Harmonics and Spirals – The Code of Music – book review

Harmonics and Spirals, The Code of Music – Neil Haverstick

Harmonics and Spirals

About the author

Neil Haverstick is one of the most respected microtonalists on the planet, he is a prolific composer, performer and author. He organises the Microstock festival held each year in Denver, Colorado, USA.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1951 Neil started playing guitar in 1965. Living in Denver he describes himself as a guitarist / composer using microtonal tunings of 19, 22, 24, 31, 34 and 36 tones. He uses Fretless Guitar with pure tunings from the harmonic series.

He won Guitar Player’s Ultimate Guitar competition (experimental section) in 1992 with a 19 tone piece “Spider Chimes” He won the 1996 Arts Innovation Award in Denver for his 19 tone song “Jimmy & Joe”
Neil has written two other books, “The Form of No Forms” (1984) and “19 tones: A New Beginning”.

Neil Haverstick at DFGF 2
Neil Haverstick playing his 7 string Fretless Guitar

About the book (review)

Harmonics and Spirals, The Code of Music – Creating Music with the Harmonic Series.

This book explains how music is constructed from the harmonic series and how different scales are produced. It takes the Western 12 equal notes to the octave and explains that this type of tuning is but a compromise that only gained ground a couple of hundred years ago. Neil’s writing style is very personal, almost as if he is in the room with you explaining the concepts in a basic easy to understand manner.

There are lots of examples of scales with intervals expressed as fractions and cents, so very easy to try these out and hear just how perfect Just Intonation can sound.

There is a nice section on Ervin Wilson which I understood up to the final diagram, an Euler Genus “Latticed within the Triakontahedron” a 3D structure from math genius Leonard Euler (1739) plotted by Erv Wilson (1999).

The Bibliography has an excellent list of seventeen books and further reading with quick descriptions and comments.

The book finishes off with a chapter by John Starrett – How to Build a Musical Scale from Scratch, which is a nice concise description of how to build a scale, intervals are explained as fractions and if you have a calculator that can work on fractions, it is a lot of fun following the theory.

I’ve read many books on the subject and this is the first one that really explains everything in simple detail. I would heartily recommend it to any musician willing to step outside the twelve.

Review – Jahloon, December 2016


Part 1 – The Harmonic Series
Harmonica 1-16
Harmonics, Distances, Scales
Harmonics 8-16
Building Major and Chromatic Scales
Using Cents to Understand Intervals
Harmonic Series in Cents
Part 2 – The Spiral of Fifths
Meantone and Well Temperaments
JS Bach and the Well Tempered Clavier
Part 3 – Using the Harmonic Series in Music
Part 4 – Ervin Wilson
Bibliography (An excellent list of books and further reading)
How to Build a Musical Scale from Scratch – John Starrett


Harmonics and Spirals, The Code of Music © 2016 Neil Haverstick
How to Build a Musical Scale from Scratch © 2016 John Starrett
Scales of Mt Meru and diagrams in Part 4 © 2016 Ervin Wilson
Cover design by Hstick – Tetractys after Pythagoras
Cover art by Olivia Rebolledo www.oliviapiano.com
Layout by Blair Ashby www.broadlandsmedia.com

Available from:

Box 150271, Lakewood, Colorado, 80215, USA

$25 + $5 postage in the US, $20 overseas.


www.microstick.net (Neil Haverstick’s website)

The Oud Ancient to Modern  (Neil’s article for Vintage Guitar – November 2015)

Fretless Stickman (Unfretted review of Neil’s Fretless Guitar album)


More Book Reviews More Neil Haverstick

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