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  • Brett Stine

"Holdsworth Line Lesson"

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

This lesson/line is an attempt to shed some light on some of the unorthodox fingerings, and techniques that make Allan Holdsworth’s style so unique. Things you should look for while playing through this line are Allan’s use of string skipping, three notes per-string triads, his extensive use of hammer-ons, and his unorthodox way of fingering three and four-note chromatic passages.


The first part of the line was inspired by a phrase in Allan’s solo on his tune “Hard Hat Area”. Make note of the use of "diminished" three notes per-string triads paired with his uniquely fingered chromatic passages as you play through it.


The second part was taken verbatim from the end of “The Drums Were Yellow” solo off Allan’s “Sixteen Men Of Tain” album. This part of the line is a sequenced set of three-note per-string "augmented" triads that descend chromatically.

There are some serious stretches here so make sure you have warmed up properly before attempting this part of the line.


Possible uses for a line like this would be: over a vamp/static chord or modal type tune, over a drone, pedal or situation where other members of the band drop out, and it's just you, or you and a drummer à la "Coltrane and Elvin Jones" or "Holdsworth and Novak" on "The Drums Were Yellow."


Just keep in mind when dealing with this type of line to always let your ear be your guide. One performance note I should make is that you should only pick a note when it is necessary, i.e. when changing strings with your index finger. Everything else will either be a hammer-on or a pull off.

Although this line only uses "augmented" and "diminished" triads I would encourage you to experiment with three notes per-string major and minor triads, pentatonic's and even intervals such as fourths for example. Well, I hope you get something out of this lesson. Until next time….




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