Intervallic Fretboard Book Review

By: Matt Warnock

Intervallic Fretboard

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Most of us guitar players understand that learning at least a little bit of music theory will help us grow as players and especially songwriters, yet we all think that theory is a four-letter-word. There is a good reason for this. Many teachers, books and DVDs have tried over the years to explain the inner workings of chords, scales, musical notation and progressions, but have done so in such a dry and unpractical way that many of us never understand the relationship that these concepts have to our everyday performances.

While others have failed in this approach to bringing theory together with practical, easy to understand concepts that we can all apply easily to our daily practice routine, Ashkan Mashhour and Dave H. Murdy have met that problem head on, managing to bridge that troublesome gap in their new book Intervallic Fretboard: Towards Improvising on the Guitar, and the result is a volume of good, solid theoretical information that is taught in an easy to understand manner, and with exercises that can be immediately applied to anyone’s playing, regardless of their background or musical genre of choice.

As the title suggests, this book aims to teach guitarists what intervals are, how they relate to chords, scales and arpeggios, and how we can all learn to see and think about the guitar in an intervallic fashion. The book contains more text than most related guitar technique books, but it is well written and never gets too “heady” for the average player. If you start at the beginning of the book and continue on through each subsequent chapter, you will have no problem understanding the concepts presented, and you’ll be able to immediately practice the exercises and patterns presented in the book.

Besides the theoretical material that is presented in the book, which guides the student along the path to understanding intervals and their function in modern music, the two authors have come up with an interesting, and as far as I know, completely new way of notating music. This new method is placed above the tab, though it looks fairly similar at least in structure to standard tablature, and is based on the intervallic visualization concepts presented in the book. Instead of placing fret numbers on each string, there is the corresponding interval number.

So, for example, if they want you to play an F on the 2nd string, instead of placing a 6 on the tab, if the chord is Bb, then they place a 5, because F is the 5th interval over the note Bb. See how this works? At first it’s a bit confusing, and I’m not sure if anyone would spend the time to be able to sight read this kind of notation, but it acts as a great aid to understanding how each note functions under the given chord-bass note, as well as acts as a supplement to the tablature shown beneath.

Overall, Intervallic Fretboard is a great book that should be in the library of any serious guitar student. Not only does it present theoretical material that we should all have a grasp of, it does so in a manner that will inspire us to practice and think of our guitars differently, something that few theory books are able to accomplish.