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Review: Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice by Richard Mark French

Review: Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice by Richard Mark French

Reviewed by Bill Greenwood

Originally published in American Lutherie #99, 2009

Engineering the Guitar: Theory and Practice
Richard Mark French
ISBN (hardback): 9780387743684
Springer, 266 pp. 2009

With Engineering the Guitar, the author introduces a new genre of musical acoustics textbook, aimed at a niche audience of mathematically literate students who are relatively new to the details of guitar structure and guitar building. The book assumes familiarity with basic physics and calculus that includes a modest background in differential equations and Fourier series, and presents some excellent applications of basic engineering analysis that will be appreciated by those who have taken a standard course in the strength of materials.

The book parallels a unique course developed by the author at Purdue University, where a dozen engineering students all build identical classical guitars in the span of a single semester with the aid of computer-controlled machining. At the same time, the students are introduced to the basic physics of stringed instruments and to the engineering aspects of guitars. Although the target audience of college engineering students is rather narrow, the advanced level of the book and the refreshing examples generated by the author make it a useful and engaging reference for others who are interested in theory and measurements that relate to the structure and dynamic behavior of guitars.

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