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Review: Folk Harp Design and Construction by Jeremy H. Brown

Review: Folk Harp Design and Construction by Jeremy H. Brown

Reviewed by Fred Casey

Originally published in American Lutherie #83, 2005 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Seven, 2015



Folk Harp Design and Construction
Jeremy H. Brown
www.musikit.com 150 pp.

You’ve got to like a book that begins, “Anybody can spout off his own opinions into a book if he puts his mind to it. Why a person would want to go to such trouble is a question I’ve been asking myself lately.”

I should point out that there’s an alias at work here. Jeremy H. Brown, author, is in another life Jerry Brown, founder and head honcho of Musicmaker’s Kits, Inc. (See John Calkin’s “Kit Review: Musicmaker’s Regency Harp” in AL#69, BRBAL6.) Does that mean the book is a shill for selling kits? Not at all. Naturally, most of the references are to Musicmaker’s designs. That’s reasonable enough; they are, after all, the designs Brown would be most familiar with. You wouldn’t expect Chris Martin to write a book on Gibson designs. However, Brown doesn’t stop there. I counted over two dozen references to the approaches and opinions of other harp builders throughout the eight chapters of the book.

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Review: Left-Brain Lutherie by David C. Hurd, PhD

Review: Left-Brain Lutherie by David C. Hurd, PhD

Reviewed by R.M. Mottola

Originally published in American Lutherie #81, 2005 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Seven, 2015



Left-Brain Lutherie
Using Physics and Engineering Concepts for Building Guitar Family Instruments: An Introductory Guide to Their Practical Application
David C. Hurd, PhD
ISBN 0-9760883-0-4
Ukuleles by Kawika, Inc.
www.ukuleles.com

A prepublication copy of David Hurd’s Left-Brain Lutherie was given to AL for review. A draft of the following review was sent to the author prior to publication so that any factual errors in the review could be corrected.

During the early 1980s I worked at a small engineering company that made instrumentation used in biomedical research. As the company grew, the product line expanded to include devices used in other fields, including analytical chemistry and materials science. I count the time I spent on this job as some of the most precious in my life, in no small part because it provided the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with research scientists and to be directly involved in some of their efforts. This contact taught me the value of scientific methodological inquiry, and it shaped my consideration for the folks who do this work as some of the most creative and open-minded people to be found. That scientists are smart, careful, and highly analytical fits well with the general image of those in the field. But the fact that they approach their research subjects with high levels of openness, objectivity, and general creativity unfortunately somehow gets lost in the general stereotype of scientists.

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Review: The Vihuela de Mano and The Spanish Guitar: A Dictionary of the Makers of Plucked and Bowed Musical Instruments of Spain by José L. Romanillos and Marian Harris Winspear

Review: The Vihuela de Mano and The Spanish Guitar: A Dictionary of the Makers of Plucked and Bowed Musical Instruments of Spain by José L. Romanillos and Marian Harris Winspear

Reviewed by Bryan Johanson

Originally published in American Lutherie #80, 2004 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Seven, 2015



The Vihuela de Mano and The Spanish Guitar: A Dictionary of the Makers
of Plucked and Bowed Musical Instruments of Spain (1200-2002)

José L. Romanillos and Marian Harris Winspear
ISBN 84-607-6141-X
Guijosa, Spain: Sanguino Press, 585 pp., 2002

In the world of players and makers of fine classical guitars, the name José Romanillos stands tall. For decades he built some of the finest classical guitars ever made. His work with Julian Bream is legendary. With the 1987 publication of his first major book, Antonio de Torres: Guitar Maker — His Life and Work (with an extensive revision published in 1997), we were introduced to another side of this impressive artist, that of author, scholar, and fact-sleuth extraordinaire.

We now have his latest contribution to the realm of fact: his amazing new book on Spanish luthiers, The Vihuela de Mano and The Spanish Guitar; a Dictionary of the Makers of Plucked and Bowed Musical Instruments of Spain (1200–2002). It is a rare thing these days to find an author (in this case coauthors, Romanillos and his wife Marian Winspear) tackle the concept of writing a dictionary. The result of this ambitious undertaking is a highly readable reference book that includes much information not ordinarily included in a dictionary proper.

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Review: Baxter’s Database of Violin and Bow Makers v3.0 by Edward D. Baxter

Review: Baxter’s Database of Violin and Bow Makers v3.0 by Edward D. Baxter

Reviewed by Randy DeBey

Originally published in American Lutherie #84, 2005 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Five, 2008



Baxter’s Database of Violin and Bow Makers v3.0
Edward D. Baxter
CD-ROM, 2002
www.violinmakersdb.com.

On the rare occasions that I need information about the maker of a particular instrument, I don’t like to spend a lot of time getting it. Due to the ridiculously high prices of violin-maker reference books, I have to get whatever I can from the web, and sometimes that’s a complete waste of time. Now there’s another option that’s less expensive than buying books, and likely more productive than web searching. Edward Baxter of West Camp, New York, has compiled a database from twenty-four violin and bow maker references. He actually started his database several years ago, and the version reviewed here (v3.0) was released in June 2004. It contains information for 19,506 makers.

The ViolinMakers Database software was created for PCs running Microsoft Windows (sorry Mac users). It comes on one CD and is easy to install. It includes a stand-alone version of the Microsoft Access database query engine dedicated to searching this database.

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Review: Getting a Bigger Sound: Pickups and Microphones for Your Musical Instrument by Bart Hopkin with Robert Cain and Jason Lollar

Review: Getting a Bigger Sound: Pickups and Microphones for Your Musical Instrument by Bart Hopkin with Robert Cain and Jason Lollar

Reviewed by Fred Carlson

Originally published in American Lutherie #74, 2003 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Seven, 2015



Getting a Bigger Sound: Pickups and Microphones for Your Musical Instrument
Bart Hopkin with Robert Cain and Jason Lollar
ISBN 0-9727313-0-X
Nicasio, CA: Experimental Musical Instruments, 104 pp., 2002
www.windworld.com

I know I’m not the only electronically challenged luthier who’s been waiting for someone to write an understandable, useful handbook on pickups, microphones, and instrument amplification. I’d been envisioning the author to be lutherie renaissance-man Rick Turner, who wrote the fine “Electronic Answer Man” columns for American Lutherie in years past. I know how busy Rick is, but I remain ever-hopeful that pressure from the lutherie community will drive him to it someday. In the meantime, another of my musical instrument heroes has come out with his take on such a manual, and I’m happy to say it goes a long way toward filling the void in useful introductions to this subject.

Bart Hopkins’ take on the adventure of electronically amplifying a musical instrument is undoubtedly coming from a different perspective than one from which a more guitar-oriented writer like Rick Turner would approach it. Bart has spent many years spearheading Experimental Musical Instruments, an organization devoted to interesting and unusual musical instruments of all sorts. For many years, EMI published a journal of the same name that featured all sorts of amazing stuff from the wonderful, quirky, experimental underside of instrument building. Bart did writing and illustrating for the journal as well as editing and publishing duties. He’s also an active guitarist and creative instrument builder/inventor with experience and interests covering a broad spectrum of the music world. Since EMI’s journal ceased publication in 1999, Bart has kept the organization alive as a source of back issues. EMI also offers recordings of many of the wild and wonderful creations featured in the journals’ pages, as well as several books Bart has written on instrument design and building. Recently the EMI catalog has added pickups and pickup components and materials to its stable of offerings.

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