Allan Holdsworth Chords – Voicings and Inversions

Allan Holdsworth is famous for his very beautiful but also quite difficult and advanced jazz chords. In this video I am going to start with some voicings that I checked out from Holdsworth and apply them to a II V I. I then go over how to invert them and demonstrate how you can generate more great chord voicings from this material.

Taking a voicing and inverting it is probably the most efficient way to find more chords and it is also a great exercise to check or improve your knowledge of the fretboard.

The II V I example

The main example is a II V I using some of the voicings that I picked up from Allan Holdsworth.

The focus of this lesson is on the larger voicings with 4 notes spread out over 2 octaves. The starting point is shown here below with two chords per bar.

When I made this I was just planning to make a few examples of how to apply voicings like this to a II V I. When I made this example I realized that the Cmaj7 chords were inversions of each other and that made me take this approach to the lesson.

This type of chord voicing is to me is most useful for sustained voicings. The point of playing a structure like this is to really show case the way the combination of notes sound. That means that when I use these voicings I am not trying to convey a groove or work with them. 

You could in that respect argue that Holdsworth doesn’t really have a voicing vocabulary that allows him to comp in that way, which he also never really did.

How to make inversions – Inversions for the Cmaj7 voicing

Strictly speaking this is a C6/9 voicing since the notes are G,A,D & E., but since maj6/9 and maj7 chords are pretty much interchangeable I have notated it as a maj7. I guess the thinking is that it is just a tonic chord in a major scale.

When inverting voicings the idea is that you have to order the notes in pitch within an octave and use that as a reference to find the inversions.

For the Cmaj7 this is shown here below. 

The original voicing is (from low to high) G,D,A,E. If we order those in pitch we get: G A D E (as shown in the 2nd bar)

This yields a way of moving to other inversions.

 The original voicing is G,D,A,E. If we move that down an inversion (using the same strings and the row of notes) we get E,A,G,D and in that way the rest of the inversions are created.

Inversions for Dm7

The Dm7 voicing is a Dm7(9,11) and the notes are F,C,G and E. 

Notice how stacks of 5ths seems to reappear in these voicings.

If we order the notes in pitch it gives us the row: E,F,G,C

With this row we have can produce the 3 other inversions of this chord. In the 2nd voicing I move one of the voicings from the 4th to the 3rd string to make it easier to play.

The Altered dominant inversions

The Altered dominant chord in this lesson is a G7(b5b13) voicing, as shown here below.

When we order the notes in a pitch row we get: Eb,F,B and Db.

Again this is used to create the other inversions by moving up and down in the tone row on each string.

Using the inversions

The goal with making the inversions is of course also to put the voicings together in new examples of II V I voicing sets.

In the examples below combines three different inversions in a II V I.

The first one is using a descending top note melody from G to E. It is often easier to move from chord to chord while descending since the voice-leading is naturally moving down. 

The 2nd example is going against this and has a top note melody that moves up.

One of the things that is an advantage with these voicings is that the way the notes are spread around the octaves makes them less obvious for voice leading. 

This makes it easier to make other choices as shown here below:

Inversions of everything

The idea of making inversions of chord voicings is useful on several levels for your jazz guitar skills.

  1. It is very useful to be aware of exactly what notes you are playing in a chord voicing. 
  2. The process is a great way to solve problems with fingerings for chords
  3. You stay training your knowledge of the fretboard
  4. You get some new voicings that might be extremely useful

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Allan Holdsworth Voicings on a II V I

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