Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 12:00 AM PST

"The Bandura of the 21st Century"

This May John will be performing concerts in Ukraine with Jay Buckey and singers Alla and Peter.

Jay Bucky Harp Guitar

John is honored to follow Jay Buckey who will perform solo on harp guitar and then accompany wonderful Ukrainian singers Alla and Peter.

Alla Ukraine

Peter Ukraine

John will be debuting the 20 string harp guitar in the Ukraine, a country famous for its national instrument the Bandura which bares numerous similarities to John's harp guitar.


It will be announced that Jay Buckey music in cooperation with Trembita instrument factory of L'viv will be the first company to manufacture this version of the harp guitar worldwide.

Elliott.Sullivan hg close

Some are saying that perhaps this modern 21 string harp guitar will be the Bandura of the 21st century!
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 12:00 AM PST

Harp Guitar Retreat July 6th-8th

Group Time
5th Annual Harp Guitar Retreat: This July 6-8, 2012 there will be a harp guitar retreat at the Oregon home of John and Deirdra Doan. It is an intimate stress-free environment with all levels of playing/performing encouraged and accepted for an educational seminar limited to five to seven participants.

The event emphasizes instruction and inspiration for those wanting to improve their harp guitar playing skills in a hands-on environment. Instruction will address playing harp guitars with sub-basses only as well as harp guitars with sub-basses and super-trebles. There will be several harp guitars available to use if you don't have a harp guitar or would have trouble bringing one to the seminar (see below a listing of instruments available). There will be private and group lessons, intimate concerts, and lots of kick back and practice time to suit your interests.

Instruction: Instruction will include two daily group sessions and a half hour private session. John Doan will perform an evening concert on Friday and Saturday and the participants may perform on Sunday evening if there is interest.

Location: Spend a weekend on retreat at the home of John and Deirdra Doan nestled near the summit of Croisan Ridge in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley. The location is simply breathtaking which explains why Oregon is a very popular summer vacation destination. The 180 degree westerly views of green rugged forests, sprawling farmlands, and distant coastal mountains will serve as a backdrop to the morning and afternoon private and group sessions which will focus on harp guitar fingerboard and string theory, performance issues, music composition, and just having fun. All lodging and meals are on site and included with registration. The site is approximately one hour from the Portland International Airport with local bus and train service fifteen minutes away in Salem. There is a bus service direct from the airport to downtown Salem where you can be picked up or you can elect to rent a car for greater freedom to explore the area.

Instruments available on site: There will be six harp guitars on site for your use if you do not have one of your own to bring to the seminar.

These include:
6 sub-bass 1906 Gibson harp guitar
6 sub-bass 1920 Dyer harp guitar
5 sub-bass/7 super-treble 1897 knutsen harp guitar
7 sub-bass/8 super-treble Milburn harp guitar
6 sub-bass/8 super-treble Brunner collapsible travel harp guitar
6 sub-bass/8 super-treble Sullivan/Elliot harp guitar.

Incidental Activities: There is plenty of hiking trails, tax free shopping, local wine tasting, on site hot tub, trampoline, and wireless internet. The site is central and about one hour away from the Oregon Coast, the high desert of Bend, and the cities of Portland and Eugene. In between classes and private lessons there will be time to just relax, practice, read, explore the area, or casually visit with other harp guitarists.

Space is limited: Retreats are limited from five to seven participants and their guests. Spouses, friends, or family attend at a reduced rate. If needed an additional weekend retreat will be scheduled to accommodate more participants.

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 call or write:
PO Box 5081, Salem, OR 97304

Testimonials from the previous class:

"Thanks for the extravagant hospitality and the wonderfully constructed program for harp guitar players and those wishing to learn. The whole retreat is simply an immersion in how to live the harp guitar. More than a teaching, learning experience it was more like living in harp guitar dreamtime. You both live what it means to be true servant leaders and friends to all. My life has been enriched. And as for the other sojourners on this journey I was fortunate to meet at the retreat; you are my sisters and brothers for life now."

Bob Gilfert

"Obtaining a harp guitar is the first step. The second step is to find someone to teach you the rudimentary techniques of the instrument. The third step is to establish a network of fellow players. John Doan offers his home and expertise every year to help players advance through these first three steps.

I can think of no better way to begin your journey then to immerse yourself for three days at John Doan's harp guitar retreat. Personal lessons geared to your personal needs, seminar sessions where you share frustrations and gain inspiration, fellowship and jam throughout the day in a setting of nature that has few equals, these all contribute to a rejuvenating and inspirational experience that I wish more could share. The focus is the harp guitar, but really, it's all about the music."

Jerry Camp

"I am really glad I had the opportunity to go to the Harp Guitar Retreat. I've been thinking how best to describe my experience. Before I went, it was like I had an unbuilt model car on my hobby table, with no glue and no instructions. I had a hood, axle, doors, but I didn't know how to put them together to make a car. The Retreat gave me the instructions and the glue. I've been teaching myself theory, so I know about modes, building chords, keys. In our Church group, I regularly use alternate bass as well as walking bass lines. You can see that I've also incorporated them into "Attaklet of the Katlets" (alternate bass) and "Puttin on the Ritz" (my arrangement had the walking bass - the original score doesn't). But, my problem was putting everything together. My rock guitar background taught me to use 5 and 6 string chords which may or may not be useful in fingerstyle. You showed me the multiple voices of 3 string chords with open strings, very useful for fingerstyle. You described the aural and emotion effects of sub-basses and super-trebles, which will help me considerably in my composing and arranging. You provided exercises and philosophies for learning my way around the harp guitar. In my opinion, those three days provided me with an extremely strong foundation with which to build a musical career. I can't thank you enough for everything that you provided. You gave me the instructions, and the glue."

Norm LeDonne Jr.

"I had a lot of fun at the retreat last weekend. It was great to learn about the Harp Guitar in a group setting as well as have some one on one time for some of the specifics. I really loved how organized everything was and the fact I had handouts to take home with me. I have plenty of things to work on now. By the way, Deidra is a great cook! Thank you for lovely weekend."

Melissa Ferrell-Young

"John Doan’s harpguitar retreat was all and more than I had anticipated! I learned what I needed to get started with my new harp guitar, and I had a wonderful time getting to know John and Dierdra and all my fellow students! Each class touched on specific techniques for getting around on the harp guitar, some chord theory, and a bit of sound advice on the business end of music. We each had our private session in the afternoons and John was able to switch gears to work with each of us where we were at â€" his energy and stamina was inspiring and very much appreciated! The setting was stunning with views of the Willamette Valley -- and I got to stay in the magical music room with instruments that have been around for centuries. I hope to attend again next year!"

Verlene Schermer

"I had a great time at the Harp Guitar Retreat this year. This was the third time I've attended and there is always something new and exciting to explore. John and Deirdra are wonderful hosts and it is always fun to meet new students. There is always a large assortment of instruments to see and try out at your leisure. I highly recommend this retreat to anyone interested in the harp guitar or the history of the guitar in general."

Nick Vest

To see photos of the 2010 Harp Guitar Retreat as well as previous years click here and then click on a photo to see a slide show.
Sunday, June 20th, 2010 12:00 AM PDT

Interview: Florence Italy 2010

Six Bar Jail GroupThese are my good friends from Italy. Their passion for the guitar "imprisons" them hence they call their guitar club "Six Bars Jail"!

John Doan Celtic Pilgrimage Italy

Following is an interview they published after my visit and concert in Rigomagno - a thousand year old hilltop village in Tuscany.

1) We are curious to know how it all began: it's such a peculiar instrument, how did you get interested in the harp-guitar?

In a world increasingly filled with machine made things that are all made the same I have found it refreshing to celebrate the unusual. I grew up in Venice, California in the United States - a place inspired by Venezia in Italy. I guess beauty and the unusual seemed to go together in my youth and while in my teens I played the 12 string guitar and a double neck electric in a rock band. Later, while studying music at a university I was introduced to classical guitar. I really enjoyed the music for the lute and was amazed at the sound of its many strings. When I later found a century old harp guitar on the back wall of a music store it called to me with its beautiful shape and unusual collection of extra strings. I was achingly curious and wanted to transform its silence and neglect into something alive and vibrant. It was and continues to be an adventure to play music on the harp guitar.

2) What's the origin of the harp-guitar? And what about your instrument? Did you have it built especially for you? In this case, where did you find the model? Is it an original model you designed?

The harp guitar in America was first popular from the 1890's through the 1920's. People played them in mandolin orchestras, vaudeville shows, and in their parlors. In Europe the harp guitar was becoming popular as early as the 1840's and grew in popularity up through the early 1900's especially in Germany and in Italy. Pasquale Taraffo is one of the great Italian masters of the instrument in the early 20th century. To learn more about this amazing player from your own history go to

Regarding my instrument, I commissioned it in 1986 from John Sullivan with oversight and design by Jeffrey Elliott of Portland, Oregon. Jeffrey had made guitars for Julian Bream, Ralph Towner, etc. and I was excited to see how he would approach the challenges of so many strings and meet my requirements of evenness of tone using steel strings. Although based on the Knutsen, Dyer, and Gibson harp guitars from a century earlier it was completely redesigned to be a master instrument that would sound evenly across all its range (like the piano). It is considered the "first modern harp guitar" of our times. Scores of copies have been made and it was recently on the cover of the magazine "American Lutherie" The plans have just been published and can be purchased at

3) Talking about technique what's the difference between the traditional 6 string guitar and this 20 string guitar? Is there any literature available for someone who would like to approach this instrument or "do it yourself" is the only way?

The twenty-string version of the harp guitar that I play is very much a guitar but with additional strings to either side. Whatever technique you are comfortable with on the guitar you can use on the central guitar neck. I have found using lute technique for my right hand useful where instead of lining up my nuckles with the strings I almost line up my fingers to the strings. It allows me greater reaching to the basses and super-trebles and it brings a warmer sound to the plucked string.

Regarding learning the harp guitar, I host a Harp Guitar Retreat at my house in July each year where people from all over the world come to study (to learn more go to I have various exercises with scales, intervals and chord voicings that I teach. I also have scores of my music I have recorded over the years available if anyone wishes to write me to inquire about them: I also have a DVD available titled "In Search of the Harp Guitar" that shows the history, makers, and players of the instrument (Go to to order a copy).

Basically, just pick up a harp guitar and have fun. Play it anyway you would like and explore a world where you are washed over with sound.

4) About interpretation: what kind of music can you play on this instrument? The harp guitar seems just designed for Celtic music but we've listened to your astonishing version of Purple Haze, can you play anything with the harp-guitar?

I play a variety of styles of music on the harp guitar - basically any style that is played on the guitar. The harp guitar will give you more resonance, range, and facility. What guitarists usually don't think about is that on the guitar you have to do two things to get one note - pluck with the right hand and finger with the left. On the harp guitar you can simply pluck on open bass or super-treble and your left hand is free to play anything on the fingerboard without having to be locked into a position to hold down a bass note or hold a melody note when the bass and harmonies could be changing on the guitar. I love fingerstyle, classical, rock, Irish, etc, and sometimes combine styles to say something I imagine musically.

5) By the way, talking about Irish music, at your concert we noticed that you not only are an expert in Irish music but also in Celtic culture and traditions (NdT: poor Pierangelo had to translate all those legends for you). Where does this come from? Are you of Celtic origin?

I try to be a musician first and guitarist or harp guitarist second. I think that music has meaning and so I often find myself writing about what stirs my heart and soul while trying to make sense of the world around me. I tend to develop musical works around a concept so my recordings are not just a collection of guitar pieces but are an attempt at understanding something.

My Christmas CD "Wrapped in White" tries to breath new life into old carols using dozens of century old instruments in new arrangements and medleys often scored for chamber orchestra and small ensembles. The television show that features this music "A Victorian Christmas with John Doan" was nominated for "Best Entertainment Special of the Year" (The DVD is available at In this program I try to recreate a time when people actually entertained themselves and each other before machines did that for us. It is often a revelation to the audience that we are less and less actively living our own lives but instead watching others doing things in movies, sporting events, at concerts, etc.

My Irish recordings "Eire - Isle of the Saints" (won best Celtic Album of the Year) and "Wayfarer" are musical sketches I made on location through Ireland and the greater British Isles chronicling the life and times of St. Patrick. The history of the places I wrote music about was so compelling that I found myself wanting to reenact the storytelling tradition of the old Irish Bards in my concerts. This all brings the music to life and helps audiences follow and learn from its meaning.

Regarding my Celtic origins, I definitely have some Irish in me. My name Doan comes from one of six early Celtic place names "Dun" meaning hill fort. Perhaps that is why I felt so at home at the hill fort of Rigomango (actually I think it was the wonderful and warm Etruscan people who made me fall in love with your hill town).

6) The last question: what are your plans for the future, any new musical project?

In an effort to bring history to the harp guitar I discovered ten works for the harpolyre written by Fernando Sor (aka. the "Father of the Classical Guitar"). The amazing thing about them is not only are they extremely tender and lyric pieces but they have never been played in public since 1830 (to see a video of me playing one of these pieces on the three necked harpolyre go to: I felt like Indiana Jones uncovering this forgotten music for a forgotten instrument (Go to to order a CD of this music).

I have since gotten into Sor's music and have found the instrument Sor supervised being made in London in1819 as a copy of his personal concert guitar and have written a tribute album to him on this instrument using his musical language so that I am in conversation with him over the centuries. It is very romantic and some of the most delicate music I have written to date. After this project I will finish an album titled "Icons of the Sixties" where I will include harp guitar versions of Hendrix, Morrison, McCartney, etc.
Thursday, May 20th, 2010 12:00 AM PDT

Harp Guitar Festival

Gathering #3 Poster_resizedPhoto by Noe.

In 2005 I hosted the third International Harp Guitar Festival (Sept. 3-4) at Willamette University where I am a professor of music. the event managed to attract a large crowd consisting of many students, faculty and staff, and members of the community nearly filling Hudson Hall for the evening concert.

We had just over 71 people attending the workshops and presentations from 4 countries and 14 states. Over a dozen harp guitarists came to perform (and I might add mystified the audience with their playing), an equal number of noted luthiers discussed their latest designs, along with three published scholars who made presentations of their research. The stage in Hudson was an absolute spectacle displaying 65 antique to modern harp guitars (a display the first of it's kind). This was largely due to the temporary loan of two crates of rare instruments shipped up from Los Angeles from the Miner Museum.

It is a humble group that has grown in numbers over the years and promises to continue to evolve. Go to for information on the next Gathering.

For comments and photos about this amazing event go to

To see pictures of event workshops and concerts go to
Friday, November 30th, 2007 12:00 AM PST

Primal Twang - The Legacy of the Guitar

John with arm over at Primal Twang

I was asked by Dan Crary (a giant in the flatpicking world) to be in his production titled "Primal Twang - the Legacy of the Guitar" that took place in San Diego. It was wonderfully produced by Adams Entertainment. The program consisted of a series of concerts that were videoed by numerous cameras; an ongoing multimedia presentation on a huge overhead screen reviewing guitars and their players from across the centuries; Dan brilliantly moderating this history with cameos of his own backed by a stage band of amazing guitar aces (Dennis Caplinger who can play anything effortlessly, Jon Walmsley who stole the show several times, Fred Benedetti and George Svoboda were all over their guitars with flamenco, classical, etc, and Raul Reynoso whose jazz styling was tops); and last but by no means least, featuring a virtual who's who in the guitar world throughout the program. Needless to say most all shows were sold out!

The guitarists featured along with Dan Crary were the legendary Doc and Richard Watson, Mason Williams, Beppe Gambetta, Andrew York, Peter Sprague, Eric Johnson, Doyle Dykes, Albert Lee, and yours truly. The concerts themselves were tremendous with special lighting, smoke machines, and three twelve foot banners to either side of the stage displaying famous guitars one of which was a Dyer style #8 harp guitar. Imagine hearing the story of the guitar's history and the harp guitar is prominently represented and pictured on one of the six banners!

Dan had Billy Oskay produce several of his albums and was blown away by the award winning productions I had recorded with Billy. We had talked off and on over the years and last December he came by my house in Oregon to talk about harp guitars. What was suppose to be an hour look at harp guitars turned into an entire day! Dan plans to order a custom built harp guitar in the near future. All I can say is watch out when he does! He had been so impressed with the instrument that he wrote it into his production and asked me if I would come and play a few numbers to show it off. He also featured Beppe Gambetta on harp guitar the first night and he was truly amazing!

What really overwhelmed me was all the playing that was happening back stage and in the dressing rooms. I shared a dressing room with Mason Williams who is already a big fan of the harp guitar (he came to HGGIII in Salem last year). After one of my sets I came downstairs to put the harp guitar away and saw Doc and Richard Watson alone in their dressing room. I introduced myself and mentioned that Doc should try my twenty-string harp guitar sometime and he said that he would really like to do that. So I brought him the instrument and he instantly began to find his way around all the strings. He was playing up a storm on the guitar while finding a bass or super-treble to blend into the menagerie of notes filling the room. A couple of times he stopped to ask "where do you get one of these things?" Richard appeared to wait patiently for Grandpa to finish his harp guitar breakdown so he could get his hands on it. Moments later Richard kept saying "I am going to get one of these things" in between various scales and assorted arpeggios. I asked if I could play them a tune to show off some of the possibilities of the instrument and Richard reluctantly loosened his grip and handed it back to me. I played "Old Church" (a collection of hymns) and when I finished Doc turned to me and said,"Why, I can't tell you where I have been for the last few minutes. That is some beautiful music and one great instrument you've got there." While all this was happening one of the film crew had ventured in and filmed some of Doc playing the harp guitar. I am looking into trying to get a copy of the footage.

Eric Johnson is a fabulous guitarist that takes lead playing to another level. He was very interested in the harp guitar and enjoyed some of its expanded range and resonance. He says that he occasionally does acoustic sets and was thinking about how cool the harp guitar might be for that. He appeared lost to this world as he put it through its paces. We got a picture taken when we were wailing on a duet together on one harp guitar! All the players were not only great players but great people as well. Andew York, Peter Spraque, Doyle Dykes, and Albert Lee were also very supportive of the harp guitar and the music I played.

Because the event was about the history of the guitar I also brought a star studded three necked harpolyre to the event and played a piece written for the instrument by Fernando Sor. This was the first time this music has been heard in public for over 175 years! The audience seemed very moved by it and the harp guitar so much so that I was almost out of CD's by the second night. What I played was so different than the others that lots of people came up to me to tell me of their enthusiasm for the music. They all wanted to know more about how is it tuned, what is it's history, and more about my music and recordings.

All in all, this was a great program. Look for "Primal Twang" to be available in 2007 on DVD and possibly aired on PBS. Also a tour of the live show is in the works for next year. I will keep you posted about concert locations and broadcast air times.

For photos go to

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