever need encouragement, these are great folks to be around!

21. Oregon Lute players gather in my living room to share their love of music and fun conversation

It was a great afternoon of not only sharing Lute music but also enjoying each other, and that really made it all worth while.

House Concert in John Doan’s Living Room July 12, 2014

John Doan - living room concert - the chair awaits in his home.

Join John Doan and the participants of the Annual Harp Guitar Retreat 2014 for an intimate evening concert in John’s own living room. Although we have had people come from far off this is especially for those of you within driving distance of Salem, Oregon. In addition to the intimate house concert (8pm) in my own living room July 12th there will be a potluck (6:30pm) and you are invited! Enjoy visiting with John Doan and other guests while taking in the amazing vistas from his mountain top home.

For tickets, use the paypal link below. Please do not use the comment form to request tickets.

Once you have secured your admission I will send you a confirmation with my address and directions to the event. RSVP if you will be coming to the potluck.

John Doan plays in a home concert with the harpolyre guitar.

John Will play a variety of instruments that he ordinarily could not bring on tour. Past living room concerts have drawn people from as far away as California, Washington and Pennsylvania!

Potluck outdoors at John Doan home summer concert.

John Doan Living Room Concert in Your Own Living Room

If you have any concert venue suggestions, contacts, or would like to have me in your own living room for a house concert, please Contact me.

John Doan living room concert in his home.



John Doan a pioneer of the twenty-string harp guitar. He is also an Emmy-nominated performer, composer, public speaker, historian, instrument collector, and university professor. Upcoming concerts are listed in the calendar and news, updates, and articles can be found on John’s blog.

John Doan performs internationally on stage and at fairs and festivals, dazzling audiences with the harp guitar and other multiple stringed instruments. Upcoming concerts include:

John Doan Victorian Chirstmas ConcertsJohn Doan’s Victorian Christmas Concert tour is lining up for winter 2012. Concerts in Arizona and Oregon are confirmed. Stay tuned for more news or subscribe to the site or email alerts to be notified of upcoming concerts.

To listen to samples of John Doan’s music and buy CDs, visit the Discography pages where CDs, DVDs, Sampler Releases, and Sheet Music.

John Doan Harp Guitar RetreatJohn Doan offers group, private, and college courses on the harp guitar, multiple string instruments, history of music, and more. The annual Harp Guitar Retreat in his home in Salem, Oregon, is every July. This year’s Harp Guitar Retreat is Fifth Annual Harp Guitar Retreat July 6-8, 2012, and registration is now open.

Contact John Doan for more information on performances, speaking, and concerts, or if you have questions about the annual Harp Guitar Retreat.

To learn more about John Doan, check out his blog, biography, read press reviews of concerts and recordings, watch videos, view a gallery of fascinating string instruments from around the world and throughout history, many of them from John’s collection.

John Doan on the Harpolyre – Three-Necked Harp Guitar

john Doan Primal Twang Harpolyre  - Photo, Erin Fitzgerald Taylor GuitarsMy YouTube videos playing the harpolyre continue to get a lot of attention, and I wanted to share with you a little of the backstory of this amazing three-necked harp guitar.

In an effort to bring history to the harp guitar I discovered ten works for the harpolyre written by Fernando Sor, known as the Father of the Classical Guitar. The amazing thing about these compositions is not only are they extremely tender and lyric pieces, but they had never been played since 1830 and perhaps have never actually been heard in public until my recording “The Lost Music of Fernando Sor” along with my live performances and YouTube videos. I felt like Indiana Jones uncovering this forgotten music for a forgotten instrument.

I ordered the microfilm of this music in 1977 from the La Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) and with this extremely rare and beautiful music in my hands, I could only dream of finding one of a handful of existing harpolyres upon which to really recreate these beautiful musical pieces. After thirty years of the hunt, I was blessed to find a circa 1830 harpolyre that had been restored to near pristine condition.

Continue reading

Fifth Annual Harp Guitar Retreat July 6-8, 2012

John Doan Harp Guitar Retreat Harpolyre Lessons

John Doan teaches the first harpolyre lesson in nearly 200 years at his Annual Harp Guitar Retreat

The 5th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat is set for July 6-8, 2012, in my home in Salem, Oregon.

If you are not familiar with the Harp Guitar Retreat, it is an intimate and stress-free environment where harp guitar aficionados gather for a weekend retreat for harp guitar all the way all the time.

The weekend includes instruction and inspiration on harp guitar playing skills. I’m available to the students throughout the entire weekend to work with them privately or in groups on the art of the harp guitar. Instruments are available on site for practice and experimenting with the different types of harp guitars. We keep the educational seminar limited to five to seven participants for in depth study and exploration of the guitar.

The schedule includes two daily group sessions and a half hour private session, an evening concert on Friday and Saturday, with an optional participant concert Sunday night. Fees include meals, lodging, private and group sessions, and concerts. Spouses and guests are also welcome to join us, and there are many things for them to do as well as you including hiking, tax free shopping, local wine tasting, hot tub, trampoline, and wireless Internet. It’s a lovely part of the state and there is so much to see and do, or you can just enjoy the beautiful mountain top view of the area and relax reading or napping in the garden.

Participants Fee: $685
Includes four nights stay, three private sessions, six group sessions, meals, evening -presentations, and various incidentals.

Additional guests Fee: $250
Includes four nights stay, meals, evening presentations, and various incidentals.

For a registration form or more information, see the Annual Harp Guitar Retreat page, call or write:

PO Box 5081, Salem, OR 97304