Holdsworth On Hollows (TGM 1996)

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NB! There is an issue with the dates here, the correct date is September 1997, not 1996.

Holdsworth On Hollows

By Dave Burrluck

The Guitar Magazine September 1997

Allan Holdsworth may occupied [sic] a left-of-centre line as far as popular success goes but his reputation reflects his long experience and highly regarded musicality and technique. Back in the early '80s, just before the Vai/Satriani virtuoso explosion, he was courted by Ibanez to produce a signature model; haven't there been any more offers?

'No, the Ibanez was the only one,' Allan assures us. 'I was playing Charvels before that, custom made by Grover Jackson - a great guy. When he left Charvel I had the opportunity to work with Ibanez, but while the first model was great, the rest weren't so good.

'Then I discovered the Steinberger - I've played those for the longest of any guitar. After that I had Bill DeLap build me some custom guitars, all wood but with Steinberger hardware and the Steinberger TransTrem. I've worked with Bill for years, but he became so busy... it'd take him ages to build the guitar I wanted, and by the time I got the guitars I didn't want them anymore! I got a bit fed up."

Holdsworth's frustration led him to Carvin, one of the USA's longest established makers. I'd seen some of their guitars and felt they'd really come a long way,' Allan reflects. 'They're close to me (both Carvin and Holdsworth are based in San Diego, California) and one day a couple of years ago I went down to see them and asked if they would they be interested in building me a guitar. We made numerous prototypes before we settled on the one you have there.'

And why the hollow body?

'Well, I've been working with this hollow body concept for some time,' Holdsworth considers. 'Steinbergers are hollow, and I started wondering how they sounded so good, and Bill and I started experimenting with hollow chambers. With Carvin, basically, the goal was to come up with something that included the features of my experience but didn't look too weird. It doesn't bother me personally what a guitar looks like or what colour it is, but it was really important to have the totally enclosed semihollow body to make it really dynamic with a wider range of expression. Solidbody guitars tend to limit that expression.’

How about that weeny headstock?

"Headstocks can never been small enough, insists Holdsworth. There's less extraneous string length - apart from the fingerboard where it belongs - and for tuning stability, I believe the less extra string length the better. I'd have made the head smaller if we could.'

It also seems that our man is a believer in the "big-neck-equals-big-tone' school of thought. 'Definitely,' Allan agrees. 'When I started having guitars made I realised it's not only the feel but the bulk of the neck that is responsible for the sound. I did a lot of experimenting, but the big neck wins every time. We tried maple and ebony - a combination I'm a big fan of - but then Carvin made one with an alder neck, partly as a weight consideration because we'd made the body lighter, and I preferred it. 'Overall the guitar has a softer sound. A lot of rock'n'roll guys won't like it: it'll feed back quicker and they may perceive the wider dynamic range as sponginess.

'Electric guitars are definitely "acoustic"; if it doesn't sound good acoustically, it's no good. In the old days I had two Gibson SGs in the old days [sic]; they looked and played pretty similar, but one sounded good and one was shit. I swapped the pickup but it still sounded shit!

'But, you know, the whole deal with Carvin was that if I didn't play it, it wouldn't come out. So the nut width, the neck depth... all these things were important. I didn't really have any intention of making it cool for anyone else!!

Allan Holdsworth's latest album, the self-produced None Too Soon, is available through Carvin in the UK.