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Jimmy Johnson ala Allan Holdsworth

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Bassman7PM, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Bassman7PM


    Mar 13, 2006
    Chicago, IL
    For decades I've been completely fascinated with JJ's work especially with Holdsworth and how he fluidly both holds the bottom while at the same time plays moving tones, scales. chords and other phrases. Well I've decided to take the plunge and start learning and practicing some of Holdsworth's material starting with "The Things You See..." from the All Night Wrong CD.

    So far I'm cool with the basic movement of the song and the progressions but as I listen to J Johnson it sounds like he's moving thru the chord changes using the associated scales, modal and chordal tones to fit each movement in a free flowing fashion. So I'm wondering what would be the best approach to getting comfortable with shifting in and out of each chord as Allan does so effortlessly?

    Oh, and AH will be in Chicago April 1st 2012 and I want to be able to follow Jimmy Haslips playing (he's also totally amazing).
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'd start by transcribing the bass line and write the chord changes over the bass line as you go, and then you can see exactly what he's playing, play it yourself, and get some ideas for what to do that way. I'd skip trying to figure out modes and scales, though...he's clearly just using the chords to decide what to play. The chords are plenty enough information on their own without mucking around with scales. Trying to break it down into scales just gives you a stumbling block on the way to playing it.
  3. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Rockville MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    Hey Jimmy,

    Usually, I'd agree with you 100% about focusing on the chords, although in Holdsworth's case, I'd make an exception. I once read an interview with Jimmy Johnson in which he expressed how bewildering it can be to construct a bass line for an Allan Holdsworth tune.

    As I understood it, the challenge is that Holdsworth doesn't really write chord progressions, he actually writes scale progressions, without stipulating specific root movement. The songs are just amorphous shifts from one tonality to the next, and Holdsworth uses some pretty exotic "scale changes" along the way! So Jimmy was saying that he often winds up sort of arbitrarily choosing a root movement for the song on his own, and I guess Allan usually approves because he keeps calling JJ back. ;)

    I agree, JJ is easily in my top 5 bassists of all time. By all means, check out the early Wayne Johnson Trio recordings with him....unbelievable stuff!
  4. Bassman7PM


    Mar 13, 2006
    Chicago, IL
    You guys are a huge help to me in my endeavor. What I've started doing is working the progression and I agree that its not a typical chord progression, more like scale movements. So, with that in mind taking the root notes from each chord I started with the minor tonalities, octaves and triads and moved around with those to see if they'd make sense. Much to my surprise I can hear some of what JJ is doing. I'll keep you posted and maybe when I feel like I have it down I'll youtube myself playing the song. Wish me luck.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Interesting approach. Never knew that. Never tried to work any Holdsworth stuff out and didn't think of it as chord changes using scale progressions. I tend to take chord changes at face value. Very sneaky way to work scales into it, indeed.

  6. fcleff


    Apr 22, 2005
    Austin, Texas
    Slightly off topic, and if you are a big JJ fan (as I am) then you have probably already heard it, but his work on James Taylor Live is fantastic. I got to see JJ with Holdsworth in 1988 and saw him again with J.T. a number of years later. I was blown away both times. He's one of the most tasteful players I can think of.

    I've always loved his work on "Panic Station" from the Metal Fatigue album.

  7. I think this has hit the nail on the head. JJ's bassline is often quite 'distinct' from the scalar progressions that Holdsworth plays through, and if you listen to Jimmy's bassline it often illustrates a chordal progression more than Holdsworth's playing does!

    Just listen to 'Lanyard Loop' from ANW. Rhythm and melody all in one bassline, and some good use of those chord tones. A big part of getting Jimmy's sound here seems to be choosing chord tones and giving some harmonic achorage to Holdworth's more esoteric 'outside' playing.
  8. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    BTW, JJ use to be pretty active on the Alembic forums (don't know if he still is or not), you might want to pop over there and see if there's anything there of value. Who knows, maybe he'll answer your question directly.

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