Seth F. Josel and Ming Tsao
Barenreiter: 235 pages (includes a CD )
This hefty tome is an instruction manual for players wanting to improve their knowledge of everything to do with the guitar in today’s modern generation, with a particular emphasis on contemporary music and for composers wishing to write for the guitar.
With over 200 pages and many dozens of subjects covered , this review will only skirt over the greater majority of them, but the book is divided into 4 sections, beginning with Guitar Basics covering its component parts, how guitar tone is produced, many tunings traditional and otherwise, fingers, the basics of notation , tablature, the fretboard, LH and RH techniques, and Key historical works where guitars were used ( Mahler 7, Webern 5 Pieces Op10, Schoenberg Serenade Op24 to name but three) There are in fact many pages of examples from many scores , all from the modern era and completely omitting what we would consider to be guitar composers. The detail gone into however is minute and everything is covered with great care.
Section 2 is a full 39 pages on Harmonics, and again the detail is immense, going into the science of it as well as the technical aspects, followed by Section3 covering The Guitar as Percussion including LH and RH tapping, Tambour, Golpe, Brushing, Rubbing and Scraping , the use of foreign objects and various other means of preparing the guitar, whilst the final section The Acoustic Guitar’s Relatives, tells the entire history of the instruments that deviate from the normal 6 strings , both historical and contemporary, and also cover the Ukelele, the Ebow, the acoustic –electric , the 12 string , the Dobro and many more .The final Appendices cover many other areas including a bibliography , a list of solo works , and works with other instruments , although again I feel the almost entire lack of guitar player / composers in these lists ( No Brouwer, no Koshkin, no Villa Lobos, and many more besides!) is an omission, because surely the guitar composer who knows his instrument better than any other is the one that plays it, and yet in the solo list are works by Appelbaum, Klarenz Barlow, Stefan Beyer, William Bland, James Dillon, and many more, that I would imagine many would struggle to recognize , and that includes myself.
That said this is a book with many layers, and much miniscule detail that many will find utterly fascinating and many will learn from, and therefore I have no hesitation in giving it a hearty recommendation.