5/07/2011

c.1930 Hawaiian Tremeloa


While this bizarre instrument has a different maker's name on it, this was made in the Oscar Schmidt building on Ferry St in Jersey City, and is very similar to their umpteen-zillion various peculiar zither instruments. This one is sort of like an autoharp plus Hawaiian lap guitar...

On the "left" facing the player is a bank of chords: C, G, F, D -- and by various picking you can get alterations on these chords if you really want to.

On the "right" is one string with this gizmo with a hinge, spring, and combined with a rolling "steel" and self-contained thumb/fingerpick -- that allows you to do lap guitar style slides while picking with the same hand.


This instrument came with its original sales box, a bunch of sheet music, instruction manual, tuning key, spare string, and various other materials including an article clipped from an antiques rag with a photo and description of the instrument.


This would have been a typical door-to-door salesman instrument, and these were made from the late teens into the 30s/early 40s I believe. With a slight amount of effort, I found that I could figure out how to play the instrument decently, so it's really not as difficult as it looks.

However, coming from a fretted instrument perspective, it feels quite awkward to pick chords with the left hand.


The price, new, was something like $30-35, which at the time was a considerable chunk of change!

What's really cool about this example is that it has all of its original hardware, strings, and fittings, and is in really great shape. I see these from time to time but never in such good condition and with lots of music, instruction, tuner key, etc. along with it.







Picks for the left hand and also the tuning key.

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