Deagan Vibraharps


Deagan "Diana" Model 45
catalog photo

The vibraharp or vibraphone is the most recently developed mallet percussion instrument, yet it can claim more world-renown artists, more abundant recordings, and wider recognition by the general public than any other mallet instrument. Of wholly American origin, it evolved in differing designs under the creative influence of two inventive and prolific German instrument designers employed by competing percussion instrument manufacturers. Development in different stages by separate companies gave rise to a duality in names that still persists. Both vibraharp (Deagan) and vibraphone (Leedy) are trade names coined by the original manufacturers; the generic vibes was adopted by a major manufacturer (Musser) later because of wide currency among players and writers. Variant trade names subsequently used by other firms such as vibra-bells, vibraceleste, and harpaphone were shortlived.

Beginning about 1916, Herman Winterhoff of the Leedy Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis experimented off and on with a variety of motor-mechanical arrangements in his quest for a vox humana or tremolo effect from the bars of a three-octave F-F steel marimba, a novelty vaudeville instrument with thin, steel tone bars mounted to the keybed on tapered felt strips. He succeeded in 1922 by mounting a motor on the frame at the narrow end beneath the bars to drive dual shafts fitted with metal discs centered in the tops of each resonator tube. As the discs (pulsators) revolved in the resonator columns under sounding bars, a tonal phase shift was created resembling a vibrato.

The previous April, in Chicago, the vibraharp had been introduced by J. C. Deagan Inc., a firm then in its 47th year of development and manufacturer of mallet instruments and organ percussions and the originator of the steel marimba many years earlier. The Deagan Vibraharp was developed by Chief Engineer Henry J. Schluter, who conceived the design as an entirely new mallet instrument, not a modification of an existing design.

The so-called Model 145 already possessed all the properties of a fully developed Vibraharp: its 1.2 cm thick aluminum bars were held in place by a thread, tuned to equal temperament and had a range of F3 F6; it had a damper pedal and adjustable vibration speed. This model served as the blueprint for all subsequent instruments. The basic features of the Vibraharp have remained unchanged since about 1927; any modifications have been principally of the size and weight. Different sized instruments were constructed, for example smaller models which were easier to transport. The new instrument rapidly gained popularity as band leaders and percussionists used it increasingly as the lead voice in their ensembles.



Deagan Vibraharps

Instrument Model Number Name Octaves & Range Bar Size Date Built Notes
Vibraharp 145 Concert 3 F-F 1927-39
Vibraharp 145B Concert 3 F-F 1927-39 Brass Resonators
Vibraharp 145C Concert 3 F-F 1928-39
Vibraharp 143 Radio 2.5 C-F 1929-39
Vibraharp 144 Radio 3 C-C 1929-39 Soprano Vibe
Vibraharp 147 Drummer Portable 2.5 F-C 1932-35
Vibraharp ??? King George 3 F-F 1930's 1 built for Lionel Hampton
Vibraharp 55 Imperial 3 F-F 1937-42
Vibraharp 55A Imperial 3 F-F 1937-42
Vibraharp 30 30-W 2.5 C-F 1938-42
Vibraharp 35 Mercury 3 F-F 1938-42
Vibraharp 45 Diana 3 F-F 1940-42
Vibraharp 45A Diana 3 F-F 1940-42
Vibraharp 35 Rondo 3 F-F 1945-47 Mercury renamed
Vibraharp 48 Serenata 3 F-F 1946-48
Vibraharp 555 Presto 3 F-F 1946-49
Vibraharp 584 Nocturne 3 F-F 1947-48
Vibraharp 585 Imperial Nocturne 3 F-F 1950-56
Vibraharp 590 3 F-F
Vibraharp 510 Performer 3 F-F 1950-62
Vibraharp 505 Comet 2.5 C-F 1952-54
Vibraharp 580 Traveller 3 F-F 1956-62
Vibraharp 1000 Aurora 3 F-F 1956-64
Vibraharp 511 Performer 3 F-F 1962-64
Vibraharp 581 Traveller 3 F-F 1962-64
Vibraharp 1100 Aurora II 3 F-F 1964-75
Vibraharp 512 Performer 3 F-F 1964-76
Vibraharp 582 Traveller 3 F-F 1964-76
Vibraharp 592 Commander 3 F-F 1965-76
Vibraharp 515 ElectraVibe 3 F-F 1970-82
Vibraharp V-82 Statesman 3 F-F 1971-76
Vibraharp V-92 Royal 3 F-F 1971-76
Vibraharp V-110 Granada 3 F-F 1971-76
Vibraharp 513 Performer 3 F-F 1976-
Vibraharp 583 Traveller 3 F-F 1976-
Vibraharp 593 Commander 3 F-F 1976-
Vibraharp 594 Commander II 3 F-F 1976-
Vibraharp 598 Innovator IV 4 C-C 1976-77
Vibraharp V-83 Statesman 3 F-F 1976-77
Vibraharp V-93 Royal 3 F-F 1976-77
Vibraharp V-103 Granada 3 F-F 1976-77
Vibraharp 596 Norvo Commander 3 F-F 1976-79
Vibraharp 578 Marching Vibes 2 1/6 F-G 1978-