Author Topic: Getting inside Holdsworth's head  (Read 8055 times)

millions

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Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« on: November 30, 2011, 05:27:03 PM »
From another thread it was posted:

"...in conversation with me and Vic Juris, he referred to when he saw Holdsworth live at a festival in Israel.

He was with Mike Brecker and they looked at each other...Lieb said to Brecker, "you have any idea what this guy is doing?" Mike said no and they both laughed."

Transcription is a good thing; but it doesn't reveal the larger ideas and strategies which generated the solo. What I'm trying to do here is to uncover the thinking behind Holdsworth's playing.

I think it involves set theory, as the possible sets are listed in the books "Basic Atonal Theory" by John Rahn, and the Allan Forte book. Dogbite and I are both familiar with these books & the ideas within. I have told Doggie in the past that this way of thinking is probably tied to Holdsworth in some big ways, and that he should capitalize on this. That's another matter...

Before I start into this, I'm first going to have to check into my Holdsworth books, and more importantly, have another look at the interview footage of Holdworth on YouTube as he vaguely desrcibes how he sees scales, and transcribe thay fot inclusion here, because this fragmentary explanation was what made the bell go off in my head.

Also, I will include excerpts from past dogbite/millions conversations on this subject, which includes discussion of tonality itself.

In order to get a closer grip on what this is all about, you have to first understand what set theory is. The Rahn/Forte books are mainly used for atonal composition, but knowing this system will lead you to understand tonality, by contrast if nothing else.

It is my suspicion that Holdsworth applied these sets to the guitar fingerboard, after culling through the myriad possibilties, just as dogbite's book demonstrates; but Holdsworth sees the entire fingerboard at once, and plays by visual patterns rather than by 'roots'. He hints at this in the interview.

It seems that Holdworth has somehow applied these ideas ideas into his jazz, and exactly how he does this is still not totally clear to me, but I'm pondering it. Perhaps with dogbite's assistance, we can get further inside Holdsworth's head.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2013, 05:41:04 AM by millions »
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funkle

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2011, 06:38:11 AM »
One thing that seems clear to me is that his chordal approach is very closely linked to his soloing. I feel as if he is mentally moving through chords, or note groupings as he plays single note lines, much like a good jazz player may do.

Halfdim7

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2011, 08:42:20 PM »
I remember Holdsworth saying, in a clip from his instructional video, that he thinks of everything as going from E to E, since those are the lowest and highest notes on a 24-fret guitar in standard tuning. I'm not much of a theorist, but that would suggest a pretty chromatic way of looking at things, and definitely not one based on keys.
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

millions

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2011, 09:47:34 PM »
Yes, halfdim, I remember that also. I think it has to do with visual patterns; he thinks of scales as patterns of half and whole steps, and sees these as long visual patterns on the fingerboard. The major scale would be (in half-steps) 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 (C-D-E-F-G-A-B). Somehow he sees all the modes without re-orienting. Stretched out longer, we see 2-2-1-2-2-2-1-2-2-1-2-2-2-1-2-2-1-2-2-2-1-2-2-1-2-2-2-1, etc, which you can see is groups of 2 and 3 whole steps, with half-steps (1) in between. For guitar, only one such scale-type/shape would be needed; it could be moved chromatically. For example, the one major scale shape would include all its modes.

Sorry I haven't followed up on this, but I'm working up to it.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2013, 05:44:42 AM by millions »
"In Spring! In the creation of art, it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg
"The trouble with New Age music is that there's no evil in it."-Brian Eno

Halfdim7

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2012, 04:21:17 PM »
I seem to remember Bill Bruford saying that Holdsworth used Slonimsky's "Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns" to practice.
I have only just bought the book and haven't even scratched the surface, but it talks about deriving intervals by dividing entire octaves(and multiple octaves) into equal parts.
Since Holdsworth is self-taught, maybe he came across this way of approaching things before, or instead of, the traditional Major scale/modal way of thinking.
So, what if he looks at the guitar, not as a series of tonal scales, but as a multiple octave chromatic scale(starting on E) that is to be divided up into intervals?
That kind of reminds me of dogbite's reductive method of introducing fingering patterns, come to think of it.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2012, 04:23:18 PM by Halfdim7 »
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Lucidology

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2012, 11:16:29 PM »
cool thread ...

Halfdim7

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2012, 08:12:21 PM »
Millions, I got the Abou-Khalil album today.
First off, what a cool ensemble this is. The group really creates some great grooves(often more than one at a time), and the instrumentation lends a lot of color.
I didn't really know how this was going to play into the Holdsworth discussion, but from the first track, I heard the kind of harmonic movement that I associate with Holdsworth's solo recordings(though I still don't really know what it is).
It was surprising in this context, but I like it a lot. I'm sure I will enjoy learning from the transcriptions that came with it, as well.

Addendum:
Reviewing your original statement about not needing bebop credentials to create vital jazz, I think I may have misinterpreted your reference to Abou-Khalil. I guess you may have been alluding to the comments in the liner notes about the new strains of "fringe" jazz.
Still, I seem to hear a similar kind of sound. Maybe it is an induced response, though I don't think it is. I need to make a more careful comparison...

Addaddendum:
I think what I may be hearing is a similar tendency to push the harmony farther and farther off-center. I guess this is kind of a modal approach, but I hear this in Holdsworth, too. I still think that Coltrane material like "Interstellar Space" has something to do with some of this, but I think it's important to remember that Holdsworth's influences were not all jazz musicians. There are shades of Prog, Krautrock, and New Age in a lot of his stuff that I've heard.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2012, 10:13:35 AM by Halfdim7 »
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

aliensporebomb

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2012, 09:14:21 AM »
Check out his booklet in his "Just for the Curious" instructional video - the way it's graphically annotated is something else.  The way he views the fretboard is unique and personal and honestly he seems rather uncomfortable about that - his foreward is a bit depressing (something about
that he doesn't think what he does has any worth at all but that what is within is just for the curious).

What I like about Holdsworth is that he has a way of making what should be un-consonant consonant in an unusual way.

I understand a lot of the techniques he is using to do what he does but it's so personal and unusual that he's basically flown under the radar for
many years as a result. 

Halfdim7

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2012, 10:41:58 AM »
he has a way of making what should be un-consonant consonant in an unusual way.

I think that is a big part of why I am so confused when I try to pinpoint what he's doing. His solos don't really resolve in a traditional way, but they do usually come to a satisfying conclusion of some sort. But it's not like I can go "oh, there's the tonic!" It's usually more like "what the hell was that?"
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aliensporebomb

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2012, 11:08:35 AM »
Slowing down some of what he does could be helpful since he does tend to blaze a lot of notes at a high tempo and part of it is the method he uses to execute high velocity passages (legato technique) with lots of hammers, lifts (pull offs) and not picking every note. 

The Amazing Slow Downer is an app that lets you slow down songs yet keep the pitch the same and another Mac only solution is Coda.

funkle

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2012, 03:43:06 PM »
Slowing down some of what he does could be helpful since he does tend to blaze a lot of notes at a high tempo and part of it is the method he uses to execute high velocity passages (legato technique) with lots of hammers, lifts (pull offs) and not picking every note. 

The Amazing Slow Downer is an app that lets you slow down songs yet keep the pitch the same and another Mac only solution is Coda.

I use that app. I have been working on the Devil Take the Hindmost solo (at about 40-50% speed). I think a lot of what he is playing gets obscured by the speed. Slowed down, I was noticing a lot of what sound like bebop motifs to me. A couple folks here dont agree, but you could drop some of his lines right into a Bird or Diz solo IMO.

Halfdim7

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2012, 07:49:35 PM »
Well, I know Holdsworth cited Bird as an influence and he said that he got really good at copying Charlie Christian.
He has always been morphing, though. There is a phrase right at the end of one tune on Bruford's "One of a Kind" that sounds like Pat Martino. He used to throw in more bluesy phrases, too. A lot of his sax-like stuff reminds me of late period Coltrane. Etc. Etc.
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

funkle

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2012, 06:53:45 AM »
That's just the thing. He may have intended not to play bebop, but a little of it must have crept in.

Halfdim7

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2012, 07:04:53 PM »
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

millions

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Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2012, 08:18:54 AM »
« Last Edit: January 21, 2012, 08:29:44 AM by millions »
"In Spring! In the creation of art, it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg
"The trouble with New Age music is that there's no evil in it."-Brian Eno