The Responsive Guitar

Guitar making book by luthier Ervin Somogyi
The Responsive guitar by Ervin Somogyi
The Responsive guitar by Ervin Somogyi

The responsive guitar is a set of two boos that are the result of a lifetime passion for the art of fine guitar making. Every area of technical excellence and craft tends to have a book that becomes its text book and this two volumes might just be that for the aspiring guitar makers. The depth of knowledge that is condensed in these pages will likely make you read them more then one time. But that’s all fine has this books are beautifully written, with eloquence and just enough humour to make the experience ever so more delightful.

Getting access to Ervin Somogyi knowledge is very hard, and this books are the most accessible dive into the mind of one of the greatest builders of all time. Divided into two volumes the first one is a comprehensive look at how he approach his building philosophy and the second dives into the building practice.

All and every components of the guitar are questioned and reflected upon. There are more than ten pages dedicated to the guitar bridge making us question and reflect upon the design choices we make in our guitars, and how much of it is a conscientious decision made towards a goal and how much is just a reflection of tradition.

The companion book is an in depth dive into Somogyi building process, his jigs, and why he does things this way.

One of the questions one can ask is if the book is appropriated for a beginner luthier. If you are looking into a build guide to help you make you first guitar then the answer is no, but if you want to up your game in building guitars, if you are serious about it, and this is a passion for you to then this is the book you should be getting.

There is not a single blueprint with dimensions so that you can thickness your top into 2mm or anything of that kind. The closest thing to that is a single sheet with 4 body shapes in square grids so that you can amplified them, but this is because the book is about a method for guitar building and not how to put together a kit or something like that. If you need a blueprint just buy a detailed one and you are set to go.

The reason why I think any aspiring guitar maker should get this book, even costing more than 200 dollars, is the array of information you will not find easily elsewhere. I’m not saying the other books are worthless, far from that! I really think we must drink from many sources, but this book opens one’s eye’s, and all other reads will become a much more conscious and critic process of reading and consequent questioning.

One last note is the notes booth books have, and that those footnotes would make a book of high interest just by themselves. The books are expensive upfront, but in terms of books, and I do buy more than I should, this are a great investment. I consider them one of my best tools in my workshop.

This are the descriptions for Somogyi:

VOLUME ONE: THE RESPONSIVE GUITAR

This book is about the fine points of making a successful guitar. It is 350 pages long, spread out among 34 chapters on every segment and function of the guitar. It is about how, how much, and under what conditions the guitar makes sound. This includes materials analysis, theory of guitar acoustics and dynamics, a great deal of empirical information, an explanation of vibrating plate behaviors and the acoustic functions of the guitar’s principal vibrational modes, comparative and technical data, and historical perspective.

There is nothing in the market or on bookshelves like this: this book is more or less a bible for guitar makers: it contains everything I’ve learned about making guitars over a forty-plus year career. For icing on the cake, there is a 32-color-page section showing some of the most innovative and noteworthy work being done today that I know of. There are close to 500 photographs and diagrams, and everything is described in plain, everyday language: there’s not a single scientific formula anywhere.

VOLUME TWO: MAKING THE RESPONSIVE GUITAR

This is a book about understanding and making the guitar as I know it, practice it, think about it, and appreciate it. It is a comprehensive method, covering material that other books stint on or skip over entirely, including comparative perspectives on other makers’ methods. It emphasizes making the steel string guitar but also touches heavily on making the Spanish guitar

This book is hard cover, 300 pages long, and contains almost 500 photographs and diagrams. The methods and procedures described in it are based in the principles outlined in the first volume.