About the Author
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Siminoff built a pedal steel guitar when he was 18 and crafted it with linkage from model airplane parts. The steel guitar was soon followed by a five-string banjo, planting the seed for his life-long dedication to the art of luthierie.
By the time Roger was 20, he was building custom banjo necks to convert tenor banjos to the more popular five-string models for musicians in the New York metropolitan area in the 1960s. Soon after, he started a mail-order parts business called Siminoff Banjos that produced a line of banjo and mandolin parts and distributed them to instrument makers world wide.
In early 1970, Siminoff began making mandolins and focused on designing and building unique carving machines to do the precise shaping of instrument necks and the delicate carving and graduation of mandolin top and back plates. His affiliation with Ray Donnelley of Cedar Knolls Acoustical Labs (New Jersey) gave him greater insight into the acoustical properties of resonant bodies and plates, and he then began to build acoustical models to test the tonal properties of wood, braces, and apertures.
After attending Parsons School of Design in New York City where he majored in industrial design, Roger co-founded a graphic arts company in New Jersey that specialized in photography, art and design services, and printing. With creative facilities readily available to him, Siminoff channeled his banjo expertise and wrote an instruction book for bluegrass banjo playing (5-String Banjo, Bluegrass Style, 1972). This was followed by the publication of his first book on instrument building, Constructing a Bluegrass Mandolin (later published by Hal Leonard Publishing). His next project was the creation of a monthly music magazine that highlighted bluegrass and old-time country music, and in February of 1974 Pickin' Magazine made its debut.
The success of this magazine prompted GPI Publications to invite Roger to join its staff to launch FRETS Magazine. As the magazine's founding editor, Roger helped build FRETS into a viable acoustic music publication that boasted an unprecedented national and international circulation.
Roger focused intensely on the development of several musical instrument products for which he was granted six U.S. and two foreign patents. These included the invention of a guitar tuning knob with a fast-wind fold-out-crank knob, dubbed the “CRANK” that was licensed to Gibson Incorporated and to Schaller (West Germany), and a unique nut, with adjustable action for each string that was subsequently was licensed to Dunlop Manufacturing.
His frustrations with changing strings led him to develop two methods to change strings without cutting, twisting or knotting them. One design, a string with a special pin at its peghead end, was licensed to Gibson and manufactured under the label “GRABBERS.”
In addition to developing Gibson’s GRABBERS, Roger consulted for Gibson’s string division in Elgin, Illinois where he developed improved string winding techniques, and further modified the string gauges in many of Gibson’s string sets for improved string-to-string balance. In 1985 he was invited to work with Fender’s string division in Chula Vista, Califiornia to provide similar services.
Further to his credentials in the world of musical strings, Roger developed the strings for the Santa Cruz Guitar Company, and he most recently originated the highly respected Straight Up Strings that employ a unique compensated-tension system to improve string-to-string balance.
Siminoff also developed and patented a multi-axis truss rod system to counteract the forces of string tension on musical instrument necks, and the patent that ensued from his design was licensed to Gibson. Another U.S. patent was granted to Siminoff for an unusual modular guitar. This “component guitar” features interlocking parts that permit a musician to snap together an instrument to suit his or her tastes in much the same way a photographer might assemble camera bodies and lenses. Another patent followed, this one for a universal mounting system for tuning machines. Today, several other music-related designs are awaiting their turn for further development on the Siminoff workbench.
As a consultant to Gibson, Roger assisted in reissuing several instruments that were originally produced by Gibson in its early years. Among these were the Earl Scruggs model banjo (a replica of Scruggs' personal Gibson Granada), and the reintroduction of the famed F5 mandolin as first produced by Gibson in the mid-1920s. The reissue, dubbed the “F5-L” after its creator Lloyd Loar, was enthusiastically received after making its reintroduction in June of 1978.
Consulting to several other instrument manufacturers, Roger has successfully developed special hand-coloring and shading techniques, improved structural and acoustical designs, production machining and pattern carving of wood parts, musical-string winding and tensioning devices, and mechanical “tuning” devices for production instruments (some of which are described in his book The Luthier’s Handbook).
Siminoff has authored several hundred articles on instrument construction and repair, musical acoustics, and the history and craftsmanship of musical instruments. His research and writings on the life and work of both Orville Gibson and Lloyd Loar have made him a highly respected expert on these renowned artisans. (You are invited to visit his website at www.siminoff.net for additional information on Gibson and Loar.)
Now living in California’s Central Coast region and semi-retired, Roger’s shop still boasts many instruments in various stages of completion, and his daily diet still includes playing banjo and mandolin, consulting to the major instrument manufacturers, and updating his books.
Also by Roger H. Siminoff
- Constructing a Bluegrass Mandolin
- Constructing a 5-String Banjo
- Constructing a Solid-Body Guitar
- How to Set up the Best Sounding Banjo
- The Art of Tap Tuning
- The Luthier's Handbook
- The Ultimate Bluegrass Mandolin Construction Manual
- Siminoff's Luthiers Glossary
- The Ultimate Bluegrass Mandolin Construction Manual 4th Edition
- Boating 101