tecH­nique fo­cus scales

Guitar Techniques - - USER GUIDE -

Holdsworth was a rad­i­cal in­ven­tor, not just in brew­ing meth­ods and gui­tar sys­tems, but with ev­ery as­pect of mu­sic. When he was a teenager, while most bud­ding gui­tarists were happy with a box po­si­tion and a cou­ple of chords, Holdsworth de­cided not to ac­cept the tra­di­tional scales, but start again in a way that made sense to him. What that meant was to per­son­ally dis­cover what scales could be built from the 12 notes in an oc­tave, by lit­er­ally writ­ing out ev­ery pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tion. To help ex­plain his ap­proach, imag­ine we la­belled the 12 notes [0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-E-T]; a five-note scale could be [0-1-2-3-4] or [0-1-2-3-5] or [0-1-2-3-6] and so on and on, to cre­ate 792 unique scales (there would also be 924 six-note scales, 792 seven-note scales, 495 eight-note scales and so on). Holdsworth cal­cu­lated 100s of scales in his ‘phone­book of hell’ and worked through them, re­ject­ing ones that were “too crowded” to find the ones that most ap­pealed, gave them his own nam­ing and no­ta­tion sys­tem, and worked them out in ev­ery po­si­tion of the neck. Holdsworth has listed his ‘favourites’ (a few of which are ‘re­dis­cov­ered’ con­ven­tional scales) but he also used many that do not have con­ven­tional names, and some spread over more than one oc­tave. Th­ese scales are used as the ba­sis of all his ideas, so we will do the same here, but us­ing the con­ven­tional nam­ing sys­tem for con­ve­nience. What is ex­tra­or­di­nary is that he didn’t sep­a­rate the modes and would just use the full range of the gui­tar for ev­ery scale (“fam­ily”); the root and con­ven­tional rest­ing points do not ap­ply and you can hear this as flu­id­ity in his solo­ing and chord con­struc­tion. The scope of this ar­ti­cle doesn’t al­low an in depth anal­y­sis, so I’ve just se­lected two (Ma­jor and Melodic Mi­nor) and hinted at some of the others in the ex­am­ples; but I en­cour­age you to ex­plore ‘the phone­book’ fur­ther.

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