The best books for people interested in guitars and guitar making

Who am I?

I’ve been making guitars for about 30 years now and love it. I’m mostly self-taught and there were some pretty rough instruments early on, but I got better with every one. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve made and my favorite is always the next one. I learned my craft from people who took the time to write about it. I’ve now written dozens of articles and three books on guitars. As a professor, I run a guitar-making lab and teach classes on stringed instrument design and manufacture. I hope to do my part to help new builders the way others have helped me.


I wrote...

Acoustic Guitar Design

By Richard Mark French,

Book cover of Acoustic Guitar Design

What is my book about?

This book is for guitar designers, builders wishing to improve their designs, and guitar fans who just want to know more about their instruments. It’s heavily illustrated and doesn’t require any technical background. The book begins with the history of how the acoustic guitar evolved over centuries and leads up to a chapter focusing on three iconic instruments that represent the most important types of acoustic guitars: classical, steel-string flat top, and archtop. Later chapters focus on the specifics of guitars that are hard to find anywhere else. The book also features sidebar contributions by top guitar designers and builders including Tim Shaw, Chief Engineer - Guitars at Fender Music; and Andy Powers, Master Guitar Designer and Partner at Taylor Guitars.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument

Richard Mark French Why did I love this book?

This book has almost nothing to do with Eric Clapton. Rather, it’s an engaging story about Wayne Henderson, a retired mailman who makes some of the most desired acoustic guitars anywhere. He prefers to build for people he thinks need one of his guitars. It’s impossible to read this book and not want to make a guitar. I turn to it for inspiration when one of my guitars isn’t going well and I need to remember where I’m trying to go.

By Allen St John,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Clapton's Guitar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Allen St. John started off looking for the world’s greatest guitar, but what he found instead was the world’s greatest guitar builder.

Living and working in Rugby, Virginia (population 7), retired rural mail carrier Wayne Henderson is a true American original, making America's finest instruments using little more than a pile of good wood and a sharp whittling knife. There's a 10-year waiting list for Henderson's heirloom acoustic guitars—and even a musical legend like Eric Clapton must wait his turn. Partly out of self-interest, St. John prods Henderson into finally building Clapton's guitar, and soon…


Book cover of Hand Made, Hand Played The Art and Craft Of Contemporary Guitars

Richard Mark French Why did I love this book?

We’re probably in a golden age of guitar making. The internet has made information on how to make guitars, once rare indeed, free to anyone who wants to learn. New builders need to see what the very top luthiers (makers of stringed instruments) are building. This book is full of beautiful pictures – more pictures than words – that show the highest levels of design and construction. When I want to dream about how my next guitar might look, I go here.

By Robert Shaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hand Made, Hand Played The Art and Craft Of Contemporary Guitars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Feast your eyes on more than 300 of today's most creative, imaginative and gorgeous hand-made guitars - all illustrated in full colour and featuring information about the innovative artisans who created them. Meet guitar-making legends, such as C.F. Martin, Les Paul and Leo Fender, who revolutionised the instrument's design. Discover why the past 25 years have seen an explosion of craftspeople who build guitars by hand, employing an attention to detail factories can't afford and using higher quality materials and more technical skill than in any previous era. Explore the various guitar styles used in a range of musical traditions,…


Book cover of Making an Archtop Guitar

Richard Mark French Why did I love this book?

Bob Benedetto is about as good as guitar makers get. He learned to make archtop guitars and eventually became one of the top builders anywhere. I taught myself how to make archtop guitars from this book. It’s well-illustrated, easy to understand, and breaks the process down into manageable steps. If you read this book, you are learning from a master.

By Robert Benedetto,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Making an Archtop Guitar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

(Book). The definitive work on the design and construction of an acoustic archtop guitar, this updated second edition features 288 pages of content, including 24 color pages and 4 tear-outs. See what industry greats have said about this book: "I know of no other work offering comprehensive step by step coverage of the making of an acoustic jazz guitar." George Gruhn "This book is for everyone who loves woodworking, loves guitars, appreciates artistry, and believes that organic materials like spruce, maple and ebony can only achieve their highest function through the hands of a craftsman." Howard Paul "I can think…


Book cover of Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build

Richard Mark French Why did I love this book?

This is very nice a two-volume set, written by Trevor Gore, an accomplished guitar maker with an extensive technical background, and Gerard Gilet, a builder of fine acoustic guitars. This is required reading for people who are interested both in how to make guitars and how they work.

Book cover of Classical Guitar Making: A Modern Approach to Traditional Design

Richard Mark French Why did I love this book?

This is a beautiful book written by a master, who wants to inspire others to make classical guitars. These nylon string guitars look outwardly like other acoustic guitars. However, they are for a different kind of music and are made differently. Bogdanovich does a great job in leading a new builder through each step. I refer to this book a lot.  It’s so nicely produced that I find myself just browsing through it, even when I’m not actually working on a classical guitar.

By John S. Bogdanovich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Classical Guitar Making as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What a thrill for any musician: playing a fine-sounding instrument that he or she has lovingly crafted from scratch. With this richly illustrated manual, well-known luthier and guitarist John Bogdanovich shows exactly how to build that first, beautiful guitar, using traditional, time-tested methods. All that’s required are basic woodworking techniques and a minimally equipped shop. Bogdanovich discusses the anatomy of the guitar, sound, choosing an instrument, selecting woods, templates and molds, and preparation. In more than 300 pages of text, he painstakingly lays out the details of construction, from assembling the neck and sides to installing the fingerboard and bridge.


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