The Complete Guitar Guide
by David Lawrenson
Published by Virgin Books Ltd.
The publishers of this book have tried to cram so much into its 200 pages that any reviewer could be forgiven a slight trace of scepticism when first approaching it. To cover all the material promised (which includes chapters on buying a guitar, looking after it once you've bought it, a discussion of amplification available, a look at how guitars are made, a section on vintage guitars, profiles of 26 guitarists, a guitar tutor plus reviews of all the guitars now available) this book would have to be some kind of paper-backed Tardis! Not surprisingly the resulting coverage isn't quite as complete as the title would have you believe.
But before going on to this book's glaring omissions it is only fair to say that it does have many good points. Its history section, though basic, accurately traces the instrument's development taking in the pioneering days of Leo Fender and Les Paul and ending with a look at Japanese copies and customising. The advice on buying a guitar is sound and should insure the first-time buyer against any costly mistakes and the maintenance section contains all the cardinal rules. Likewise the amplification, guitar-making and vintage guitar sections are perfectly adequate and, for the newcomer especially, they offer a useful and informative read.
It is when one comes to the "first ever analysis of all the guitar equipment available today, including acoustic, lead, bass and rhythm guitars" that the faults really begin to show. The first guitar I looked up was, naturally enough, my own — a Gibson Les Paul Standard. It's not even mentioned! A rapid thumbing through the lead section revealed that the entire new Vox range and the Ibanez Blazer, to give just two examples, are also neglected. In the acoustic section only one Martin is mentioned (the up-market 00028) and Fender acoustics may as well not exist. Basses fare no better with the superb Overwater 05957 conspicuous by its absence. Having said that the guitars that are mentioned (19 acoustic, 62 lead, 35 bass) are given excellent one-page illustrated reviews and are rated for construction, finish, sound, playability and value for money.
In short then this is a very selective list and to give the impression that it contains "all the guitar equipment available today" is either a very foolish mistake or a pretty contemptible marketing ploy on the part of the publishers. I can see people reading the cover and paying out for what they think is a fully comprehensive list only to be very disappointed. If you are looking for such a list I would definitely warn against buying this book.
If, on the other hand, you are a newcomer to guitars and need some basic guidelines on what to look out for then this book could be for you. There's even a short beginners lesson teaching tuning, six basic chords and barre technique at the back.
At £4.95 the choice is yours, but don't take the title too seriously.
Servicing Radio Hi-Fi and TV Equipment
by G. J. King
Published by Newnes Technical Books
Gordon King is a prolific (indeed formidable) author and magazine contributor and, moreover, what he writes is always cogent, down to earth, and above all, readable, though it does seem a little dry at times in comparison to the slapstick sagacity of Steve Dove et al
. This book is the third edition of a classic first published 16 years ago under the title 'Rapid Servicing of Transistor Equipment'.
Although the author assumes an elementary knowledge of electronics and goes on to discuss transistor fundamentals in the first two chapters, he then very laudably hits the nail on the head with the statement: "It is possible to trace faults in transistor circuits without any knowledge of how the device works." At this point, there arises a bizarre irony, because readers who have already begun to find their way around hideous masses of wires and coloured plastic boxes, using intuitive, magical and lateral modes of thinking, will either not require this book at all (because they feel experience is the best teacher), or they will be the book's greatest advocate because of its ability to provide inspiration or a different (i.e. logical) direction when intuitive 'hunches' have failed to find the fault. On the other hand, if your approach is strictly logical and methodical, any book of this kind won't be of much assistance, unless, as a skilled engineer you possess habitual dexterity at perceiving all circuits in terms of first principles; a situation which arises because most of the circuits in this book (as in most) are out of date, have little or no direct relevance to equipment used by electro-musicians, and again, because it's obviously unfeasible to present even a fraction of the myriad of circuit configurations, and, like any worthwhile book, it will only help ardent and obsessed neophytes.
Nevertheless, this book's a quintessential reference to all who delve inside electro-musical equipment; but don't borrow it from a library because it's the sort of book that will gather dust until repairs are desperately called for at 1.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. When you do
need it, it will be a godsend.
At £6.95, being approximately the price of an hour's labour, this book need only shortcut one probing session by one hour to pay for itself. And whatever this book's practical shortcomings in relation to synths, amplifiers and mixers, no other book, to my knowledge, tackles these topics adequately, and these are just the specialised, practical areas that E&MM's Electro-Music-Engineer articles can cast light upon.
How To Use Op-Amps
by E. A. Parr
Published by Babani
For the modern electro-musician, an understanding of op-amp behaviour and a knowledge of the op-amp's role as the basic building block within almost all audio and musical analogue (i.e. non-digital) circuits and systems is of paramount value. 'How To Use Op-Amps' isn't the most profound survey of this topic on the market, but it is highly readable, comprehensible to a determined beginner, broad in its coverage, and above all, filled with a host of quintessential (and practical) circuits relevant to sound engineers and musicians. The book also contains short form data mon most commonly encountered op-amps (with the notable exception of the NE5534) and a chapter on power supplies. All who construct E&MM projects should consider this book an invaluable source for ideas, and a guide to project debugging.
Published by Wilmslow Audio Ltd
Wilmslow Audio Ltd have long been known for their expansive range of audio loudspeakers. Their new 84 page catalogue/databook is packed with useful information about speakers, cabinet designs, crossover networks and related design equations.
The catalogue is available from Wilmslow Audio Ltd., (Contact Details)
Organ Registrations & Techniques
by Roy Neal
Published by Sceptre Publishers
This book follows on the heels of Roy Neal's highly successful first book, 'The Magic of the Organ'. The magic expounded in this new 1982 publication is described by its title but the text covers much more than it suggests.
The author's style of writing is pleasant, witty and interesting and an eminently readable typeface has been used throughout the book. These factors made the careful reading required in reviewing this volume a distinct pleasure.
It would be only too easy to write in a dry and dusty manner in covering such a title but Roy Neal holds the reader's interests completely by his easy and informative style.
The opening chapters cover the development of pipe and electronic organs. Though somewhat academic, these set the scene for the remainder of the book. Waveforms, overtones and modulation are discussed before the author turns to orchestral instruments and the synthesisers, emphasising harmonic content and characteristics as an aid to registration.
The next section of the book is a valuable one, devoted to keyboard technique. Useful points emerge as Roy Neal deals with memorising, improvisation, chord harmony and counter-melody.
The final chapters look at the life histories of three well known organists: Christopher Dearnley, Len Rawle and Keith Beckingham, and describes their individual techniques at their consoles.
I am bound to point out two small but misleading errors that escaped the proof-reader — and leave you to ponder on these statements: 'A flue pipe 8' tall will sound a note the equivalent of the piano's middle C' and, dealing with Hammond tone-wheels, 'A wheel with 8 teeth was revolved by an electric motor at a speed that produced a C note. Another wheel of 16 teeth... to provide another C note one octave lower in pitch; and one with 32 teeth to sound yet another C a further octave below.'
Otherwise, the advice offered is both sound and useful. I can recommend this neat hardback book to those wishing to immerse themselves in the art of organ playing, guided by an author with a wealth of experience in playing and teaching.