Allan Holdsworth

From Academic Kids

Allan Holdsworth (born August 6, 1948) is a British guitarist and jazz composer.

Holdsworth is felt by many to be one of the most significant figures in the development and evolution of the electric guitar in the modern era, and has been described as "the guitarist's guitarist". The unique efficiency of his playing style, and his mathematical approach to mentally mapping out the fretboard allows him to 'see' symmetrical finger patterns, which produce note flourishes associated more in keeping with the saxophone playing style of Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane than the voicings one might be used to hearing from the guitar.

Holdsworth pioneered several techniques that have been widely imitated by other guitarists. These include using an eight voice modulated delay to create a chorusing effect that, combined with unusual closed voiced chords, create a very piano-like sound from an ordinary electric guitar. He uses a legato phrasing technique with light picking that causes a distorted guitar amplifier to produce a reedy, oboe-like tone. A third innovative technique is using a volume pedal to "swell" chords into a long delay/reverb effect, generating the impression of an orchestral string section. These three techniques were used by Holdsworth to create the aural illusion of classical instruments, years before the invention of guitar synthesizers, and have been adopted by guitarists such as Frank Gambale, Scott Henderson and Bill Connors.

Holdsworth has recorded many different styles of music over the years, including a brief flirtation with pop, in the form of a collaboration with British funk fusion pop band Level 42.

In the early Seventies, Holdsworth joined avant-garde rock group Gong and later in the decade he was a member the all-star progressive rock quartet UK with John Wetton, Bill Bruford and Eddie Jobson.

He is also recognized for his own compositions, which vary in musical style from progressive fusion jazz (for example, his work with Soft Machine on their album Bundles), to romantic, chordal and "spacey" guitar-synthesizer works (he utilises an instrument called 'the SynthAxe' an effective example of which can be heard on the album Atavachron). It is Allan's SynthAxe recordings that motivated readers of Guitar Player magazine to vote him "Best Synth Guitarist" for several years. Although he is not the first guitarist to record with a synthesizer, he elevated the technique of synthesizer guitar to be on par with electric and acoustic guitar techniques. An incredibly down-to-earth musician, Allan famously said in his instructional video that he "doesn't really like the guitar", and prefers the sound of a saxophone.

Holdsworth was brought to the attention of Warner Bros. executive Mo Austin by Edward Van Halen, resulting in the 1983 Warner Bros. release of Holdsworth's album "Road Games". Edward Van Halen stated in Guitar Player magazine that Holdsworth was an influence on his playing. This influence can be heard in Van Halen's "Push Comes to Shove" solo from the album "Fair Warning". Although Allan downplays his impact on other musicians in published interviews, he has been acknowledged by many elite musicians as a source of inspiration.

Holdsworth's discography includes over fourteen titles as a band leader, yet he has recorded with many other notable muscians. A partial list of artists Allan has recorded with are Bill Bruford, Jean-Luc Ponty, Carl Verheyen, Chad Wackerman, Gordon Beck and Pierre Moerlen's Gong.


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