Has your playing been influenced by Allan Holdsworth? He’s this week’s featured artist!
Born August 6th 1946 – April 15th 2017, he was a British jazz fusion and progressive rock guitarist and composer. Holdsworth was known for his esoteric and idiosyncratic usage of advanced music theory concepts, especially in regards to melody and harmony. His music incorporates a vast array of complex chord progressions, often using unusual chord shapes in an abstract way based on his understanding of “chord scales”, and intricate improvised solos, frequently across shifting tonal centres.
He used myriad scale forms often derived from those such as the Lydian, diminished, harmonic major, augmented, whole tone, chromatic and altered scales, among others, often resulting in an unpredictable and dissonant “outside” sound. His unique legato soloing technique stemmed from his original desire to play the saxophone. Unable to afford one, he strove to use the guitar to create similarly smooth lines of notes. He also became associated with playing an early form of guitar synthesizer called the SynthAxe, a company he endorsed in the 1980s.
Holdsworth was highly influential among advanced guitarists and was considered one of the most technically accomplished and most unusual players. According to Guitar World magazine, he is “as influential as Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen”. Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa, Shawn Lane, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Neal Schon, and Gary Moore have proclaimed Holdsworth one of the most advanced guitarists of his time. Frank Zappa once lauded him as “one of the most interesting guys on guitar on the planet”, while Robben Ford has said: “I think Allan Holdsworth is the John Coltrane of the guitar. I don’t think anyone can do as much with the guitar as Allan Holdsworth can.”
Holdsworth remained “not well known outside musicians’ circles”, and musically, even by guitarists, he was criticized for not being musical enough and being too technical for the average listener. Holdsworth himself understood that his music did not gel with the majority of people and said “I don’t think everybody would like it, for sure. But if people got to hear it, if even 20% liked it, I would be really happy with that.”
Check below for a live performance of his song Devil Take the Hindmost, and a tab of how to play it!
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