Allan Holdsworth: In Depth

how to play like allan holdsworth

I have a great deal to thank my first guitar teacher for. He was the one who introduced me, some 20 years ago now, to probably the biggest influences on my playing; one of which was Allan Holdsworth. Holdsworth is an acquired taste, but once acquired becomes an intrinsic part of your musical and guitaristic education. Holdsworth is revered by many of the world’s most highly respected players, which just goes to show you how far he’s taken the instrument, and is considered to be untouchable by most. I think the first album I heard was Metal Fatigue, and I remember my guitar teacher saying something like, ‘Listen to this guy, but don’t pay attention to the singing’. I was blown away, and then a few years later Allan released, ‘The 16 Men of Tain’, which still gives me chills to this day. To say I was intrigued by his approach to music was an understatement, and so I set out to get my head around it…

Music Theory Struggles

At the time I was struggling a lot with music theory. I just couldn’t make sense of it, or find a way to apply it to guitar, and this was holding me back. The first time I watched Allan’s REH instructional video, his approach just clicked for me. It just made so much sense to me, and the point where I would wonder if it really was that deceptively simple, or whether I had missed the point. As I began to apply the principles of his system for learning chords and scales, I started to realize the potential of it, and more importantly, how far Allan has taken it. This, I believe, is part of his genius: not only creating his own system for understanding music, but the sheer depth to which he has taken it is mind-blowing to say the least. I maintain that the concepts are incredibly simple to grasp, it’s the lengths Allan has taken them to that make him simply unreachable as a guitarist, composer and musician.

Question Everything

To get your mind to where Allan’s is, you need to question everything, especially the things you’ve taken as read. It all goes out the window here as in Allan’s system you won’t find chords nicely stacked in thirds, or much use for key signatures for that matter; there are no CAGED or 3NPS patterns—in fact, patterns become dots that light up the length of the entire neck, and everything is derived holistically from scales and interval permutations.

Joining the Dots

If you’ve seen Allan’s REH video, it gives you a glimpse into how he thinks, but it’s only after experiencing these concepts for yourself (for a number of years) that you start to be able to join the dots, and realize why he does things the way he does, right down to his very technique.

A Guitarist’s Guide

What I wanted to do with the latest eBook, ‘How to Play Like Allan Holdsworth: A Guitarist’s Guide’, was to go more in depth than other people have gone with Allan’s way of understanding the guitar, so that you can grasp these concepts and apply them to your own playing; as well as having that jaw-dropping moment when you realize just how far they can go, and how far Allan has taken them. In the eBook we connect the dots through insight into Allan’s method for learning scales and chords, the necessity of four-note-per-string scales, and the fundamental idea behind Allan’s technique, should you want to emulate his guitar sound.

How to Play Like Allan Holdsworth: A Guitarist’s Guide‘ is available on Amazon Kindle, check it out here.

About Graham Tippett 300 Articles
Compulsive guitar blogger and writer of many innovative guitar books.

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