Book Review: Improvising Without Scales – The Intervallic Guitar System of Carl Verheyen

First released in 2005, this 32-page book with CD/Online Audio (depending whether you get the old/new physical book or e-book) is a documentation of Carl Verheyen’s approach to creating and organizing melodic lines for improvisation. He attributes this approach to  a lesson he took with Joe Diorio. Joe introduced him to the idea or keeping an ongoing musical diary or lick book to document musical ideas that sounded like your own.

The way I look at it, the book is divided into two main sections:
1. The concept/way of thinking
2. The licks/lines

In the first section, there are 7 subtopics that introduce Carl Verheyen’s thought process, way of looking at different intervals and melodic direction. In the second section, there are three chapters on major, minor and dominant lines. For each chord type, he gives 20 examples each to demonstrate different kinds of lines that he would play on each chord type. He ends the book with a coda section giving some closing thoughts on how someone could move ahead after completing the book.

This book is kind of a rock/fusion/jazz extension of Joe Diorio’s books such as his classic work, Intervallic Designs for Jazz Guitar. Is it just a lick book? Depends on how you look at it. To me, it’s not. Because of how Carl has organised the material and with his own initial explanation prior to the licks, it gives context for the adventurous and curious guitarist to get new ideas. If you’re just looking for some quick licks, you can still benefit from this book but not in an optimum way.

The cool part of the book also are the audio examples. These are presented in a musical context with rhythm section parts and Carl playing them with his distinctive tone. Hearing Carl play the lines adds a lot to the book so be sure to listen to the audio as you study the book to get the most benefit.

Pros: Logically organised, systematic concise book. Audio examples are very helpful to hear how Carl plays the lines in context.
Cons: Feels like it could be longer, until you start trying the lines then you realise, wait a sec – there’s A LOT here!
TLDR: Wanna get out from playing scalar lines? Wanna use more varied intervals and create longer lines than span the fretboard? Get this book and then start practicing!

How to Buy:
The book is available via Mel Bay:
Physical Book
and Amazon.

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