Wayne Krantz: An Improviser’s OS Book Review

I recently got my hands on a copy of Wayne Krantz’ Improviser’s OS book; weighing in at a little under 100 pages and barely a centimeter thick with no fancy cover, and not a single diagram – fretboard or otherwise – you’re left wondering what exactly it might contain. You’re in for a treat because it’s one of the most mind-blowing books you’ll ever read on guitar improvisation, or improvisation on any instrument for that matter, IF you’re ready for it. Are you?

Approximately half the book is dedicated to ‘formulas’, as Wayne describes them, or rather every permutation possible of the 12 notes/intervals of music; while the other half of the book takes the form of a conversation with the author about how to apply the information in the book, and more importantly, the solid reasoning behind it. Yes, this is a system (I’d even go so far as to say it was a method) for learning to improvise on the guitar, only it’s a long way from the likes of the CAGED system, its 3NPS counterpart, and pretty much any other methodology that purports to teach you the ins and out of improvisation.

What’s a formula?
A formula is a set of intervals (from 1 to all 12) that you should apply to the fretboard by maneuvering around it according to the intervals or indeed the notes in said formula, and only those notes. Don’t go thinking this a rehash of scales because it really isn’t. There are 2048 interval permutations, or formulas, available, and relatively very few are common enough to have names.

Who is this book for?   
I would say that this book encompasses a turning point that few guitarists reach or may not even be aware of until they read this book. It’s the point where you become (or not) a truly great guitarist because this is the juncture where you abandon pattern-playing. Oh yes, there’s only so far you can with patterns, boxes, shapes and whatnot; and what we have here is a method to move beyond such things and into the higher echelons of improvisation and creativity. I must warn you: this book will open your eyes to a world of music beyond contrived pattern playing and rote licks. The book focuses on no specific style as its essence is music itself and the creation thereof. Once you’ve mastered the methodology, you can apply it to any genre you wish; you don’t have to play jazz fusion!

How do I know if I’m ready?
If you’re hungry for a deeper understanding and control of the fretboard when improvising, this book will guide you along the path. I should also stress that there are no complicated theory concepts to battle with here; the methodology itself it simple and easy to digest. The hard part is mustering up the discipline and the focus to put it into practice, but here’s the thing I love the most about Wayne’s book: you don’t have to memorize anything, and it takes you practice time to a whole new level of productivity. As you’re not learning rote patterns, shapes or boxes, the most productive thing you can do is to really practice instead of going through the somewhat stressful process of standard learning where you must memorize a quantity of information, then try to reproduce it in some sterile context. Here there’s nothing to memorize, so your practice time starts to seep through into your playing almost instantaneously as you begin to see things from another perspective entirely.

How can I get hold of this book?
The only place you can and should buy it is from Wayne himself on his website. You can read it in one sitting, but I took it everywhere for about 3 weeks so that I could slowly digest the mind-blowing information it contains. Wayne gives very clear instructions on how to apply the material in the book, so you’re not left wondering how to make it work. Again, in much the same vein as Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Krantz has also come up with a breath-takingly simple methodology and taken it to its outer limits and beyond. An incredible insight into improvisation, creativity and playing the guitar.

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