Story of Paul Bigsby
Paul Bigsby is now best known for the tremolo he designed, but his role as inventor, designer and guitar maker far exceeds the creation of this gadget. A colorful Jack-of-all-trades, a true visionary and craftsman, his guitars are some of the most pioneering instruments in the history of the electric guitar. His relationships with, among others, Fred Gretsch, Ted McCarthy and Leo Fender (witness the undisputable influence he had on Fender's designs), put him squarely at the epicenter of the development American electric guitar during the exciting years as it came into being. Some think of Paul Bigsby as the true father of the solidbody electric guitar. They might very well be correct. This book is a great and deserved testament to his life and work with many wonderful illustrations of his seminal guitars, a colorful picture of life and the music and guitar-making scene in Southern California during the post-war years. (Review by Michael Spalt)
Wandré, as Mr. Pioli was called, was a piece of art in its own right. He devoted only a part of his wild and moving life to guitar design and production, but his guitar work made him immortal to the guitar aficionados of this world. Marco Ballestri's book documents nothing but the whole life of Wandré, which is important to understand his guitar designs and his unique method of guitar production. Wandré was a rebel in many ways - political, guitar building, art, business - and living in general. We can learn a lot from him and - hence - from Ballestri´s wonderful book, which is bilingually written in Italian and English. (Review by Heinz Rebellius)
Cumpiano and Natelson
Guitarmaking, Tradition and Technology
Luthiers Cumpiano and Natelson decided in 1987 to create a book that was both "a workshop manual for the student guitar builder'' and "a general reference on good guitar-making technique.'' The result is truly extraordinary – close to 400 pages take you through all the critical elements in producing a steel-string and classical guitar. Illustrations and photographs throughout the book compliment the clear and thorough text. Topics include the guitar's anatomy, material and tools, soundboard bracing, purfling and binding, and finishing. New, you’ll find the book for $20, second hand you’ll find the book for less than $15. Certainly one of the top books in our craft.
When I started out making guitars in 1995 I devoured this book. (Review by Ralph Bonte)
Dudley, Kathryn Marie
"I must confess that I hadn’t really read any “serious” anthropology books before this one. But this book by anthropology professor Kathryn Dudley converted me – in a gentle and perceptive way it explores a tribe as exotic and singular as any Amazon indigenous people, illuminating their cultural quirks and mores, their legends and myths, and the spiritual quest fueling their endeavors. Eminently readable, it provides a wonderful close-up history of the luthier-built guitar movement and its protagonists.
Why do luthiers build guitars? And why are some of these instruments so highly sought after by players and collectors? Why is the economic incentive secondary even for those who are able to make a good living at it (and especially for those stubbornly persisting in the face of their chronically empty wallets)? Why is a handmade guitar more than a simple commodity?
Over a period of years Kathryn Dudley has conducted numerous in-depth interviews and conversations with many of today’s major exponents of the high art of lutherie. She recounts their experiences, the varied approaches to the building process, their views about what it takes to make that great guitar. Dudley places the builders' life and work squarely in the context of today’s globalized economy, chronicling their struggles and triumphs, and how they have created and shaped the marketplace for handmade guitars.
This book is fascinating reading for any guitar lover who wants to better understand the phenomenon guitar – but for the guitar builder, I venture to say, it opens an essential window into the discussion about the meaning of their life and work, beyond the simple how they do it to the why they do it, and why that matters so much in today’s commodified world." (Review by Michael Spalt)
Gore, Trevor with Gerard Gilet
Contemporary Acoustic Guitar - Design and Build
ISBN978-0-9871174-0-3 & ISBN 978-0-9871174-0
"This is two-volume set: one on design and one on build. Trevor Gore has a background in engineering and applies this thinking to acoustic guitar design. While the design volume is packed with some pretty heavy maths to explain various design concepts you can skip this and go straight to the conclusions. This scientific approach is tempered by an in-depth understanding of what actually makes good musical sense and a great deal of experience dealing with players. Methods are given for mapping out resonances and techniques given for manipulating these to some fairly specific target frequencies. The build volume gives comprehensive building techniques based on the technical understanding delivered in the design volume and a number of plans are included. The books are self-published and can be ordered from Trevor Gore or Gerard Gilet." (Review by Adrian Lucas)
Make your own Electric Guitar
"This is a classic work that has been in print for several decades. The author talks about design and then gives a step-by-step method for building three different project guitars. These are a bolt-on neck solid body, a glued-in neck carved top semi-solid and a through-neck bass. Each guitar incorporates different techniques so that most of the techniques you're ever likely to need are covered in the three projects. Rather than just a manual to build a specific guitar, this book equips the reader to be able to build whatever design they choose." (Review by Adrian Lucas)
Hoadley, R. Bruce
"There are many books about wood. It is a fascinating material. One of the very foundations of the guitar maker’s skill is a good understanding of the properties and characteristics of this wonderful substance. So why do I recommend this specific book? The title really says it all: “Understanding Wood” is exactly what author Bruce Hoadley, an instructor and woodworker, had in mind as he wrote this book; and a deeper understanding of this material, so essential to the luthier’s craft, is what he delivers in a clear and instructive way, without becoming either too theoretical or too superficial. This book is meant for the person working with wood as they exercise their craft. Topics such as humidity, seasoning, finishing, joining and shaping are discussed and illustrated in a practical and intelligent way, making the application of this information to the work at hand straightforward and uncomplicated. But rather than simply being a manual on how to work the wood, this book also gives the reader insight into the deeper nature of this wonderful material, helping to understand him/her how to work with the wood." (Review by Michael Spalt)
Guitar Man - A Six String Odyssey
Will Hodgkinson’s quest to become a guitar god (or maybe just a relatively competent player), moves briskly from his London basement apartment where he tortures wife and children with his beginner’s attempts at six-string stardom, across two continents and numerous meetings with players famous and not-so famous, and finally culminates on a stage in Camden Town. Funny, entertaining, full of nuggets of insight and history about the guitar, this book is perfect for anyone with a soft spot for the instrument. If you are a player, you will reconnect with what it means to be a guitar player and reaffirm your passion. And if you don’t yet play the guitar, you might just be enticed to pick it up and try and learn Davey Graham’s ‘Anji’! (Review by Michael Spalt)
Musical Instrument Design
This book provides all the information for anyone who wants to design and make wide variety of percussion, string and wind instruments. It includes many illustrations and designs with parts list and detailed construction instructions.
The book deals with the physics of musical instruments with practical content and experimentation. The musical instrument examples require easily obtainable supplies (such as balloons and small pieces of wood) and only a few common tools (such as hammer).I recommend this book to hobbyists, willing to create experimental musical instruments, and to teachers searching to stimulate creativity. But the book is not for people interested in learning how to make traditional musical instruments with advanced construction techniques.
Bart Hopkin is a professional guitarist and instrument designer who has been the editor of Experimental Musical Instruments journal since 1985. Over the years he was active in many facets of music-making including performance and recording, composition and arrangement, instrument making, music education, theatre music, and ethnomusicological research. (Review by Cem Öcek)
Electric Guitar Making & Marketing
This book tells you, step-by-step, how to build electric guitars and basses following professional standards.
In 300 pages and 400 pictures this book reveals in fine detail the techniques used by top luthiers—from the selection of the wood, all the way up to the finishing and electronics.
But then it tells you even more: how to market your instruments, including brand positioning, pricing, promotion, sales, and all other fundamental aspects of professional lutherie.
Written by renowned luthier Leo Lospennato (author of the bestseller "Electric Guitar and Bass Design") this book represents the new standard in solid-body guitar making, and is the only resource that presents both the technical and commercial aspects of the fascinating art of building musical instruments.
I highly recommend this book to the professional or amateur luthier who wants to take his activity to the next level. (Review by Cem Öcek)
History of Japanese Electric Guitars
You may ask yourself why we offer a book about what could be seen as the exact opposite of what you will find here at The Holy Grail Guitar Show. A book about Japanese guitars from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, long synonymous with cheap knock-offs (like the Chinese today), badly made and awkward copies of the original American models. Everything about this would seem to be anathema to what happens here at the Show! But – for a brief period, before Japanese makers started making mainly copies and subsequently consolidated into a few large brands, there was an explosion of creativity and inventiveness. Countless small companies wanted to take advantage of the opening of the American market to guitars that were even cheaper than the homegrown brands, like Harmony or Silvertone. In the span of a few years hundreds of makers popped onto the scene and soon hundreds of thousands of their instruments flooded the market world-wide. Scrounging for materials in a time of scarcity after the war, and without much know-how at first, they were busy interpreting what they thought the far-off public might want – weird shapes, gaudy finishes, a host of improbable axes with aristocratic sounding names. Many of these companies have since disappeared, some survived and are big players today. Some, like Guyatone, Yamaha and Ibanez, created original models which have become classics by now. A great look at this fascinating time, a true labor of love, this book chronicles a period in the history of the guitar which until now has been neglected, but certainly played a large role in supplying young teenagers with cheap and colorful guitars – and whose impact also changed the American and European market forever, heralding the decline and disappearance of the low-priced domestic makers. (Review by Michael Spalt)
Art that sings, the life and times of luthier Steve Klein
"I was so excited running through this book and to get this inside view of Steve's life and creative process, it's so rare to have books about those guitar makers that changed the way we envisioned the guitar architecture, his work on the kasha bridge concept and beyond are stunning both sound wise and aesthetically, as well as his ergonomic electrics that still are ahead of their time! (Review by Serge Michelis)
Electrified, The art of the contemporary electric guitar
ISBN 13: 9781454900283
"Even bigger, with even better pictures than "Hand Made, Hand Played", Robert Shaw gives room for the luthiers in this book, and not for individual guitars. You learn about the so called "Modern Masters" and their work, starting with Matt Artinger (whom I did not know before) and going down the alphabet to a rusty T, where we find an article about metal guitar man James Trussart. The share of European builders is well balanced this time - we found stunning words and pics about Johan Gustavsson, Frank Hartung, Nik Huber, the Pagellis, Juha Ruokangas, Michael Spalt and Ulrich Teuffel. Well done!" (Review by Heinz Rebellius)
Hand Made, Hand Played
"More than 400 pages well researched information about luthiers and their masterpieces, divided into Acoustic and Electric guitar sections. What a hell of a work Mr. Shaw has put in this book…!!! Big names stand side by side with unknown names. From Fender to Bolin, from Gibson to Rashi - with the focus on every single masterpiece, and with well told stories, which lighten up the background of this particular guitar. The majority of the shown guitars are US-made, though - the Europeans in the electric guitar section were represented by instruments by Michael Spalt, Ulrich Teuffel, Andrea Ballarin, Johnny Morch, Claudio and Claudia Pagelli, Nik Huber and the late Rolf Spuler, a relatively small number among ca. 90 other luthiers." (Review by Heinz Rebellius)
Siminoff, Roger H.
The Luthier's Handbook
Once upon a time there was no internet... It's hard to imagine today, as we look at the wealth of information being generated and readily available with just a few key strokes. It wasn't like that just over a decade ago. You had to look hard to find information about how to make guitars, where to get material and parts.
Much has changed. But I confess, I am still a very analog person, and find I prefer a well-structured and comprehensive book I can lay out on the workbench for a quick look to reference things in a jiffy. This book has been around for a while, and it was one of the first books, where a guitar builder could find authoritative, practical and incisive information about making guitars. I found this book at a point well into my career as guitar maker, and I still learned a lot from it (and still do value it as a reminder and refresher). It is still one of the best guides, well written and comprehensive, covering the whole process from wood selection, layout and construction, and it also focuses on things like tuning soundboards and backs. Roger Siminoff is a prolific and knowledgeable writer, with quite a few books out there about various topics regarding stringed instrument making - mandolins, tap tuning , constructing a solidbody guitar, etc.., all of which can be wholeheartedly recommended, just like this one. (Review by Michael Spalt)
Intrigued by a photograph of a large number of women sitting outside the Gibson guitar factory in the mid 40s, John Thomas sets out on an exploration. The company had always claimed it didn’t build any guitars during World War II. Upon investigation it turns out the there are thousands of ‘Banner’ Gibsons that were produced during the war years and that these were largely made by women. John Thomas tracks down and interviews some of these women, visits the old Gibson factory and pores over the Gibson production ledgers to uncover a fascinating story of life in the factory during wartime when there were few skilled craftsmen around and materials were scarce and restricted. In spite of this the “Kalamazoo Gals” managed to make what many consider to be some of the finest-sounding Gibson acoustics that the company ever made. (Review by Adrian Lucas)
Ferrington Guitars + CD
"- Ha - I will never forget the picture which shows the electric guitar which Danny Ferrington had built for Ry Cooder - the one with a divided fretboard, where the two low strings are fretted like a Baritone guitar while the four top strings are on a regular scale. Ferrington´s guitars seem to match the personality and types of the players extremely well. The acoustic Explorer for Jackson Browne, the cranky and strange looking solid body for Richard Thompson, the wonderful acoustic for Elvis Costello with its scrolled upper bout… Each one of his guitars is so special… This book is nothing but great, and its unusual shape must have cost a million to print it that way… And while I´m writing these lines, I am listening to the CD, which comes with the book! Great music from Ferrington players like Richard Thompson, Ry Cooder, J.J. Cale, David Hidalgo, David Lindley, Don Was, Elvis Costello and many more." (Review by Heinz Rebellius")