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How to improve my speed for playing Holdsworth-style legato?


PhilGould
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For some reason my speed when playing guitar hasn't particularly improved too much, although I can play up to 125bpm easily.

But I'm desperate to speed up as I really want to study some of Allan Holdsworth's stuff and for this I need to be speedy in order to play legato.

Help me sound like Allan Holdsworth HCLL! How do I speed up?
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You have no excuses then. smile.gif I read an interview or maybe it was YTube where Holdsworth said his method of pulls entail little more than lifting the fingers vertically. Tappers usually have their tone optimised for tapping so that (tone) may be a major factor. The other thing is go slowly until your flexors and extensors are in sync and not in conflict.

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Quote Originally Posted by 1001gear

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You have no excuses then. smile.gif I read an interview or maybe it was YTube where Holdsworth said his method of pulls entail little more than lifting the fingers vertically. Tappers usually have their tone optimised for tapping so that (tone) may be a major factor. The other thing is go slowly until your flexors and extensors are in sync and not in conflict.

 

Good plan! I think I'm going to have to see if I can find some clips of Allan Holdsworth where I can see his hands, so I can see what his fingers are doing.
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I have normal to smaller size hands, but I still think I could get a lot out of those Derryl Gabel vids. The problem with Allan's vids is he's not all that great a teacher or communicator, so I've had a tougher time emulating his approach. Gabel is effectively a Holdsworth clone as far as legato technique goes.

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Quote Originally Posted by PhilGould View Post
Good plan! I think I'm going to have to see if I can find some clips of Allan Holdsworth where I can see his hands, so I can see what his fingers are doing.
I think the key lies in 2 places:

1) You must master the hammer on and the 'lift off' rather than pull off. Which is actually, as said earlier, a hammer on in reverse. I have a pal who is committed to this technique. And it works but you have to commit as a total approach to it to do it. The attack is kind of pianistic. I've piddled with it and it beckons, but in order for it to work you to go all in. Which means you have to have....

2) Applicable gear. To make the hammer-both-ways thing work, you have to have 9's, low gain pickups and get your gain from the amp, really super low action, and your right hand has to be soooo gentle that there is no volume difference in attack between a picked note and a hammered note. I think he also uses pretty tall frets too. His Carvin has jumbo frets on it as I recall.

My pal that I mentioned has his rig set up and I used it and he gave me a "Holdsworth lesson". He showed me the Holds-gato thing and I just did a simple 2 string, 3 note per string exercise using the backwards and forwards hammer thing. Once I got some comfort with it, I was able to see how, if developed, one can cop that thing.

As my bud said, you are trying to cop the sound of the pad closing on a sax when you hammer. And as much as I love AH, I decided to let him keep his thing. I is merely mortal.
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Even Holdsworth himself doesn't use that hammer-on-only approach all the time, recent videos show him using pull-offs. I'd say it's less essential than developing an even sound, being able to blend the pick attack with what your fretting fingers are doing. Most of the great legato players don't use the Holdsworth approach, and they'd still be able to pull off(no pun intended) many of the classic Holdsy licks.

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Quote Originally Posted by Andrimner View Post
I still don't understand how guys like Holdsworth can do hammer-ons backwards confused.gif
Think of your fingers as mallets and the fingerboard as a marimba.

Practice "drumming" two fingers 2-4 frets apart. For example, index and ring finger 2 frets apart, then middle and pinky 2 frets apart, index and pinky 3 frets apart, etc. Try as many 2-finger combinations as you can think of. The idea is to get used to the "drumming" action. Once you're used to it, you can move on to melody lines, licks, etc. Don't be shocked if your pinky produces weaker volume than the other fingers. With the drumming movement, you'll get used to applying wrist action to generate as much force as you need on the pinky. Don't strain yourself though.

And yes, this finger drumming approach to hammer-ons will work on acoustic guitar, unless the action is set so high that strings are more than an inch away from the fretboard. Take the time to get used to the movement, be patient, and don't strain. The action on my acoustic is high enough to play slide without the slide hitting a fret (unlike on my electric and its low action), and the gauge is typical for acoustic (.013 bronze).

I got all of this from playing Chapman Stick. It is impossible to play Stick without being able to hammer-on in both directions (up and down).
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Quote Originally Posted by Yngtchie Blacksteen View Post
Even Holdsworth himself doesn't use that hammer-on-only approach all the time, recent videos show him using pull-offs. I'd say it's less essential than developing an even sound, being able to blend the pick attack with what your fretting fingers are doing. Most of the great legato players don't use the Holdsworth approach, and they'd still be able to pull off(no pun intended) many of the classic Holdsy licks.
I agree, it's not absolutely essential to completely eliminate pull-offs from your toolbox to get the Holdsworth legato sound. He came up with the no-pull-off approach because he was tired of the sound he was getting from pull-offs. He probably started using pull-offs again because he missed that sound.

As previously mentioned, Stick players use the all-hammer-on approach because its the nature of the instrument. But they employ pull-offs to add some tonal variety.

On acoustic guitar, I generally avoid hammer-ons with the index finger, because the secondary pitch (which you get by plucking the string between the fretted note and the nut) is audible enough on acoustic to be annoying to me. When I do a hammer-on with other fingers, I can use the index to mute that secondary pitch. On electric guitar, the secondary pitch isn't as audible (if at all - that's why some guitarists like Frank Zappa and Fred Frith installed pickups near the nut), so legato-using guitarists who play metal or fusion tend to use index finger hammer-ons more than classical guitarists, who have been practicing legato techniques decades before the invention of rock and roll.
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