By: Asher Black and Barry Gilman
Publisher: MadPipe Publishing
Publication Date: July 4, 2023
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: July 24, 2023
Two musical minds, Asher Black and Barry Gilman, collaborate in presenting an innovative method for approaching the guitar – seeing it as both an instrument for conveying musical tunes and tones, and a harbinger of deeper, almost magical, moments in their new book, The Guitar Decoder Ring: Featuring SIGIL - the New Language of Guitar.
Gilman and Black have dedicated this fascinating guide to Pythagoras, who spoke of the relationship of sounds – the humming of strings – to the music of the spheres. Those who have either played guitar or closely observed others doing so will realize the truth of that perception and wish to delve into the methodology set forth here. In introductory segments, the history of musical instrumentation and organization is explored, showing the early development of group, or orchestral, music in which the players were confined in a pit, directed by the conductor from above, as compared with the wild and wonderful freedom of bands and individuals in current times. Various standard means to learn to play guitar are set forth, including rote memorization and imitation based on observing others. But, as Black challenges, “When do you actually get to be an author?” SIGIL (a term that is literally defined as “a type of symbol used in magic”) as applied to the structure of the guitar itself, is heralded by the authors as an open-handed, open-minded strategy. SIGIL is, they assert, a means of guitar mastery based on a five-note sequence that can be played on any frets, in any keys of the player’s choosing. This “circle”- written as 7IXIL – readily combines theory with production.
Black, a South African indie musician and guitar instructor, and Gilman, an author and recent guitar student who also works in corporate sales, provide their guidance with copious illustrations, principally showing the 7IXIL pattern as it pertains to the frets and strings of a typically tuned guitar. They have also included quotations from and references to a very wide variety of sources, from Frank Zappa, the Byrds, the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Prometheus, and of course, Pythagoras, who perceived the connection between geometry and the production of musical sound. Their writing is personable, offering slang-laden musician-speak deftly mixed with highly technical information. The remarkable “decoder ring” set forth here will be immediately comprehensible to many guitar enthusiasts, allowing them to use the technique freely, though they may or may not fully grasp its Greek, mathematical, and scientific bases.
Quill says: Asher and Black’s well-organized manual can and should be utilized by anyone interested in creating – and better grasping the principles of – spontaneous, master-minded guitar music.