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Review: Making Stringed Instruments — A Workshop Guide by George Buchanan

Review: Making Stringed Instruments — A Workshop Guide by George Buchanan

Reviewed by C.F. Casey

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



Making Stringed Instruments — A Workshop Guide
George Buchanan
Sterling Publishing Co., 205 pp.
ISBN 0-8069-7464-8

You don’t have to look at the publishing information to know this is a British book. You don’t even have to depend on the usual vocabulary clues. In fact, they’re not even all here. The book uses “clamps” rather than the dead-giveaway “cramps,” although it does refer to “timber” rather than “lumber.” It’s the style, that unmistakable tone typical of English do-it-yourself books: not exactly formal, not exactly old-fashioned (in fact, the book was first published in 1989), but just subtly different in flavor from its North American counterparts.

It’s more than just diction and syntax that make this book different, it’s the approach to the material. As the title suggests, the book is about a variety of instruments: violin, viola, and cello; mandolin and mandola; and classical and archtop guitars. However, rather than treating each instrument more or less independently, as most books of this type seem to do, Buchanan spends fully half the book dealing with the violin and viola, and then adds comparatively short chapters covering those aspects of the other instruments which are different from the violin. He does spend somewhat more time on the mandolin and mandola, as the first flat-top-and-back instruments in the book.

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Review: 1/1: Quarterly Journal of the Just Intonation Network

Review: 1/1: Quarterly Journal of the Just Intonation Network

Reviewed by Edward L. Kottick

Originally published in American Lutherie #3, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



1/1: Quarterly Journal of the Just Intonation Network
Vol. 1, No. 1, Winter 1985
School of Music, The University of Iowa

1/1 is a new journal that is attempting to supply a support system for composers, performers, and instrument builders who are exploring the resources of Just Intonation. It is well written and nicely produced, and considering the subject matter, remarkably free of jargon.

Just Intonation (the two words are always capitalized) is precisely defined by Editor-in-Chief David B. Doty, in his editorial, as “any system of tuning in which all of the intervals may be represented by ratios of whole numbers, with a strongly implied preference for simple ratios” (hence the 1/1 title of the journal). So far so good — simple ratios produce pure, i.e., beatless, intervals; but in the next sentence Doty declares that in a musical context such intervals are always recognized as consonant. Although he states that “this fact has been known since the third millennium B.C.,” he does not explain that he is referring to consonance in the physical sense, rather than in the musically-meaningful, perceptual or harmonic sense. In the first, consonance is defined in terms of the purity of the interval; but in the second, consonance is defined in terms of its relationship with dissonance. A tonic chord is a consonance, no matter how it is tuned, or even if it is out of tune. On the other hand, a dominant 7th chord is a dissonance, even if all its intervals are pure.

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Review: From the pages of Experimental Musical Instruments, Volume 1

Review: From the pages of Experimental Musical Instruments, Volume I

Reviewed by Tim Olsen

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



From the pages of Experimental Musical Instruments, Volume I
Experimental Musical Instruments
Out of print

Ever wonder what it would sound like if the wind blew through 19' stainless-steel bands attached to your roof? If so, you are the kind of person to relish this intriguing and enlightening little effort from the different drummers over at Experimental Musical Instruments magazine.

The wind instruments on the compilation provide the most “musical” (accessible) selections while the percussion instruments provide the sort of material that goes well on art-film soundtracks. Of particular value to luthiers are the four tracks which feature strange and wonderful string instruments.

The Puget Sound Wind Harp is hybrid of an aeolian harp and a small house. The wind plays upon the 3/8" steel ribbons to make sounds of a predictably low frequency. The tape gives a hint of what must be a sort of tooth-rattling “om.”

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Review: The Fender Guitar by Ken Archard

Review: The Fender Guitar by Ken Archard

Reviewed by K. Kobie

Originally published in American Lutherie #27, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



The Fender Guitar
Ken Archard
The Bold Strummer, 1990 (reissue)
ISBN 0-933224-48-6

This book was first published in 1977 by Musical News Services Ltd. London and at the time was the only book available on vintage Fender guitars. It contains the personal history of Clarence Leo Fender, the companies he started, and some of the key people he worked hand-in-hand with.

There is a good general-features chapter with serial number information. The number sequences give two- to four-year spans listing the beginning of each consecutive hundred-thousand series.

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Review: Physics and Music by Neville H. Fletcher

Review: Physics and Music by Neville H. Fletcher

Reviewed by Thomas D. Rossing

Originally published in American Lutherie #7, 1986 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



Physics and Music
Neville H. Fletcher
Heinemann Educational Books
70 Court St., Portsmouth, NH 03801
Out of print (1999)

Neville Fletcher is one of the world’s foremost authorities on musical acoustics. In 1976, he wrote this delightful forty-eight-page book to supplement high school physics courses in Australia. For some time it was difficult to obtain, but now it available in the USA for $4.95 per copy.

The book begins with a brief history of musical acoustics, followed by brief chapters on Hearing and Music; Vibrating Systems; Strings, Drums, and Bells: Overtones and Sounds; Air Cavities and Pipes; and Horns. Then it treats Stringed Instruments and Wind Instruments, and concludes with three chapters on Musical Sounds, Harmony, and Tuning and Temperament. If it appears that these interesting topics are treated with too much brevity, remember the audience for which it was written. You will be happy to know, however, that Professor Fletcher is collaborating (with Arnold Tubis and myself) in writing a much more comprehensive treatment of musical instruments (to be published by Springer Verlag).

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