renaissance geek Reply to on 19 November 2015
|There’s a whole lot to like about Junkyard Jam Band: it’s written in an easy manner; has heaps of information on physics, acoustics and electronics; a great introduction to electronics skills and if I called the crash course on musical theory anything other than brilliant I would be under-selling it. However (you knew there was going to be a however didn’t you), for a book about building musical instruments the actual build instructions were, for me, a real weak point. Most of this is geographic. Let me explain: out of the ordinary components usually come with a Digi-Key product number but Digi-Key is a U.S. electronics supplier so if you try to get them from elsewhere you have to factor in shipping times and costs which can both be off putting. Yes you can go down to your local electronics store and get an equivalent part but, if you’re a complete electronics neophyte and the instructions call for part X you may not be happy using equivalent part Y. It’s not just the electronics: the elephant trumpet calls for a 2 quart funnel. I have no idea what that is; funnels to me come in diameters not volumes. The CPVC slide whistle calls for half inch diameter SDR 11 CPVC; the only SDR 11 CPVC I can find is flexible pressurised gas pipe of 90+ mm diameter. A couple of the other builds require the use of a quarter for sizing and, living outside the States, I don’t have any quarters to hand. While I appreciate there is a whole wide internet out there and I could go and seek out the information, books are international items and such basics as the dimensions of a piece of tubing to make a whistle or the radius of a circle to cut are pretty fundamental and should be there front and center.
Geography aside, the builds were very well described with plenty of footnotes where appropriate and some nice pieces of background information, which are neatly boxed off so you can ignore them while you build and read them when you haven’t got glue all over your hands. There are safety pointers where needed through the projects which have just the right amount of unobtrusive warning so new builders can remain safe without being scared off. Some of the photography I found not terribly informative and there were definitely some pictures that would be better as line diagrams and others that could be lost entirely without adversely affecting clarity. The only regular gotcha for the projects is that I think the author’s build times are wildly optimistic, especially if it’s your first attempt.
For the adventurous, most projects have a section called “Tips, Tricks and Mods” which gives you ways to extend the build and new ways to play. There is also often a resources section which gives sources for how to play what you have just built or how to take it further.
You may be looking at this and thinking I’ve written a lot of negative stuff, I must have really disliked Junkyard Jam Band, but nothing could be further from the truth. There’s an element of frustration because it feels like a really great book has been relegated to the ranks of merely good by some easily addressed problems. The star rating will, I think, depend where you are in the world. If you’re in the States then it’s a solid four star book if you’re anywhere else, probably a three.