Fretless – Stickman – Album Review – Neil Haverstick

This is a compilation of Neil Haverstick’s Fretless Guitar pieces covering the years 1993 to 2009.

In his own words: “Playing Fretless Guitar presents many challenges, but allows me to find new horizons as a composer, including many subtle microtonal shades of colour, unavailable on a tempered instrument.”

Fretless Stickman CD cover

Quick Profile


Neil Haverstick at DFGF 2
Neil Haverstick at the Dutch Fretless Guitar Festival 2007

Neil Haverstick (AKA Stickman) was born on September 22, 1951, in St. Louis, Missouri, and started playing guitar in 1965, being highly moved by the music of the Beatles, Yardbirds, Cream, and the general musical atmosphere of the 1960’s. He is a guitarist, composer, author, and instructor
Haverstick is known for composing in microtonal tunings of 19, 22, 31, 34, and 36 tones to the octave, as well as exploring fretless guitar with pure tunings from the Harmonic Series. He has 10 CD’s available, and has written 2 music theory books, as well as articles for Guitar Player, Downbeat, Vintage Guitar and Cadence magazines.

What people say:

“Neil Haverstick discovers other worlds of sound within a microtonal universe… he might as well be from another planet” – Electronic Musician
“Formidable fretboard chops and an affinity for the blues.” – International Musician
“Bold and daring, Haverstick ventures into distant aural galaxies” – Guitar Player
“One of the most sought after session players in town.” – Denver Post
“If Neil Haverstick lived in England he would be called ‘A National Treasure’.” – Jahloon

Fretless – Stickman

2010, id number: 009

Album Tracks

1. Project 9
2. Beautiful Springtime
3. Iraq
4. Didgeridon’t
5. Thunderbird
6. Mars Mama
7. Silver Woman

All tunes © 2010 Neil Haverstick
Project 9 © by O’Leary / Haverstick
Didgeridon’t © by John Starrett
Produced / Arranged by Stickman
Cover design Hstick, artwork by Neela


“Thunderbird” was on Neil’s album “The Gate” (1993) which predominantly featured 19 tone guitar and includes “Spider Chimes” which won the 1992 Guitar Player magazine, Ultimate Guitar competition, experimental category. “Thunderbird” is very much in keeping with the feel of the album “The Gate” but does stand a little apart with its Native American vibe, a frenetic background track with a predominant beat and mysterious vocals up front.

“Didgeridon’t” features a fretless Roland GR300 guitar synthesiser and hails from the album “Other Worlds” (1999) and features special guest John Starrett on Starrboard. Neil explores the darker side of the guitar synthesiser here and the title of the album really fits here, you are hearing music from some other world. There is a lot of space in the music and new sounds are blended in making you wonder just what will happen next.

“Project 9” comes from the album “If the Earth was a Woman” (2002) for which Andy O’Leary provided the ‘Acid Loop Composition’ for the track. Hectic and fast moving with textures changing constantly, at times with an almost tribal beat but adding a very Sci-Fi feel to the track.

“Iraq” (fretless tuned 1/1 5/4 3/2 15/8 9/8 45/32) and “Silver Woman” (fretless tuned 1/1 5/4 3/2 7/4 35/32 21/16) both feature on “Mysterious Female” (2007). “Iraq” is a solo piece with some frantically fast finger work with some nice percussive work on the body of the guitar. “Silver Woman” (also released as a single) opens sounding the open strings, then harmonics, you can see why Neil’s open tuning in just-intonation is so important. After exploring the main theme the return to harmonics is visited by some far out techniques, nice!

“Beautiful Springtime” (Fretless 7 string electric) and “Mars Mama” (Fretless Acoustic) both feature on the live album “Spider” (2009) a 19 Tone collaboration with the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, recorded live at the Trinity Presbyterian Church. The two fretless tracks were recorded later at Soundstream studios. “Beautiful Springtime” is a solo piece and a testament to Neil’s intonation, spot on with chords and melody, a very haunting track. “Mars Mama” ups the beat with a very rhythmic feel, it is the longest track on the album at 16:16 but retains interest throughout with some quite amazing percussion and fretless work.

This is a great compilation from a very well respected guitarist and composer, as it spans some sixteen years you could almost call it a sampler, or greatest fretless hits, or best of fretless guitar. In a way it is all of these things and I do hope it inspires you to listen to more of Neil Haverstick.


Review – Jahloon – April 2016

Neil Haverstick’s Fretless Guitars

Neil Haverstick Fretless Guitars

Left to right: Fretless Acoustic, Fretless Banjo, Fretless Seven String Electric, Fretless Flying V, Oud.


Neil Haverstick – The Hague – Part 1

Neil Haverstick – The Hague – Part 2


The Oud Ancient to Modern by Neil Haverstick (Vintage Magazine article, pdf on Unfretted) (Neil’s website)

More Fretless Music Reviews More Fretless Guitarists

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