allan holdsworth

This musical tribute to the late guitarist includes an in-depth exploration of his blinding technique, challenging harmonies, and finger-busting chords.

Chops: Advanced
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Understand how Holdsworth approached extended harmony and cluster-style voicings.
• Learn how to use the “drop voicing” system.
• Improve your legato technique.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

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. Much has been written about Holdsworth’s legato technique, speed, and tone, and many guitarists, particularly in the rock and metal worlds, have embraced and absorbed these elements of his sound. However, Holdsworth’s innovation extended beyond his virtuosic guitar technique. 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. The speed of Holdsworth’s single-note soloing and the density of his chord voicings pose a daunting challenge to anyone attempting to learn his music, and with so few transcriptions available, and even fewer accurate ones, his music has unfortunately been placed out of reach of many aspiring musicians. In this lesson, I want to explore essential elements of Holdsworth’s harmonic and melodic style and demystify some of his musical concepts.

A thorough analysis of Holdsworth’s playing could easily fill volumes, so the examples in this lesson only scratch the surface of his rich musical language. Because much has already been written about Holdsworth’s legato technique, I’ll skip discussing that in detail in favor of looking at the notes Holdsworth played with his extraordinary chops. First, let’s first investigate his chord voicings.

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  • Develop a better sense of subdivisions.
  • Understand how to play "over the bar line."
  • Learn to target chord tones in a 12-bar blues.
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