Pickups (Guitar Player 2000)

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"Pickups": Allan Holdsworth

Guitar Player, June 2000

Shawn Hammond

"I have to keep learning," asserts Allan Holdsworth. "That's what I live for."

"My sound is like my personality," says Allan Holdsworth "I can't just change. But for Sixteen Men of Tain [Gnarly Geezer], the guitarist who first turned heads 30 years ago with astounding legato lines and otherworldly phrasing did try to change his sonic environment. "I added trumpet and acoustic bass to this album," he explains. "And those instruments brought a certain softness to my music that I had never exploited before."

Holdsworth also turned to modeling amps to reproduce his unmistakable tone - employing a Yamaha DG8O 1x12 and a 1x12 cabinet. While the lead tones hammered out by his chambered Carvin signature guitar were miked, he used a Simon Systems D.I. to record his clean rhythm sounds direct. "I've never liked distortion," he admits, "but I need it to get sustain. Some amps sound so hairy that I want to give them a shave."

Although maintaining his identity is important to him, Holdsworth always pushes himself to evolve. "When I'm improvising, I always want to play something new," he says. "Even if I know a riff I played in the past was good, I purposely avoid going back to it. Change is crucial to me".