Harper Basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 5s_tring freak, Mar 19, 2002.

  1. I was just wondering if anyone had played a custom Harper Bass or if anyone owned one?

    I think Mr Harper might be Australian and runs a very small business.Anywayz, I had the opportunity to play one today.

    This was the most beautiful bass I have ever touched/played/laid my eyes on in my life. I was a five string bass, with a wonderfully carved/sculpted body which was carved slightly inwards. It had 2 EMG pickups in them (if I knew exactly what they were i would tell you), and between the neck, pickups and bridge, was scallopped (kinda like the frets on Yngwie Malmsteens guitars and maybe one of Mark King's basses, but I dont know for sure).
    The carved top was made of 3 different woods, but I have no idea what they were. (neither did the shop guy cos so little is known about the actual luthier).
    The fretboards I think was Ebony with block inlays and was the fastest I have ever played, even though it was about a wide as a large necked Warwick.

    I have to say that this bass sounded and played like a dream. I was playing thru a crappy little Jansen practice amp, and it sounded so wonderful. I can only imagine how much better it will sound thru a nice big rig! It had so much thump to it and sounded like a Stingray but 10 times better IMO.

    It was the first thing I noticed when I entered the shop and I was the first person to play it in NZ cos it only arrived in the country yesterday.

    Any Aussie dudes know anything about this luthier?

    Oh yeah, for all the New Zealanders, you can see/play this bass at "Bungalow Bills" in Auckland. Bill has it priced at about $3000 right now, but its worth $6000 Australian dollars! Talk about the bargain of the century!!! I would glady pay $6000 if i had the money.......
  2. Has ANYONE heard of these basses?
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Never heard of 'em and couldn't find anything on the net.

    Got any pics?
  4. Unfortunately no pics. Anyway, the best picture would not do the bass justice. I have never seen such a beuatiful creation in my life
  5. I own a Harper, but the Harper I'm refering to was made by Jon Harper, from California... not from down under.

    I'd put up pics, but alas, I have none available at present. If anyone really wants to see the beast, PM me.

    The bass is transparent crimson over AAAAA quilt maple top on a swamp ash body..natural "binding" on the upper laminated side, black on the back and sides. Tung oiled Birdseye maple neck w/ AAAAA quilt maple FB. I had it custom built back in 2000 when I was going through an impulsive phase and thought I just *had* to have a custom bass to fulfill my needs. It's possibly looking for a new home, but I'm anticipating a long wait for an interested buyer due to a AAA flame maple band logo inlay which I had done on the body and which would probably only endear it to a few.. those being fans of Blue Oyster Cult.. a band Harper builds guitars for on a custom basis. While the "kronos" inlay looks very nice, it was one of the many mistakes I made in ordering this bass, unfortunately... it really limits the resale options.

    The bass itself is beautiful to look at, but I'm not prone to playing it often. It just hasn't proved itself to be superior in the playing comfort aspect when compared to the other off-the-rack basses in my collection. Sonically, it does a wonderful job. Everyone I've ever heard remarks from loves the look AND tone of the bass.

    The actual playability is OK, but nothing to write home to mom about. I'd asked for a 14" radius neck with a flattened back profile.. what I got is more along the lines of a flat back and front of the neck with beveled edges at about a 45 degree angle. Feels nice, but definitely different from what most people would consider correct, but is quite comfortable after a little getting used to. The fretwork is flawless and the action is very stable, regardless of the weather (Ohio weather stinks, yk?).

    The body is too small for my liking, which again is my own fault...Jon built it based on the size of a guitar body style he makes, but didn't compensate for the longer neck. Mistake on his part???
    I play with the bass strapped on pretty high, so it's a goodly stretch out to the 1st fret. Naturally, it also neck-dives when strapped on at that height, but balances fine if strapped lower. It's fine if I play it sitting down.

    Tonally, it's a great instrument.. it has a pair of EMG DC 45s and the EMG 3 way (sweepable mids) 18 volt electronics. It definitely has it's own voice, which I really and truly love.. other opinions from anti-EMG people may vary. It sounds lovely plugged in or not.

    The finish was very nice out of the case, but then again, Harper didn't do the actual finish work.. he farmed that out. There was a bit of tape residue left on the bridge which has resisted my many attempts at removal. I haven't wanted to use any chemicals due to the possibility of damaging the black gloss on the bridge itself, so I've just dealt with what remains of it as it slowly wears off.

    I didn't have any real trouble in dealing with Jon Harper, but the bass was promised in 2 months, which turned into 10 months, due to repeated inexplicable delays... presumably as he worked on guitars for high-profile customers. One excuse for the delay came in the form of waiting for his case supplier to finish the custom case, which shouldn't have been a problem.. the bass's shape is very close to that of a standard J, but a little more rounded at the horns. At any rate, the aforementioned case was very poorly made and wasn't actually form-fit, so the point of it being custom was moot. I'd have been better off just ordering a gig-bag and saving myself some $$$ since the case was non-returnable.

    In the end, Jon built me what I wanted to *see* myself playing at the time. I should have known better since I've been playing for 25+ years. I think of it as my midlife crisis bass. It's a sad case of someone ordering a custom bass, but not adequately making his needs known to the luthier in question... and of not being willing to deal after the fact with someone who hadn't actually produced what had been requested in the first place...there were more discrepancies I see no need to bring up, as they are inconsequential after the fact. Sometimes it's just easier to eat a loss than fight with someone who is known for not being easy to deal with after the sale.. another sad fact learned too late in the process. And last I'd heard, Jon was taking a break from luthiery for a while... citing what a pain it is dealing with a not always appreciative consumer base. Apparently someone else made their complaints known to him, even if I resisted the urge knowing I'd created my own monster... and would have to eat the berry myself because of it.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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