Amplified: A Design History of the Electric Guitar

Reaktion. Nov. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781789142747. $35. MUSIC
Atkinson (design & design history, Sheffield Hallam Univ., UK; Computer) strives to separate fact from myth in this well-researched, accessible exploration of the electric guitar. Focusing exclusively on the instrument’s design, with little attention given to music or accessories such as sound pedals and amplifiers, the author starts with patents for primitive exponents in 1890. He covers major developments of signature manufacturers such as Gibson and Fender, how the industry broadened to Britain and Japan, the onset of mass production and boutique makers, and the recent inclusion of synthesizers. Atkinson also devotes a chapter to materials and technologies. Readers learn how the basic instrument is created, with fascinating highlights such as the integration of automobile engineering techniques and evocative new body shapes. Beautiful color photographs, contemporary advertisements, and examples of musicians displaying their own favorites add interest.
VERDICT Acknowledging the significant role guitar historian Tony Bacon has played in this arena through his more popularly oriented publications, Atkinson’s more academic contribution to the literature is decidedly welcome. His rigorous scholarship and clear affection for the subject shine.
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