Microtonal Masters!


Guitar Player / May 1996 
by Neil Haverstick

Two gifted players, Jon Catler and Dan Stearns, prove that microtonal guitar music can be just as ear-opening as the tuning systems themselves.

Aside from playing slide or bending strings, you can't render microtonal music (i.e., music based on tuning systems that divide the octave into more than 12 units) on a conventional fretboard. New York based Catler surmounts that problem, with the special interchangeable fingerboards of his Schecter Strat copy. A respected figure in the small but vocal microtonal community, Catler has worked in 19-, 24-, and 31-tone equal temperaments and in a just-intonated system of 49 notes per octave. (The two most common microtonal options are equal temperament, in which all the notes are equidistant as in our familiar 12-semitones-per-octave system, and just intonation, in which the notes correspond to the intervals of the harmonic series, resulting in pitches that are not equally spaced.) Guitar World photo - lot's o' guitars in different tuningswith special fingerboards

Why does Catler need all those notes? "I'm just trying to express what I feel," he states, "and human emotions can be expressed much more deeply with microtones." Catler is undeniably expressive. From the 31-tone country-rock of "Cowpeople" to the just-intonated fretless funk of "Human," he extrapolates the Page/Beck/Hendrix school into a futuristic world of endless possibilities. Would Catler ever go back to 12 tones? "That would be like putting training wheels on a Harley," he laughs. "It would be equivalent to a 12-tone player having to use only four notes." John Catler's music - including the terrific The Catler Brothers album - is available from FreeNote Records (2350 Broadway #240, New York, NY 10024).

Contact FreeNote at: freenote@earthlink.net

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