Allan Holdsworth had one of the most distinctly original voices of any guitarist. While some aspects of his music and style have been assimilated by admiring musicians, many facets of his playing remain shrouded in mystery. His deep harmonic language, exemplified by his chord voicings and compositions, as well as his unique approach to melodic improvisation, have not been so readily imitated. Such voicings are quite common, not only on guitar, but also on piano and as harmony for horn sections. Before we investigate drop voicings, look at the closed voicing in Ex. Simply put, a closed voicing is when the notes are placed as closely as possible to each other within an octave.
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Allan Holdsworth had one of the most distinctly original voices of any guitarist. While some aspects of his music and style have been assimilated by admiring musicians, many facets of his playing remain shrouded in mystery. His deep harmonic language, exemplified by his chord voicings and compositions, as well as his unique approach to melodic improvisation, have not been so readily imitated.
Such voicings are quite common, not only on guitar, but also on piano and as harmony for horn sections. Before we investigate drop voicings, look at the closed voicing in Ex. Simply put, a closed voicing is when the notes are placed as closely as possible to each other within an octave. This Fmaj7 voicing is quite comfortable under the fingers, but most closed voicings on guitar are extremely stretchy and often very difficult—if not impossible—to play. Each of these are named for how they differ from a closed voicing.
For a drop 2 voicing, we start with our closed Fmaj7 voicing and drop the second note from the top C down an octave Ex. Since the 5 is the lowest note, this creates a 2nd inversion Fmaj7. To invert a voicing, move each voice to the next chord tone.
I needed to move each note from Ex. Follow the same process of dropping the specified note or notes down an octave, then invert if necessary for the other chord types. Another technique for generating Holdsworth-style voicings is to take one note of a seventh chord and move it up or down within the key. These voicings often contain beautifully dissonant seconds within the shape.
A byproduct of this process is that many voicings become difficult to name because not every note in a typical chord is present. The Fmaj9 chord is technically an Fmaj9 no 3 , but rather than fretting about extremely precise chord symbols for ambiguous voicings, it can be more beneficial to go with a chord symbol that points clearly to the bigger picture of the overall tonality.
Holdsworth was a fan of not only using seconds in his voicings, but also minor ninths check out measures 6, 7, and 9. Due to the skipped strings in many voicings, strumming these chords with a pick creates many problems with unwanted open strings, so a fingerstyle approach is recommended. Click here for Ex. The next few examples are essentially demonstrations of how Holdsworth organized scales on the fretboard.
Although Holdsworth did frequently use wider stretches, he also incorporated string skipping and position shifting to create more interesting lines. You will notice that the notes on the 2nd string of the example begin on D, and not E, which would be the typical note that 3-note-per-string pattern would start on. This change was done to create symmetry with the fret pattern of the 6th string.
However, rather than playing only two notes per string, this pattern uses three notes on each string. It creates a repeated unison note at each string crossing. Unisons across the strings is a device Holdsworth frequently used, which is an emulation of the repeated notes a saxophonist can get with alternate fingerings. Saxophonists John Coltrane and Michael Brecker frequently used this device in their playing.
The second phrase incorporates skipped strings to the 3-note-per-string pentatonic pattern. The string jumps cause one note to be skipped over at each string crossing, creating much wider intervals and breaking up the predictability of running straight up a complete scale.
We start on D, but skip a few notes within the scale to preserve a symmetrical feel. This alternating pattern of larger leaps with notes only half-steps apart again creates a far more interesting pattern than simply playing the complete scale ascending and descending.
The lick is made up of ascending perfect fourths, again using unison notes across neighboring strings. No matter how wild a solo line may be, it always lands on a logical note when the harmony changes. Be sure to always include the landing note at the end of any lick as part of the line.
His language can be difficult to decode, but with time and patience, you can help spread his innovative ideas to new generations of musicians. Jeremey Poparad is a guitarist, bassist, composer, teacher, and recording engineer from Akron, Ohio.
He performs in jazz and rock bands, classical ensembles, and musical theater pit orchestras. Jeremey leads and composes music for the progressive rock band, Axon-Neuron, in which he plays 9-string guitar.
For more info, as well as free transcriptions, visit www. More videos from Premier Guitar Related Articles.
Great Dorian m7 licks – Secret ideas from Holdsworth, Metheny and more
Learn a terrific and challenging Allan Holdsworth-inspired lick. I remember listening to Holdsworth play when I was a kid—with complete disbelief at what I was hearing. The speed and the wide intervalic playing was simply amazing. Obviously, it was a combination of his incredible knowledge and technique.
An Allan Holdsworth-Inspired Pentatonic Run
In it, he gave a little glimpse of his process. His way of displaying and treating scales was of paramount importance. Included with each of the scale diagrams is a list of the Common Chords which can be derived from that scale. This article is a work in progress and this topic deserves much expansion, which will be implemented gradually. For the time being, please enjoy this initial listing! Holdsworth actually defined this scale in his video als the "C, Dm, G7" scale. As Allan said in this interview : "Basically I have a way of breaking down chords into scales and I usually take them to the nearest relative minor and I work on it from there.
ALLAN HOLDSWORTH LICKS PDF
I thought it would be an interesting experiment to take a standard and try to play through it with the type of chords that Holdsworth might use, so I took the song Days Of Wine And Roses and went through that applying chords and voicings with that in mind. Holdsworth and Standard Jazz Harmony The music of Allan Holdsworth is of course not based on the same type of harmony that you find in a jazz standard, and in his chord vocabulary there are many different types of voicings. The ones I chose to focus on in this video are the more open chords that are spread out over several octaves. Since the music that Holdsworth plays is also a different harmonic language my chord choices are a bit different. This is mostly because I would have to completely reharmonize the piece to get closer to those chord sounds, and for now I feel that it would missing the point. Maybe in another lesson I can also adapt the chord sounds a bit. This gives us an Eb7 b5 voicing which is in fact also an inversion of an Drop3 Eb7 b5.
Allan Holdsworth’s Fretboard Wizardry
Dourisar Once again, take care to play these lines in time and with precision. This is repeated on the G string, but this time its only a xllan run with the third note being the start of the arpeggio. Thanks and I hope you enjoy! Obviously, it was a combination of his incredible knowledge and technique.