Posted on

Your Most Important Machine

Your Most Important Machine

by Teri K. Novak, D.C.

from her 1995 GAL Convention workshop

Originally published in American Lutherie #46, 1996



How many of you have back or neck pain at work or after your work day? In this workshop we will cover: 1) body mechanics, 2) the two main rules you should follow to avoid pain, and 3) how to apply the rules in your shop.

Rule #1: All structures of your spine are under the least amount of stress when you maintain the normal curves. This means twenty-four hours a day no matter what you are doing! Fig. 1 shows what the normal curves are from the side. From the back, your spine should be maintained in a straight line.

Let’s look at how your body is built to see why this rule is true. To have any body movement, (except the movement from gravity) or to change position, a muscle must contract, that is, get shorter.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.
Posted on

Calculating String Tension

Calculating String Tension

by Max Krimmel

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Data Sheet #144, 1980 and Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1997



Just how tight is that string? Experience tells most of us that the pitch of a string depends on how long it is, how big it is, and how tight it is. It would seem then, that we could figure out the tension if we know the pitch, mass, and length of any given string. Yes, it can be done. The biggest problem is to realize how A natural, 25.5", and .042" phosphor bronze can be converted into something recognizable as tension. I am not going to go into the why of all this as much as the how to do it. First, put the pitch into cycles per second, or Hz. Next put the length into CM. Then find the mass of the string by weighing a piece of the string as long as your string length. Cut the ball or any other windings off the string before you weigh it on a gram scale. Then insert these variables into the following formula.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.
Posted on

Taking the Guitar Beyond Equal Temperament

Taking the Guitar Beyond Equal Temperament

by Don Musser

Originally published in American Lutherie #30, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



If someone were to tell you that the simple C chord you just played on your perfectly intonated, handmade guitar was in fact significantly out of tune with itself, you might have a few doubts and perhaps some curiosity about just what he was talking about. If that person were Mark Rankin and he happened to have his little Martin set up with the just intonation, key-of-C fretboard, and you compared a C chord on that guitar to the C chord on your guitar, instead of doubts and curiosity you would have something else: the beginning of a revelation, a revelation not only about the guitar itself, but about the foundation of the music we play on it.

Back in 1987, David Ouellette, a Eugene, Oregon musician for whom I had built several guitars in the early 1980s called and wanted a new, unconventional instrument built. It was to be a special guitar with magnetic interchangeable fretboards having staggered frets set up for alternative tunings of the scale steps within the octave. The standard guitar fretboard we all play on is based on the equal-tempered scale where the octave is divided into twelve equal half-step intervals. This equal division of the octave is good in that it allows modulation from key to key without intolerable dissonance. Its drawback, though, is that the scale intervals are tempered, i.e., harmonically inaccurate and slightly out of tune with one another.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.
Posted on

The Anti-Murphy Concert

The Anti-Murphy Concert

by Al Carruth

Originally published in American Lutherie #39, 1994



I recently had the privilege of attending a somewhat unusual concert by the Tokyo String Quartet, with some acoustics experiments thrown in. Or maybe it was a physics lecture with live accompaniment? And then there was the quiz show part... I guess I’d better explain.

The whole thing seems to have started with the coming together of a number of good ideas. One of the first was a plan by the Acoustical Society of America to produce an educational video on acoustics for grades K–12. This, of course, would require money to do, and the suggestion was made that a benefit concert be held. The members of the Tokyo String Quartet were contacted, and graciously consented. So far, so simple.

But remember, we’re dealing with acousticians here. Why not use the opportunity to do a little research? For one thing, while the acoustics of empty halls are reasonably well understood, nobody is really sure what happens when you put in the audience. Since the object of most concert promoters is to have as large an audience as possible, and nobody likes to listen to music in an acoustically lousy hall, it seemed like a good subject for an experiment. And how about that violin thing; you know old vs. new and all? And while we’re at it...

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.
Posted on

The Acoustical Characteristics of the Concert Cimbalom

The Acoustical Characteristics of the Concert Cimbalom

by Janos Pap

Originally published in American Lutherie #61, 2000



We may be surprised that the sound of the concert cimbalom, or Hungarian hammered dulcimer, is occasionally similar to that of the piano. But we can be sure that it is not a piano, only related to it. The cimbalom produces a little more nasal sound, with a rougher timbre. The acoustical differences derive from the construction of the instrument and the manner of playing. I have devoted much time to making acoustical measurements on concert cimbaloms at the Acoustic Research Laboratory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in an anechoic chamber, and on a cimbalom model at the Institute of Musicology at Cologne University, hoping to satisfy my curiosity about the causes and effects of the cimbalom’s sound.

In instruments of the hammered dulcimer family, the form is determined by the mode of playing. The player strikes the strings with two hammers. The strings must be divided to give a large range of notes, and the struck parts of the strings must be raised for playability. The string-dividing determines the damping features, and thus the timbre and the decay. The raising of the strings results in high downward force on the bridge, which determines the sound indirectly, by the mode of energy transport and radiation.

Become A Member to Continue Reading This Article

This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

If you are already a member, login for access or contact us to setup your account.