Customising Your Electric Guitar
by Adrian Legg
Published by Kaye & Ward
Adrian Legg's book is a welcome home-grown addition to my largely American guitar-book collection, and lives up pretty accurately to its title. If you'd like to overcome, as Adrian puts it, the British tradition of "ignoring instructions until something goes wrong", then this book is for you. It is also thankfully written by a human being - some of those American guitar books I mentioned just now seem to originate from either crazy collectors who have never played a guitar in their lives, or from writers keen on bombarding the reader with measurements, serial numbers, response graphs, construction plans - anything but direct, sensible advice based on experience. Mr. Legg seems largely to reverse that trend, and sums up his task in the very first sentence of the book: "The idea of this book is to pass on things I've found out or experimented with on a 'try it and see basis', partly in search for a better sound for myself, and partly merely out of curiosity."
The bulk of the book deals with Legg's obsession with wiring configurations - readers may remember his contributions to E&MM on this subject. There are in the Wiring section of his book around 70 spidery drawings, all insisting that wires are wavy lines and not the usual straight lines of traditional wiring diagrams. Other sections of the book deal with setting up your guitar - seven thoughtful pages taking in action, frets, the nut, and the setting of the intonation. Glues and Finishes get a brief few pages each, but enough to explain basic types and techniques, and then we're into the big Wiring section.
A simple explanation of the workings of basic pickups gets us underway, and the author takes the commendable course of declining to suggest suitable brands, leaving this decision where it belongs, with the reader. Adrian discusses the actual workings rather than the name on the box, which is fine. The fact that DiMarzio pops up a lot in pictures and captions can be put down either to the fact that Legg is Guitar Technician for Rose-Morris, who import DiMarzio pickups, or to the sheer popularity of this particular American replacement pickup. To be fair, names like Lawrence and Schecter turn up here and there too.
And so we're guided through coil taps, phase reversal, series/parallel wiring, Strat and Tele wirings, push-pull pots, powered effects units on boards, status LEDs, on-site battery recharging (the price of batteries these days... etc.), stereo wiring, and Precision wiring, all with necessary brevity but helpful clarity. Along the way, we see the Legg Special go through all kinds of internal and external upheaval with the aid of photos taken at various stages in its rather eventful life. There are also plenty of pix of all manner of other guitars undergoing or having undergone major surgery - not for the squeamish. To close, a smaller section deals with building a guitar from spare parts, where Legg once again opines that the most necessary commodity required by the budding do-it-yourselfer is common sense. A short glossary tells you things like the fact that 'pot' is incorrect slang for variable resistor, or that SPDT stands for Single Pole Double Throw switch, and there are also a couple of useful photos within the glossary showing you the sort of tools you might need in your axe-smashing escapades.
The 64-page book is a softback with a pleasant page size just a tittle smaller than E&MM's, and comes to you for £3.95 which, I suppose, isn't too bad (the price of books these days... etc.). Derek Baxter's photos are O.K. and reproduced reasonably well. A small criticism of design - the photo captions are a bit too close in size to the body text, which can lead to momentary confusion. But not to worry - to the guitarist who fancies some screwing and soldering, Customising Your Electric Guitar, while obviously a very personal view into the guitar's innards, could make things easier and more fun. Have a look for yourself.
Sound Recording & Reproduction
by Glyn Alkin
Glyn Alkin has more than thirty years of experience in Radio and TV sound engineering at the BBC, and, armed with such impressive dedication to Auntie's cause, he has produced a book which is "designed to bridge the gap between the professional recording engineer and the enthusiastic amateur who wishes to improve his techniques and gain a better understanding of the recording medium". I think it does this admirably, taking the reader from production techniques in different recording (analogue and digital) and acoustic environments through to the variety of reproduction techniques (audio, that is) around today.
The format is somewhat unusual, in that each topic or subsection is covered in two pages - the left with headings and info, the right with diagrams, drawings and data - but this makes it an easy book to browse through and still gain some sense of direction along the tortuous path- way of the recording chain.
My only real grips is with the price of the book, which seems very expensive for just 224 smallish, large-print pages - and without a single glossy photo for light relief. A paperback version would certainly make greater sense to the 'amateur' readership that it's aimed at.
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