Brett Stine has created a massive work here with 1,357 pages of insights into the music and playing of Allan Holdsworth.
There are 24 chapters in total and some of this could have easily been individual books by themselves. However by putting all of this in one work, Brett has really contributed in a huge way to this topic.
In addition to the massive eBook, you also receive the MP3 audio files of the musical examples as well as Guitar Pro files to help you study the material.
You can tell that there’s a lot of love and dedication put into the work as Brett quotes Allan Holdsworth and references other musicians who talk about Allan’s work in this book. I also enjoyed the fact that Brett by page 11 already mentioned Wayne Krantz’s book The Improvisor’s OS (1st edition reviewed here & 2nd edition reviewed here).
In fact, Brett mentions:
“I highly recommend checking out Wayne’s book, as I have only included scales Allan would be dealing with in this work. It will make an excellent companion text for reference if you pursue this way of playing.”
As Brett breaks down the scales that Allan uses, he also introduces concepts such as Add Note Scales & Drop Note Scales. This is really interesting stuff as I’ve used this concept in my own playing but only at a very basic level.
Moving on, we get a breakdown of Allan’s symbols (since he didn’t use the more common chord scale names).
By the time we get to the first etude in the book, “Proto Cosmos” Étude – it is clear that the accompanying recording becomes an important part of the learning process for this book. Since the rhythms are complex, I found it helpful to listen to the etude to get an idea of what Brett is sharing. Also, since Brett constantly quotes Allan from different interviews over the years, it helps put in context how we could be understand Allan’s approach.
The second etude, “”Flat Tire” Inspired Synth Étude” is equally interesting as well.
By the time we reach the Holdsworth “Chromatic Movements Etude” on page 117, it is obvious to me that this book provides many ways for one to approach the material.
For anyone interested in music theory, you can use the text as a way of understanding the choices Allan made in his solos and how you can start using the kinds of sounds in your own playing.
For more intuitive players, the etudes alone are a great gateway for getting the kinds of sounds into your ears, fingers and playing.
Make no mistake, there is nothing easy about any of this material… but Brett has certainly made it more manageable for pure mortals to embark on a Holdsworth exploration.
Moving on, there is an in-depth exploration of the Messiaen modes and how Allan used these in his playing. Brett also compares and references Dennis Sandole, Nicolas Slonimsky and Joseph Schillinger to what Allan does.
By page 500, Brett goes into Allan’s rhythmic approach since the page 499 pages was exclusively on his harmonic approach (what scales he uses and how he uses them).
The explanation on rhythms is brief however (relatively) as by page 521 we get into the next part: Chords, Voicings & Intervallic Structures (Sound Families).
This is an interesting section as we get to see how Brett explains Allan’s way of looking at chords.
To me this section alone is kind of a book by itself since Brett has transcribed the voicings that Holdsworth used for his compositions, specifically these:
- Tokyo Dream Root Movement & Voicings
- Sixteen Men of Tain Root Movement & Voicings
- 0274 Root Movement & Voicings
- Texas Root Movement & Voicings
- Funnels Bridge Breakdown, Voicings & Lines
- Funnels Steve Hunt’s Thoughts
- Home Breakdown
- Above and Below Breakdown
- The Drums Clean Guitar Breakdown
The next part, the Holdsworth Voicing Compendium functions as a Holdsworth chord dictionary. As Brett explains:
“All of the voicings in the collection below were extracted straight out of Allan’s tunes, so they are actual voicings that he played; they are not voicings “In the style of.”
This to me is an important distinction since there are so many “In the style of” tutorials and articles in guitar education (and some actually are not even like the original artist).
Following that, we get a Messiaen Voicing Compendium – which again, could have been a book (although short) on its own!
By page 644, we get the Lead Sheets section which includes lead sheets for:
- Tokyo Dream
- Low Levels, High Stakes
- Texas Devil take the Hindmost
- Letters of Marque
- The Sixteen Men of Tain
On page 675, the Transcription section includes complete transcriptions for:
- San Onofre – solo only
- The Sixteen Men of Tain
- Above and Below
- The Drums Were Yellow
- Material Unreal
- Devil Take the Hindmost
- Tokyo Dream
- Low Levels, High Stakes
- Countdown – solos only
Again, to sound like a broken record, this part alone could have been a separate book!
Next up is the Line Compendium. This is a great way to study the lines that Allan played organized by scale or mode.
On page 853, we go into “All Existing 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 Note Scales = 1,749 Scales”. Following that, on page 1,308 we have the next part “5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 Note Parent Scales = 217 Scales”.
Finally, closing the book is the “Thanks & Credits” and “References” section.
In conclusion, I have never seen anything quite like this. There are books that dissect certain guitar players styles, many books that are transcription folios, some that claim to explain a certain famous player’s guitar style, but none that have gone this deep into the rabbit hole that is Allan Holdsworth’s guitar playing and approach to music.
For anyone even remotely interested in this topic, I highly recommend getting this book so that you have new ideas and benefit from Brett’s work. As I mentioned in the earlier part of this review, there is nothing easy about any of this material… but Brett has certainly made it more manageable for pure mortals to embark on a Holdsworth exploration.
Congratulations to Brett & everyone involved in making this work!
Pros: Extremely detailed work done with a lot of research & love for the topic.
TLDR: If you’re a fan of Holdworth’s playing or if you’re interested in the kinds of sounds that Holdsworth got, get this book now, read it, study it and shed it.
You can get the book here: https://www.brettstinemusic.net/
PS – At the moment of the review, there is a discount code available the Streetwise Guitar YouTube channel video (embedded above) and also here on YouTube.
I wrote a lot of other book, course and video reviews too.
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