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So what’s the secret behind Allan Holdsworth?

yfeefy

Member
Messages
1,382
I've seen him live a bunch of times, and make a mistake or two, but he was really fantastic live the lions share of the time. unlike so many players, he was putting himself out there, hooking his audience up straight from the heart, instead of some pre-rehearsed static "solo".... without a net... there might be the occasional wipeout.

for example, this live solo is beyond mindblowing (i did choose this particular one because... just the way he plays through these changes)..

 
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mentoneman

Senior Member
Messages
2,934
TBF he wasn't very good or comfortable live (certainly not as untouchable as in a more controlled environment). I saw him several times and each time he made bizarre mistakes and just didn't feel at ease at all.

Still one of the greatest musicians of any era on any instrument.
to say he wasn’t good live is not my experience! I’d agree with uncomfortable at times—puzzled looks, grabbing knobs, shaking his head after a clam... and in the later years his assassin sharpness declined.

But when his tone was clicking and he entered the zone, he made even the LA arm folders in the crowd roar with approval!


 

cyrusj

Member
Messages
115
a while back there was a pic i found of allan playing some chord, and i tried to play it and i couldn't , my fingers wouldn't stretch to those chords...he had freaky hands, that's for sure!!!!!
My favourite song of his is "White Line", and I tried learning it a few years ago but gave up only a few bars in. The song is full of cartoonish chord shapes like this:



I doubt even 1% of the population can play a chord like this, he was surely the Rachmaninov of guitar, Rachmaninov being able to play a 13th interval on piano (I have largeish hands and can barely play a 10th interval)
 

mentoneman

Senior Member
Messages
2,934
My favourite song of his is "White Line", and I tried learning it a few years ago but gave up only a few bars in. The song is full of cartoonish chord shapes like this:



I doubt even 1% of the population can play a chord like this, he was surely the Rachmaninov of guitar, Rachmaninov being able to play a 13th interval on piano (I have largeish hands and can barely play a 10th interval)

alien.
 

mentoneman

Senior Member
Messages
2,934
People site UK in the dead of night solo so often but i prefer this one from the same era:


Tone was recorded a bit honky/phasey but the playing is great, and because he’s playing over a simple and static chord progression it’s one of the more approachable AH solos to glean from!
 

p.j.

Member
Messages
5,232
Allan never played in a box. He saw the whole guitar neck top to bottom. He knew how to play over A LOT of chords and could see all the chords within the scales along with tons of permutations of those chords and scales. He combined a ton of stuff though and its very hard to figure out. His legato is also the result of a decades of refinement and practice and he was so good at it that he'd figure out ways to control the volume of each note to "play with the listeners ears". That's why it can sound so unique when he's soloing because he was constantly doing this, among other things.

As for his tone, he used Mesa Boogies a lot in the 80s/90s but also used solid state amps like the Lab Series as well as the really expensive Yamaha DG series heads. Later on he used Hughes & Kettner and Quilter amps and basically sounded the same as ever. I think he said Mesa Boogie was his overall favourite amp sound.

This is a really good video where he answers a lot of questions, I'd recommend it if you want to learn more:

Plus A
Here's Allan w/ Krokus!
Zoiks!!!
 

p.j.

Member
Messages
5,232
Saw AH live three times in a small club, 2 early IOU tours with Jeff Berlin on bass and Paul Williams singing, and once with Jimmy Johnson- never less than staggering, even when he seemed disappointed.
The way he'd casually play the jaw dropping scalar stuff was truly amazing, and the whole band was great.

I was still a teen, but I made mom take me... the first time. After that she liked the music too. :D



Another fave- trading solos with the percussion, gradually getting wilder:

Love his Gong stuff!!
 

p.j.

Member
Messages
5,232
Mm you can mimic bits of what Allan does to a certain point..

Maybe learn a few bars that you enjoy and are importantly within your technical reach. It is easy to get frustrated. Remember there are lots of players who wanted to play like him and obviously could not. Think EVH was one of them.. EVH! I remind myself of that fact and it makes it ok to fail. So just enjoy whatever you can do and be glad it inspires.

The downside to doing this without basic theory is that you're bound to blindly memorising and it is harder to adapt and assimilate into your own playing. But it can still be extremely fun and a nice way to get out of a rut.

Alternatively you could just focus on the tone, phrasing, legato and the whammy work. Check this one out, around 2:30, I bet Steve Vai approves :)

I have been listening to this on my way to work lately. Puts me in a good mood until I actually get into the driveway. ;)
 

sonofspy

Senior Member
Messages
792
I went on a commando trip to upstate Roslyn New York to see Allan in a place called "My Fathers Place". We got there hours early because we had to beat the traffic. At the bar an elusive chap pulls up and grabs a pint of a local brew from Valley Forge Brewing Company. My mates and I were already deep into the Valley Forge Ale ourselves and I leaned over and asked Allan "So whats it like doing this for the chicks and all ?" and we had a silent pause before we all broke out in glorious laughter. His gear was hauled in and we caught the soundcheck and needless to say it was an amazing night. I got to buy an idol a beer and he destroyed the place. He knew we drove for hours without us saying . . . it was not the end.

We went to the following leg of his tour into New York City where he opened for Al DiMeola at Radio City Music Hall. I can't even begin to describe the amazing sound and experience that was. Allan saw the same crew in the audience and gave us a nod as he obliterated the Main attraction. I was fueled by the "Friday night In San Francisco" Record and even bought a nylon acoustic to learn the Paco DeLucia fingerstyle and by the end of the night Chad Wackerman was the worlds greatest drummer, Jeff Berlin the worlds greatest bass player and my sights were firmly set on Allan Holdsworth and Paco Delucia. Yngwie was a warm up for me back then, I had the skills to finally experience complete failure when Allan came along. I never looked at the fretboard the same. In fact I never looked at a fretboard a person was playing live the same way, utter disbelief. Its only happened twice. With Allan and a guy named Rosco Martinez playing an upside down white SG with triple gold pickups and Bigsby strung upside down.

I would highly suggest watching the Jazz Movie by Ken Burns and it should explain alot about what happened to Allan. Then I would go and find his earliest recordings from the 1960's and you will hear the magic even back then and into the 70's when he was blazing on Non Master Volume Marshalls, just amazing. Eddie Van Halen happened after Allan and even Yngwie, most people don't realize that. They both had recordings that were jaw dropping before Ed.

So thats my suggestion, find the Jazz Allan loved and then his first stabs at it, otherwise its like picking up a hammer and chizel and looking at a 9 foot cube of granite thinking about carving the most sensual woman on earth.

Here is a rare one, packed with tone and mastery :

" obliterated the Main attraction " :spit


HAHAHAHAHA! No one could stay on stage with Allan...
 

Barquentine

Member
Messages
2,191
I remember when I first heard Holdsworth on metal fatigue. Listening to that literally changed my life. I didn't think it was even possible to play like that and to be honest nobody has since.

To answer the question. It is actually possible to play like Holdsworth over normal chord progressions and he's done so himself on numerous albums. His approach is very idiosyncratic and IMO that's why he sounds so different. His concept of harmony isn't the same as what is traditionally taught, so his playing and songs sound different from others.

I don't know how people feel about pluging your own stuff, but I made a video about my approach the getting somewhat close to the holdsworth sound. I hope someone finds this useful.

This one is on pentatonics.
That is one of the most disorganise tutorials I've ever seen. I'd had enough after three minutes. It's like the guy did NO preparation for this and just winged it.
 

GT3

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
820
That is one of the most disorganise tutorials I've ever seen. I'd had enough after three minutes. It's like the guy did NO preparation for this and just winged it.
"The guy" is the person who posted the video in this thread ...

I found the video to be useful, and I appreciate his posting it.
 

Buzzard Luck

Member
Messages
2,395
I'm a fan, and I appreciate that he had a very idiosyncratic approach, but almost all of his solos sound the same to me. Lots of notes and moments of breathtaking playing, but not a lot of differentiation.
this is the kind of typical unsolicited response from someone who proudly believes their musical acuity is a trait to boldly stand behind, wobbly reading comprehension skills unquestionable.
 

tktk

Member
Messages
213
I've heard one of the peculiar things of AH is that he didn't write bass lines in his compositions. So, you have no chords. In a rehearsal, he would play only upper extensions, then he and a bass player would discuss which note should be played underneath. I think I watched Jimmy Haslip talking about this topic. So, his whole approach is very modal I'd say. He probably heard his music as modal interchanges based on "his version" of scales. I've no idea to this day how he would voice lead each mode. That's something I'm interested in rather than his licks.
 

sahhas

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,304
wow, that is interesting! i'm 6-4, but for someone my size, my hands are pretty small-never could palm a basketball or anything....
i remember seeing in Chicago the Jordan plaque that has his hand print in bronze, and when i put my hand to his, it was like he had 2 extra finger bones past mine!!!!!
there is a live vid I saw of AH a while back of him playing live, and the chords that he was playing for this one song were just crazy....he had large hands and knew how to use them (ok, that sounds like a variation of the ZZ Top song "legs"!!!!)


One of my fav images on the internet

 

Jr Deluxe

Member
Messages
2,933
Allan's secret? Well dont let this get around but he used to dress up like Julie Andrews and sing The Sound Of Music. I prefer Mary Poppins myself.
 

GT3

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
820
It's probably not a coincidence that Vai has large hands and the neck of his JEM guitar is noticeably wider than usual.

Here's what Vai has to say about Allan:


"I would not be surprised if in 100 years from now, if people are still even listening to guitar - which I suspect they will be - he’ll be singled out as ‘the one’ alone, so to speak."
 




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