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NMM 10811.  Electric guitar by Vivi-Tone Company, Kalamazoo, Michigan, ca. 1934-1935.
Serial number 300.  Ex coll.:  Dennis E. Hartnett, New York.
Arne B. and Jeanne F. Larson Fund, 2004.

Front of Loar electric guitar Bass side of Loar electric guitar Back of Loar electric guitar

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Back of electric guitar

This guitar is based on Loar's U. S. Pat. 2,020,557 (filed 1934, awarded 1935), in which electric amplification is combined with an acoustic guitar body. The design offered a player the option of switching between electric and acoustic amplification, or combining both, with metal posts through the bridge that transfers vibrations from the strings to the bar-armature. With the posts raised, the bridge comes in contact with the soundboard for exclusively acoustic amplification; with the posts lowered to contact the metal bar-armature, both acoustic and electric amplification is engaged, and with the posts lowered completely, the bridge is lifted off of the soundboard and supported only by the bar-armature for exclusively electric amplification. The back of the guitar, made from arched spruce, with two f-shaped soundholes, incorporates another of Loar's ideas, covered more extensively in U. S. Pat. 2,046,331 (filed in 1934 but awarded in 1936), to use the back of the instrument as a second soundboard by transferring bridge pressure from the top.

Though Dennis Hartnett took good care of his ViVi-Tone instruments (mandola NMM 10809, mandocello NMM 10810, and this guitar), all three show signs of extensive use. Indentations on the bar-armature and wear to the screw-ends of the posts on the guitar pickup indicate that Hartnett also used the instrument for electric-only amplification, in addition to the electric/acoustic set up in which he left it. Hartnett's guitar is preserved with an amplifier (NMM 10812) by Webster Electric Company of Racine, Wisconsin, and an accompanying foot pedal.

Front of peghead
Back of peghead

Inscriptions:  Light blue paper label with single-line border, affixed to pickup unit, visible through back bass f-hole, the model and serial number written in pencil: Vivi Tone Guitar / PATENT APPLIED FOR / No. 300 / Manufactured By / Vivi Tone Company / Kalamazoo, Michigan
Spray painted in black ink on head, the word "Tone" reading vertically: ViVi / ▲ Tone
Cast into tailpiece, the word "Tone" reading vertically: Vi Vi / Tone
Stamp on tuner plates: GROVER

Body:  Soundboard:  two-piece spruce: medium grain broadening toward the flanks. Back: two-piece spruce: fine grain on bass side broadening to medium at the flank, wide grain on treble side; slightly arched; two f-holes; recessed 11 mm from edge of ribs. Ribs: 7-ply plywood, the outer layer birch, the inner layers mahogany, the outer veneer layer grain running perpendicular to plane of top and back; panel on bass side with nickel-plated steel plug; slides out for access to pickup unit. Head: mahogany veneered with white celluloid on both faces. Neck: mahogany; integral with head; rosewood stripe.

Neck heel

Inlay:  Binding: white celluloid; black and white celluloid strips on inside edge of binding; on top only. Soundhole: three conjoined circles in top where bridge feet rest on bar-armature; two f-holes on back. Back stripe: none. End graft: none.


Trim:  Heel cap: ebony. Fingerboard: ebony bound in white celluloid with scalloped lower end; 24 frets under A and D, 21 nickel-silver frets under G and C; single abalone dots behind 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th (slightly larger), and 15th frets; double mother-of-pearl dots behind 12th fret. Nut: bone. Bridge: mahogany capped with ebony; nickel-silver-plated steel screws to adjust bridge height and pickup contact. Tuners: six nickel-plated steel, worm-gear machine tuners by Grover with convex head surfaces and decoratively cut plate outline. Endpin: black bakelite; extends through tailpiece. Pick guard: imitation tortoise shell plastic raised on wood brace affixed to top with two steel dome-headed screws. Lacquer: dark orange-brown sunburst.

Total guitar length:  983 mm (38-11/16″)
Back length (including ribs):  464 mm (18-1/4″)
Upper bout width:  247 mm (9-23/32″)
Waist width:  199 mm (7-27/32″)
Lower bout width:  331 mm (13″)
Rib height (including edging) at heel:  95 mm (3-3/4″)
Rib height, at waist:  95 mm (3-3/4″)
Rib height, at end block:  95 mm (3-3/4″)
Head length:  177 mm (6-31/32″)
Head width, top:  64 mm (2-1/2″)
Head width, bottom:  67 mm (2-5/8″)
Neck length (nut to ribs):  342 mm (13-15/32″)
Neck width, nut:  47 mm (1-7/8″)
Neck width, heel:  60 mm (2-3/8″)
Soundhole height:  38 mm (1-1/2″)
Soundhole width:  94 mm (3-11/16″)
Vibrating string length (nut to bridge edge):  high E: 617 mm (24-9/32″); low E: 625 mm (24-5/8″)


Arian Sheets, "Lloyd Loar's Other Instruments . . . Four Rarities from the Workshop of an Electroacoustic Pioneer," National Music Museum Newsletter, Vol. 32, No. 1, (February 2005), pp. 1-3.

Return to Checklist of Instruments Designed by Lloyd Loar

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