Harmony made a lot of department store and student guitars, but, charming as they may have been, they were never embraced by the serious players of the day. The red-burst Silhouette was one of the company’s more serious attempts at trying to break that mold—they called it their “Truly Professional Model.” It wasn’t just marketing hype. Everything about the Silhouette screams quality.
What’s weird about the Silhouette is that it’s not as revered as its mid-1960s contemporaries. It’s a no-nonsense guitar that rivals just about any 6-string made in that time period. Well, there may be one kind of weird thing: the neck only has 20 frets.
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
The original catalog description for the Silhouette states that the short-scale oval neck is from their “Famous slim-line series with its ultra-thin fingerboard for easy chording.” It definitely plays beautifully, and the feel is reminiscent of a Fender Jazzmaster, but with a shorter scale. The frets are very low profile, which does make it easy to play, but I also like the rather large U-shape feel of the neck. The double-bound neck—reminiscent of the Hofner Galaxy—sports a rosewood fretboard with pearloid inlays. It also has dual-reinforcing truss rods—which, as far as I know, was a feature only found on Rickenbackers. The DeArmonds tend to be microphonic, but, what the hell, this is still a very coolsounding guitar. The neck pickup is so jazzy that it evokes a hollowbody, and the bridge pickup puts out aggressive high end without being screechy or rude. The bridge with six adjustable saddles, and the vibrato are both made by Hagstrom. These were definitely upgrades for the Silhouette, and they both work like a Swiss watch—smooth and accurate, just as long as you’re not doing too much dive bombing. I only wish they had contracted Hagstrom to make the tuners, as well. Instead, Harmony used the stock open-style tuners found on their cheaper models.
In 1965, the Silhouette sold for about $200—which was about the same price as a Fender Stratocaster back then. Now, they only fetch between $400 and $800. Maybe if Jimi Hendrix had played a Silhouette instead of a Stratocaster, this guitar would be worth five figures. Who knows?
WHY IT RULES
C’mon—guitarists are constantly on the look out for new tonal colors, and the Harmony Silhouette has its own unique sound. While its generic look isn’t quite weird enough for “Whack Job” enthusiasts, it’s considered to be the best solid-body Harmony ever made. Pick one up, plug it in, and give it a whirl. You’ll see why these babies rule in their own very special way. The Silhouette is a seriously cool guitar, and the Harmony brand has gained some hipster flair of late by being seen in the hands of alternative singer/songwriter and 2015 Grammy winner St. Vincent (Annie Clark)—who often wields a three-pickup Silhouette and assorted Harmony Bobkats.
I’d like to thank The Harmony Guitar Database (harmony.demont.net) for posting original ’60s catalogs, and for showing me how to date my guitar.