Author Topic: Getting inside Holdsworth's head  (Read 8059 times)

Halfdim7

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Founder, Resident Noob
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2012, 10:46:41 AM »
I was listening to "Secrets" this morning, and I noticed something. On the track "Joshua," Holdsworth begins by playing long, sustained notes and gradually introduces faster motifs, before opening the floodgates on the 32nd notes.
The thing is, my ears picked up on something they weren't able to before: as Allan is pouring out these phrases, he is structuring them so that they still outline the same melody that he started with; like he's using the melody notes as pivot points, while otherwise kicking up a sandstorm of chromaticism, atonality, or some other device for getting away from "home."
I think this makes clear that those who argue that Holdsworth is a random noodler need to pay closer attention.
He's still playing a melody. He's just playing more melody than many people can handle  8)

"Joshua" by Steve Hunt in "Secrets"/Allan Holdsworth
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

Halfdim7

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Founder, Resident Noob
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2012, 09:46:51 AM »
The full REH video is back up on YouTube. Quality isn't great.
Allan Holdsworth Instructional Video
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

Halfdim7

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Founder, Resident Noob
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #17 on: May 08, 2012, 09:08:22 PM »
I found this on YouTube today and the guy makes some good points.
Holdsworthian Legato Guitar Lesson with Marshall Harrison: part I

I think he may have smoked one too many before recording the second part, though...
Holdsworthian Legato Lesson II: My Favorite AH Soloing Ideas (with Marshall Harrison)
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

aliensporebomb

  • Con-Fuzed
  • *
  • Posts: 24
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2012, 12:33:38 PM »
Except Marshall Harrison's Holdsworth lessons while interesting purposely omit a key technique Holdsworth uses to perform his music:

According to AH in the summer 1984 issue of Guitar for the Practicing Musician his method of fingering legato phrases are hammer-on, LIFT-OFF (not pull off - subtle distinction) and picking.  Harrison omits the lifting off technique.

I had a legato lesson video up for over two years and over 20,000 views but all of Harrison's little disciples pushed me into taking it down because they felt I wasn't performing it in the way their master would approve of.  Ugh! 




Halfdim7

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Founder, Resident Noob
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2012, 01:30:23 PM »
Hehe. Yeah. The second video is not really useful, and that TV going in the background kind of emphasizes the lazy spirit of it... I don't want to be a Holdsworth copy-cat. I think not wanting people to just imitate him may have something to do with why Allan doesn't do more lessons. But even he admits to copying Charlie Christian, early on, and some of that still creeps into his playing. He also learned to copy Clapton and apparently used this in a similar way to Frank Zappa, as a kind of parody.
So I think learning to imitate someone is a valid learning process, particularly if you don't stop at that.
 
Speaking of lifts, the liner notes to "'Igginbottom's Wrench" mention that they had trouble getting the sound of the guitars above the noise threshold. Allan was using a totally clean tone then, and his legato technique didn't generate much volume. He figured out a way to get a balanced sound, later on. One that was compressed enough for the notes to be audible, but dynamic enough that it doesn't sound cheap.
The thing is, you can hear Allan when he WANTS to pull a string out of tune(he does it a lot with two-note descending phrases), but his legato passages are totally even sounding, so his lifts have got to be immaculate.
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

millions

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-O-Phile
  • *****
  • Posts: 294
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #20 on: May 25, 2012, 06:37:45 PM »
This is all interesting, but I want to get inside Holdsworth's head, not his hands. I have come to realize over the years that every guitar player has different physical tools to work with, and this involves the shape & size of the hands, as well as the overall nervous physiology of the brain-hand connection.
I think Holdsworth's sound developed in line with  his particular unique physical facility (he was also a violin player), as well as the way he thinks about things.

That's what we each need to do, not out of choice necessarily, but because these hands, and this nervous-system/cerebral interface is what we were given, and what we are stuck with.

When I see videos Pat Martino playing, I notice that there is a lot of what is called "inefficient" or "wasted" movement. Martino's fingers do not linger over the fretboard, but seem to flail up unconsciously. This may be due to ingrained motor-habits, or maybe it's just the way he feels most comfortable. Either way, we all acknowledge that the results are fantastic, and Martino's sound results in an impeccable fluidity and evenness, a "great stream" of endless eighth notes. He has made the most of his particular and unique skills.

Other considerations: I remember Mike Bloomfield talking about "the only way you can learn to play some of these blues styles is in person, with the player, because there are certain fingerings and ways of doing things which produce that unique sound." Bloomfield may have been speaking in terms of other "direct transfer of knowledge" as well, and did not have access to the huge amount of video images like we do now, so we can say "seeing" the player, and how he executes passages, can be crucial.

I still think that transcriptions should always include left-hand fingerings where needed, which is most of the time.

This brings up another area: there are two "schools" of classical technique, one developed by Segovia, and another (I'm sure I'll be corrected on this). So maybe in the electric guitar, "schools" of technique are emerging as well. This seems like a fertile area of opportunity for pedagogy, especially in this age of DVDs.

So my point is, I want to find out how Holdsworth thinks about the materials of his music: scales, chords, and harmonic concepts, rather than his technique. I'm still working on a coherent presentation, but it will take a while.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2012, 06:45:28 PM 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

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Founder, Resident Noob
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #21 on: May 25, 2012, 10:12:07 PM »
I would slam my hand in a car door to be able to pull off some of the stuff Martino can do, technique be damned.
Pat Metheny curls his thumb around the neck in a MOST unsavory fashion, too.

There is video on YouTube of Holdsworth giving a clinic at the Blue Note in '05. Unfortunately, it is an audience video and the sound quality is poor. It's interesting to hear Allan try to field questions about his music and technique, something he clearly struggles to put into words.

At one point, an audience member asks him how long he played violin and he replied "about six months." :)
There were a few years between his fiddle sawing work with Soft Machine and "Temporary Fault" on I.O.U., but he doesn't seem to attribute much significance to his experiments with the violin.
I really enjoy his playing, though. Very sonorous.
 

Allan Holdsworth/Blue Note Clinic 2005/ Q&A 1/4
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

millions

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-O-Phile
  • *****
  • Posts: 294
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2012, 10:47:44 AM »
I'm beginning to suspect that Holdsworth's approach is somehow British in origin, or related to some common British school of thought. Most striking to me is how "The Guitar Grimoire" seems to be very similar to Holdsworth's mention of "seeing the whole fingerboard at once," and the Guitar Grimoire does just that, with every scale. Holdsworth also mentioned going through "every possible 5, 6, and 7-note scale," which is unusual for a guitar approach. The only other theoretical approach to scales like this (that I know of) is the Forte system, and it had nothing to with guitar until our own Dogbite applied it (this is why I think he should make this connection to Holdsworth known). I've not examined Slonimsky's "Thesaurus of Scales," so I'm not sure how methodical it is in listing every possibility.
Also similar in thought is the way the Grimoire classifies scales into 5, 6, and 7 note entities (in Forte these are "sets"), and then proceeds to systematically list every possible scale. Also, "sweep" fingerings of each scale are listed in addition to more "normal" close fingerings. Perhaps this is the key.
"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

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Founder, Resident Noob
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #23 on: May 28, 2012, 04:40:28 PM »
Yeah, I mentioned before how I thought of dogbite's book when I heard Holdsworth talk about this rigorous fretboard permutation approach.
I do have Slonimsky's thesaurus and it is a daunting thing to behold. There is a brief introduction and a few basic explanations, but the rest of the book is just a big wall of notation, organized by some complex terminology, much of which I have not encountered elsewhere and/or don't understand, and is not explained in the book.
As an example of the way things are organized, the first section in the thesaurus is under the heading "Tritone Progression. Equal Division of One Octave into Two Parts," with the sub-heading "Interpolation of One Note," followed by the four ascending and descending patterns that fit this description, in piano score type notation(bass and treble clefs). The next page is "Interpolation of 2 notes," and this goes on until "Interpolation of Four Notes." After that comes entries for "Symmetrical Interpolation," "Non-Symmetric Interpolation," "Ultrapolation," "Infrapolation," "Infra-Interpolation" ...you get the idea. 

I think the biggest difficulty with trying to analyze Holdsworth is that his approach doesn't seem to derive from much of anything familiar. It's more like a mixture of mathematics, ear training, and visualization that came about in a way that was organic for his individual brain, not something that was designed for others to use. Did you note the comment in the clinic where he mentions that he cannot remember telephone numbers, but can remember the pattern of button presses on the phone itself? And in the REH video, he uses a baton to trace out scales and chords on diagrams at monstrous speed and with zero hesitation. I've never seen an instructional video where a musician was able to connect the music to the visual presentation with that kind of ease.
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

millions

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-O-Phile
  • *****
  • Posts: 294
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2013, 05:59:54 AM »
Yeah, Halfdim, that's an excellent observation. The "symmetrical division of the octave at the tritone" is an idea that's been in the air for some time. Doggie showed how (over on his theory thread) how our familiar major-scale pattern can be used to create symmetry, by using its mode, the dorian scale. Go to a keyboard and look at the white-note D dorian scale; you'll notice that its "axis of symmetry" is G#, a note not included in the scale, but which divides the octave equally. This is because in the octave spanning D to D, G# is the tritone, which always divides the 12-notes symmetrically.
"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

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 831
  • Founder, Resident Noob
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #25 on: February 07, 2013, 10:35:33 AM »
Yeah, Halfdim, that's an excellent observation. The "symmetrical division of the octave at the tritone" is an idea that's been in the air for some time. Doggie showed how (over on his theory thread) how our familiar major-scale pattern can be used to create symmetry, by using its mode, the dorian scale. Go to a keyboard and look at the white-note D dorian scale; you'll notice that its "axis of symmetry" is G#, a note not included in the scale, but which divides the octave equally. This is because in the octave spanning D to D, G# is the tritone, which always divides the 12-notes symmetrically.

Yeah, this is a new concept for me. I didn't really understand what Slonimsky was getting at until one of the posts here explained that it just literally meant that the tritone sits in the dead center of a 12-tone octave. 3 whole tones = 6 semitones, so it's one of those things that seems like it should have been obvious--which are often the trickiest things to notice, for me anyway.
....lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing....

dsop

  • Half-Fuzed
  • **
  • Posts: 79
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #26 on: June 20, 2013, 08:38:35 AM »
I have been a huge fan of Allan's ever since the late 70s, when I first heard him on Bruford's solo records, Tony Williams Believe It! and Million Dollar Legs and UK.  Ever since sometime around 2000 I found him unlistenable though.  I don't hear the "music" in his playing anymore, just noodling.  And his compositions have left me cold since the mid-90s.

.........................................
Paul Marangoni

GeorgeX

  • Global Moderator
  • Fuze-Master
  • *****
  • Posts: 1140
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #27 on: June 20, 2013, 04:38:49 PM »
I have been a huge fan of Allan's ever since the late 70s, when I first heard him on Bruford's solo records, Tony Williams Believe It! and Million Dollar Legs and UK.  Ever since sometime around 2000 I found him unlistenable though.  I don't hear the "music" in his playing anymore, just noodling.  And his compositions have left me cold since the mid-90s.

Complete agreement. It's just not that musical anymore. It's all technique. I saw him a couple years ago, and the crowd only got up for the Tony Williams tracks. The rest of the show was gob-smacking technique, but not much in the way of songs or melodies.  And don't get me started on the visual aspect/stage energy of a Holdsworth show. 

millions

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-O-Phile
  • *****
  • Posts: 294
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #28 on: July 04, 2013, 05:55:43 PM »
Oh, I don't know if I agree. I thoroughly enjoyed the DVD with a Tribute to Tony Williams, but I admit I was more fascinated by Alan Pasqua's keyboard playing than with Holdsworth; but he's playing good, and I hear the ideas still flowing. Still, its more restrained than the early, Soft Machine Holdsworth of old, but what the hey? The Live At Yoshi's is the most abstract thing I've heard since Sonny Rollins' live trio stuff. That's really good exercise for your ears, to follow harmonic changes in a trio with no harmonic guide, like a piano...I love it, I feel like a member of the cognoscenti...Hey, can you follow?
"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

millions

  • Founding Member
  • Fuze-O-Phile
  • *****
  • Posts: 294
    • View Profile
Re: Getting inside Holdsworth's head
« Reply #29 on: July 13, 2013, 08:16:40 AM »
The more I look at Holdsworth's book (Just For the Curoius) the more convinced I am that he uses some version of Forte's set theory, or similar principles.

The particulars of such a method have their idiosyncracies. For example, Holdsworth does not think of scales as having "roots" or starting notes; rather, he sees the whole scale-shape laid out on the fingerboard as certain interval sequences. A major scale is thus seen as a unique set of intervals, spread over the entire neck. No modes, just one big shape. Depending on what root is played, or what chord, determines how the scale is seen: as major or minor, or rather, if it has a "flat third" or a "major third."

But, apparently, Holdsworth has thrown out most, but not all, of the "root" and "note" thinking, as well as "scale degree" thinking (b3, b5, #6, etc.) although he does mention this in the book, as certain scales being "jazz minor."

To my mind, Holdsworth is dealing with "visual shapes" mostly; he knows his scales so well, from the first fret to the twelfth, and beyond, that he just sees them as shapes, and knows how to use each shape under different root conditions. No more thinking in scale roots or chords; just shapes.

What does anybody else think about this? Do you think this is the way Holdsworth's main approach works?

(this post of mine was pulled from dog's "Six-tone Pitch sets" thread)
« Last Edit: July 13, 2013, 08:28:45 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