On April 9, 2022, John Vullo uploaded a massive 5 hour 21 minute video explaining Allan Holdsworth’s improvisational ideas.
You can watch the video here:
Recently, on the one year anniversary of the video, he released a book version of the video. This review covers my thoughts on both the video & the book.
The cool thing about having the book as you watch the video is that you have a way to consume the material more thoroughly. I think of it like watching an REH instructional video on steroids, with a massive 437-page “booklet” instead of a smaller accompanying transcription booklet.
The text in the book is also not just a transcription of what John says on the video but has also been edited for clarity. That means… you could read the book by itself and it would make sense. However, I strongly recommend watching the video and having the book open at the same time to digest the material even more.
I personally went through both the video & book with my guitar in hand to be able to try out the various scale fingerings that John points out in the video.
The good thing about what John has done is that he has identified and codified many recurring elements in Allan’s playing.
- What scale fingerings and patterns does Allan use?
- How did Allan view the fretboard?
- What are the possible conclusions based on the combination of Allan’s own answers in past clinics, instructional material and Q&A sessions?
The benefit however is in taking the concepts that John has codified and to make them your own. John points out his observations of Allan’s playing as it relates to the various left hand fingerings for the lines.
There is a huge emphasis on the shape-based dynamics of Allan’s line and the visual aspect. John also identifies the various triads that are formed from the shapes. John doesn’t look at the lines in terms of how they function harmonically or how the note choices work in the context of the music, this is mostly for looking at things relative to the guitar. John does explain how the different scale options work and how Allan combines different scale options though, which is interesting.
At a surface level, the video and book is great for anyone who just wants to learn Allan Holdsworth licks… but the real value of this work is for those who want to get out from more common approaches of improvisation and get new ideas.
The video itself is time consuming to watch since it is more than 5 hours long, however it is very well organized and John’s passion shines through throughout the video. Watching the video is a definitely an investment in your musical education.
Binge-watching the video is good for getting a feel for the material and scale (pun intended) of what John covers, but to really internalize any of this material, I recommend taking one part and one concept at a time, and then working on that for awhile.
In more typical music education situations, there are so many of the subtopics that could be smaller guitar magazine articles. Not sure whether John has contributed to any print magazines, but I certainly can see him writing a column that covers his take on the Allan Holdsworth guitar style.
As I got to the later “outside playing” section, I could hear the kind of sounds that I’ve heard from other later day guitar players.
It’s worth noting that as someone who is not as familiar with Allan’s huge discography, the video also functioned as kind of a survey and introduction to different albums and solos that he has done over the years.
Towards the closing part of the video, when John goes into the Synthaxe, tunings and octave displacement topics, it get wild and very interesting. The chances of me using these ideas exactly? Probably close to zero. But, using the concepts and ideas as inspiration? Very high.
At the end of the book, the 16-page appendix A section is really useful and collects the various patterns and shapes that John introduced in the book. John also includes licks in the appendix A too. Appendix B closes the book with a chord analysis section of various songs. This appears to be a scanned version of something John wrote so it’s a bit harder to read.
In conclusion, both the video and book by John Vullo is an invaluable document of someone dedicated to the music of Allan Holdsworth. There’s so much to take in & apply from the research that John has done. I’m certain that his work will inspire many (serious) guitarists to expand their creative, harmonic and technical approach to improvisation.
Pros: Great material, well organized work done with a lot of passion and love.
TLDR: If you are curious about Allan Holdsworth’s playing, this video and book combo from John Vullo is one of the best things you could watch to help you gain a better understanding of Allan’s playing. This and Brett Stine’s recently released book are both gems that cover different perspectives and give more insight into the genius of Allan Holdsworth.
You can get the book (and John Vullo’s other releases) here: https://holdsworthpdfs.e-junkie.com/
If you’re interested in the analysis and study of Allan Holdsworth’s playing, you might also enjoy my review of Brett Stine’s book In the Mystery: A Deconstruction of the Harmony, Melody, Compositions and Improvisations of Allan Holdsworth.
I wrote a lot of other book, course and video reviews too.
Check out the rest here:
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