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Review: Guitar Player Repair Guide by Dan Erlewine

Review: Guitar Player Repair Guide by Dan Erlewine

Reviewed by Manny Bettencourt

Originally published in American Lutherie #26, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



Guitar Player Repair Guide
Dan Erlewine
Backbeat Books (originally Miller Freeman), 309 pp.
ISBN 0-87903-291-7 (ISBN 0-87930-188-0)

This book is a must-have! Published recently, Dan’s book is a very up-to-date reference source for anyone in the repair field. It is very comprehensive in scope and covers all the major areas of guitar repair with an emphasis on electrics.

The author’s conversational writing style, combined with excellent photographs and drawings, make this book very enjoyable to read. Starting with basics like intonation and neck evaluation, Dan moves on to cover everything from finishing to refretting.

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Review: The Luthier’s Mercantile Catalog for Stringed Instrument Makers

Review: The Luthier’s Mercantile Catalog for Stringed Instrument Makers

Reviewed by Frederick Battershell

Originally published in American Lutherie #4, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



The Luthier’s Mercantile Catalog for Stringed Instrument Makers
The Luthier’s Mercantile
P.O. Box 774, 412 Moore Lane
Healdsburg, CA 95448
$19.50 + $3.50 (1999)

If confession is good for one’s soul, then I must come forward and confess: I am an unabashed bibliophile! Yup! My library/bedroom is piled from floor to ceiling with books, catalogs, brochures, broadsides... anything at all connected (even remotely) with instrument making, music theory, cooking, philosophy, woodworking, boat building, toolmaking, and on and on. These are read and reread; each time they yield small portions of knowledge, personal insight, and genuine enjoyment.

While I’m on the subject of genuine enjoyment, let me tell you about The Luthier’s Mercantile Catalog for Stringed Instrument Makers. Here is either a book that wants to be a catalog, or a catalog that wants to be a book. The staff at TLM deserve a loud bravo! for their combined efforts at getting this catalog together in a thoroughly enjoyable and readable format.

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Review: The Workbench Book by Scott Landis

Review: The Workbench Book by Scott Landis

Reviewed by Robert Lundberg

Originally published in American Lutherie #32, 1992 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



The Workbench Book
Scott Landis
Taunton Press, 1987. 248 pp.
ISBN 0-918804-76-0

Even though this book was published several years ago and so is likely known to many of you, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at it specifically from a luthier’s point of view.

It is clear from the first glance that The Workbench Book is a truly remarkable book which will be of great interest to anyone making things from wood or working with wooden objects. From the experienced woodworking professional to the neophyte, everyone will find this an interesting and intriguing resource which in my library has the privilege of sharing, with only a few other books, a spot on my reference shelf.

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Review: Steel-String Guitar Construction by Irving R. Sloane

Review: Steel-String Guitar Construction by Irving R. Sloane

Reviewed by David Riggs

Originally published in American Lutherie #26, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



Steel-String Guitar Construction
Irving R. Sloane
Bold Strummer, 1990
ISBN 0-933224-19-2

This is a reissue of a book which was originally published in 1975 and was, at that time, just about the only widely available assistance for those aspiring to build a steel string guitar. In its new edition, it is virtually unchanged from its original incarnation and thus is as good or as bad as it used to be. Although some of the book’s information might appear a bit dated to our information-saturated eyes, it does contain at least one essential feature available nowhere else.

The purpose of this book is to give a person with a few woodworking skills the information needed to build a first guitar, and Mr. Sloane successfully covers all aspects of this commission. Good, solid advice is given concerning selection of materials, design requirements, and the processes which will result in a satisfactory effort, whilst avoiding great expense for materials and special tools.

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Review: Guitar and Vihuela: An Annotated Bibliography by Meredith Alice McCutcheon

Review: Guitar and Vihuela: An Annotated Bibliography by Meredith Alice McCutcheon

Reviewed by Joseph R. Johnson

Originally published in American Lutherie #9, 1987 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



Guitar and Vihuela: An Annotated Bibliography
Meredith Alice McCutcheon
Pendragon Press, 1985
$64 from amazon.com

In 1978 David B. Lyons published his book, Lute, Vihuela, Guitar to 1800: A Bibliography (Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography, 1978). Although the vihuela and guitar were included, the bulk of his information concerned the lute. There was not enough material in the book to satisfy the ever-growing need for information about the early guitar and vihuela. In 1980 James Tyler’s book, The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook, (London: Oxford University Press, 1980), was published, and it too only partially satisfied the need. What was needed was a bibliography that dealt specifically with the guitar and the vihuela.

Ms. McCutcheon’s annotated bibliography is an attempt to fill that need. In her words, the bibliography “is intended to fill the need for an annotated reference tool for the study of the guitar and vihuela. It contains literature on composers, performers, theorists, music and analysis, iconography, and design and construction in both an historical context and in a technical one.”

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Review: Guitar and Vihuela: An Annotated Bibliography by Meredith Alice McCutcheon

Reviewed by Joseph R. Johnson

Originally published in American Lutherie #9, 1987 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



Guitar and Vihuela: An Annotated Bibliography
Meredith Alice McCutcheon
Pendragon Press, 1985
$64 from amazon.com

In 1978 David B. Lyons published his book, Lute, Vihuela, Guitar to 1800: A Bibliography (Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography, 1978). Although the vihuela and guitar were included, the bulk of his information concerned the lute. There was not enough material in the book to satisfy the ever-growing need for information about the early guitar and vihuela. In 1980 James Tyler’s book, The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook, (London: Oxford University Press, 1980), was published, and it too only partially satisfied the need. What was needed was a bibliography that dealt specifically with the guitar and the vihuela.

Ms. McCutcheon’s annotated bibliography is an attempt to fill that need. In her words, the bibliography “is intended to fill the need for an annotated reference tool for the study of the guitar and vihuela. It contains literature on composers, performers, theorists, music and analysis, iconography, and design and construction in both an historical context and in a technical one.”

The wide scope of references included texts about the guitar and vihuela written in Catalan, Danish, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (including Central and South American countries), Swedish, and Ukrainian. The exclusion of exhibition catalogs of instrument collections and museum catalogs is a major disadvantage. In light of the ever-increasing interest in early music, it is important that such reference tools include the locations of extant, representative instruments. Considering the diverse language sources listed above, this is a major flaw.

The layout of the book is straightforward. There is a three-section introduction in which the author discusses the historiography of the guitar and vihuela, presents how to identify and locate music for the two instruments, and explains the purpose, contents, and organization of the bibliography. McCutcheon explains that she lists only the general articles about the guitar and vihuela which are found in two major sources, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: Macmillan, 1980) and Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Kassel: Barenreiter, 1956). “Biographical articles on composers and performers in guitar history with bibliographies of music and literature are also cited in these works,” she notes, but are not listed in her book. The reader is referred, instead, to reviews by Peter Danner and John Duarte in recent issues of Soundboard magazine, for “further evaluation of the inadequacies of Grove.”

McCutcheon also lists where she did her research. All of the libraries — as well as the services of the Guitar Foundation of America, the interlibrary loan system of the New York Public Library, and the resources of University Microfilms International — are located in the United States. There is no mention of
European or South American libraries. This is a major drawback for a reference tool of such scope. For example, only one article about guitar makers of Argentina is included, and it is not Argentine, but rather American (Banjo, Mandolin, and Guitar, LXVI/765, Jan. 1965). The same problem can be cited for Spanish makers, where of five sources only two are from Spain itself.

In chapters II through VII one finds lists of studies of specific individuals. However, individual luthiers are not listed under their appropriate historical period, as are composers and performers, but rather in the last chapter, “Design and Construction.” Among the luthiers included are Joachim Tielke, Antonio de Torres, and C.F. Martin, as well as a long list of 20th century luthiers that includes the Ramírez family, Hermann Hauser, and David Rubio. In the same chapter is a section listing dictionaries of luthiers. Rene Vannes’ well-known book, Dictionnaire universel des luthiers, is listed there, but dictionaries of Italian luthiers are not; they are found under Italy in the second chapter, “National Histories.” Thankfully, every entry is numbered consecutively and cross-references are easily located.

It is difficult to overlook the failure to list American Lutherie, the journal of the Guild of American Luthiers, in Appendix I: “Periodicals Devoted to the Guitar and Other Fretted Instruments.” Another important source not listed is the new book, The Guitar Bibliography, by Werner Schwarz (Munich: K.G. Saur, 1984). On the other hand, it is refreshing to find a source that lists references concerning American popular music. In particular, there are references to the American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists, and Guitarists, as well as important American performers within that society such as guitarists William Foden and George C. Krick. Many such references are found in major, turn-of-the-century periodicals that dealt with the then-popular mandolin orchestras, The Cadenza, The Crescendo, and Frets.

In conclusion, Ms. McCutcheon’s bibliography is a good general reference tool, which, although it has flaws, can yield rewarding information. It falls short of being a thorough international bibliography, but will prove valuable to guitar and vihuela teachers, students, and luthiers.

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