Yes, we can READ too! And to prove it
by NORBERT PAWERA
Publisher ARSIS Baedeker & Lang Verlags GmbH, Dachau, West Germany.
Available via post from AKG Acoustics Ltd. (Contact Details) at £6 inc. post and packing.
Most musicians are called upon to use microphones in one capacity or another. Either they require them for reproduction of their vocals, or their instruments are recorded or amplified by them. Thus mike technology is one aspect of your sound that no player should ever ignore.
Regrettably, few serious attempts have been made to explain the basics of sound reproduction to musicians at large, either the articles are too technical or too basic — even too scattered. Here, at last, is an attempt to draw together the threads of the whole subject of mike technique, design and placing in one small paperback volume, distributed in the U.K. by AKG from the above address.
The book itself is by a gentleman called Norbert Pawera, who certainly seems to know his stuff. I gather that he is a sound engineer, a graduate of the Dusseldorf Technical College, and that he has had tremendous assistance from AKG mikes in the compilation of this 95 page paperback.
The subjects covered include the basic principles of transducers, the specifications of various basic types, acoustics, the characteristics of musical instruments and sections on miking the voice, strings, woodwinds, brass, mechanical keyboards, acoustic guitars, electric instruments, percussion, plus, finally, a list of commonly used technical terms.
Mike technique is covered in both word and drawing form and the book, although tending to be a bit 'heavy' in places, must constitute the best attempt yet to cover this awfully complex subject.
Given the appalling standard of most technical translations from German into English, this book has been rather well handled, and you'd need to be especially sensitive to object to the light, though more than adequately technical language used throughout the book.
An obvious flaw in this book from an objective point of view, is that it only uses AKG mikes as examples. This isn't too bad, however, as this maker has an excellent track record and, of course, one could do an awful lot worse than use this maker's mikes throughout one's operations. It does, however leave users of other mikes a degree out in the cold and tends to promote (if only-by implication and exclusion) AKG mikes to the exclusion of all others.
Nonetheless, there is a wealth of technical data here that would enable any player to get the best from his mikes and which, hopefully, might prevent him from buying the wrong mike for his need.
Ranging from information of the most basic kind right up to a considerably technical level, this book could teach almost any player (and most engineers from a P.A. or home recording standpoint) quite a few useful 'tricks' and ideas.
Undoubtedly the work which has gone into this book is a considerable and, notwithstanding the rather partisan pro-AKG approach, it is a distinct 'must' for any player who wants to understand what mike choice and technique is all about.
Production of this paperback is good, the illustrations (black and white line drawings) are very helpful and, overall, I can thoroughly recommend it to those readers interested in mikes generally. The price may seem a bit steep (£6 inc. p&p from AKG's London office) but it could well be a most valuable purchase in the long run. Thoroughly recommended, notwithstanding its obvious single-producer bias.
by RALPH DENYER
Published in hardback by DORLING KINDERSLEY at £10.95 and in paperback by PAN at £5.95.
ISBN (hardback) 0 86318 004 3.
ISBN (paperback) 0 330 26788 4
By and large there is nothing more insulting to the specialist than the 'all purpose' coffee table book which purports to cover his subject in minute detail. Accordingly, when we received promotional copies of this book by journalist Ralph Denyer we were very worried that it would be the ideal 'scatter-and-impress-your-friends' title for the hip reader. After all, what else are 'overview' books for?
But, thankfully, this is a really magnificent book, streets ahead of any published to date on the subject of the guitar — and that includes the previous 'definitive' Tom Wheeler's guitar book, published several years ago.
The Guitar Handbook isn't the sort of volume which any player would attempt to sit down and read cover to cover it's more a study course or (perhaps more enjoyably) the sort of work which you'd dip into from time to time, always learning that bit more from the considerable research which has been put into it by the author.
Subjects covered include profiles of 'greats' ranging from Django Reinhardt through to Robert Fripp. Some may quibble at the choice of 'names' chosen for these profiles (for example, how on earth does Andy Summers qualify as a 'guitar innovator' in among the likes of Beck, Hendrix and Berry?) but that sort of partiality will always afflict books of this sort.
The Guitar Handbook, however, goes on to cover a staggering range of subjects from acoustic guitars (how they are made, etc) through electrics (covering Fender, Gibson, Jap guitars, basses, guitar synths, pickups and controls, the list goes on and on) through to a very useful section on playing the guitar, a section contributed largely by Isaac Guillory (a fine player and a tremendously informed one) which includes sections entitled 'The Beginner', 'The Rhythm Guitarist', 'The Melodic Guitarist', 'The Harmonic Guitarist' 'Improvisation' and 'The Complete Guitarist'. These areas are supremely well covered, although you will need to go carefully through them as they are well illustrated with musical notation along with chord shapes etc. As I say, this book is a study course in itself!
The next section of the book covers guitar maintenance and construction and this in itself is a small masterpiece of concise detail and guidance for all players — quite remarkable in fact as it would normally have consituated a book in its own right, but here it is a mere section of this book, and yet it has nothing obviously missing from it! The next stage covers amplification and here, again, one really has to marvel at how much (accurate) information Ralph Denyer has managed to squeeze between the covers of this book.
Even if you have been playing guitar for many years you are certain to learn a great deal from his book — and his description of how amplification actually works (which must influence what you choose to use) is little short of masterly.
To round-off this gargantuan work a chord dictionary has been included. It is, in fact, the final touch which fully justifies precisely what the publishers have called this title — The Guitar Handbook (the italics are mine). In one step, the team behind this remarkable work have taken the literature of the guitar several stages beyond what has gone before. Quite simply it is unquestionably a remarkable work which must have taken more research than I dare to think about. Regardless of the level of your playing abilities or your knowledge of the guitar and all its side-issues, this book cannot fail to impress, entertain and teach you. I can only stand back in admiration of all the effort that has gone into it and take my hat off to the author and his team.
A final point is that I would most strenuously urge all readers of MUSIC U.K. not to be mean. Buy the hardback edition of this book (you will be able to order it from any bookshop). The Guitar Handbook could hold your attention for years and the paperback version (cheaper and worthy though it might be) just won't have the lifespan which this book deserves. Undoubtedly the best book on the guitar to date; I have no doubt that it will be many years before it is bettered (if it ever could be).
Review by Gary Cooper
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