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Review: The Responsive Guitar & Making the Responsive Guitar by Ervin Somogyi

Review: The Responsive Guitar & Making the Responsive Guitar by Ervin Somogyi

Reviewed by Roger Alan Skipper

Originally published in American Lutherie #102, 2010

The Responsive Guitar
ISBN 978-0-9823207-0-9

Making the Responsive Guitar
ISBN 978-0-9823207-1-6
Two-book hardback boxed set
Ervin Somogyi
Luthiers Press, 2009

To suggest that this two-book set is striking would be an understatement. Contained in this box is more than eight pounds of quality glossy paper, and a quick fanning reveals a large section of stunning color photographs, plus sharp black-and-white images and sharply detailed drawings throughout. Also of immediate note is the price: $140 per book, $280 for the set; that this is intended as a serious and significant work is clear. A bit of investigative work (this information is found in the introduction of one book, on the back cover of the other) reveals that The Responsive Guitar is the first of the set, with Making the Responsive Guitar an accompanying and subsequent tome.

The first book’s purpose and the author’s qualifications are clearly defined on the cover: “The Responsive Guitar is about the physics, dynamics, acoustics and construction of the guitar”; “Somogyi is arguably the premier maker, theoretician and expert of the modern acoustic guitar for his generation.” The last page of text is numbered 339, but the numbering doesn’t begin until approximately fifty pages in, after a logical and concise table of contents, a brief foreword by musician and recording artist Martin Simpson, and an introduction and acknowledgments page by the author. This is followed by thirty-two pages of professional color photographs of contemporary guitars of all descriptions — innovative, artful, minutely detailed, and divinely crafted — to quicken the pulse of any luthier. Only ten pages are of the author’s work, as he pays homage to other makers.

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