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5.0 out of 5 stars
5.0 out of 5 stars

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 September 2012
'Technology of the Guitar' is in effect a rewriting of the author's earlier 'Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice' (2008) - which was written for "the technically inclined builder" - for a more general audience with mathematical skills no more advanced than 'junior high school algebra' (roughly equivalent to GCSE level, for UK readers).

This may make the book sound intimidating, and there is indeed still plenty of maths in the author's detailed consideration of the science and technology behind the guitar. But Richard Mark French is a guitar player and builder as well as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and this book is a study of real instruments, not an abstract consideration of acoustic and mechanical principles that can only be demonstrated in laboratories or in the idealised mathematical models of physicists. As such, it is more conscious of the manufacturing environment and the 'real world' of musicians than the university.

The result is by far the most useful single-volume study of its subject for the general reader that I have encountered. At this level, it is hard to imagine the job of negotiating between the science and its practical applications being done better. One would have to be at least a student of engineering to find the level of theoretical discussion inadequate: but everything is clearly explained, and with patience can be understood by readers with modest mathematical skills.

French begins with an historical overview before leading the reader through the physics, mechanical structure and electronics of the modern guitar. He then goes on to consider more nebulous questions of sound quality, about which there is so much disagreement among luthiers and players. Other chapters cover guitar hardware, the types of instrument currently popular and their distinguishing features, and some examples of 'iconic' instruments that have proved so successful that they have become 'type examples'.

For me, these later chapters, though not without interest, sometimes duplicate general information easily available elsewhere. The real meat of the book is in the sections dealing with the physical principles and technology of the instrument. These are simply not covered with any rigour outside technical literature - intended primarily for academics and published in scholarly journals - and textbooks of acoustics and mechanics intended for student engineers, which are heavily mathematical and theoretical in orientation. French succeeds brilliantly in making this material accessible to the reader who is fascinated by the instrument and wants to know more, but needs some guidance on the science.

If you have ever wondered, for example, just why it is so hard to get a guitar to play truly in tune throughout its range, French explains with a wealth of detail and hard data. What is the significance of apparently minor variations in the depth of a guitar neck? How does the bracing of an acoustic guitar's top work? Why do some electric guitar pickups have blades rather than polepieces? Are hide glues better than synthetic glues - if so, why? Is there a 'sweet spot' for pickup placement? French addresses all these questions and many others. Where necessary he has recruited the aid of major players in the industry - the makers of Taylor guitars, Seymour Duncan electronics, D'Addario strings and others - and the book is plentifully illustrated with photographs of real instruments and components as well as the necessary graphs, diagrams and tables.

This is a superb book, and it's a matter for regret that it is currently available only in hardback at a price that will place it beyond the reach of most readers. For reasons that escape me, the more mathematically advanced but less accessible 'Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice' is currently much more modestly priced. I hope that Springer will make this new book available in cheaper formats at the earliest opportunity: it deserves a wide audience.
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on 2 August 2013
The book is excellent. It covers all aspects of guitar making and includes tons of pictorial examples. It also gives a history of the guitar, again supplied with lots of documented evidences - something I was dreaming of seeing.

The best part, however, is the simple language on which it is written. Maths are kept to the bare minimum and no previous technical knowledge is required to gain full understanding of the material (imho).
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on 3 March 2015
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