From Allan Holdsworth Information Center
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Axe Maniax (TGM 1993)

"A guy called Bill DeLapp (sic) from Canada approached me with the possibility of making a guitar for me. He built an acoustic which was very light in construction with light strings, but could be very loud. There were problems with that but he also suggested building a Steinberger-based guitar using wood in construction. I had three built for me and I have been using them for around a year now, and they’re surprisingly consistent in sound despite the use of wood. They are very similar in construction to a Steinberger, in that they have a hollow body. The neck is similar although it is slightly thicker." When I caught hint at London’s Jazz Cafe, Allan was using one which had an alder body with an ebony neck and rosewood fingerboard.

Axes Of God (Guitar World 1989)

To create the tones customized for the specific tracks on Secrets, Allan cross-matched ideas, ingenuity and his inventions until he struck on a tasteful variety. Using his Steinberger GM2T, loaded with two custom Seymour Duncan Allan Holdsworth humbuckers and refretted by luthier Bill DeLap with Dunlop 6000 wire, Allan created "City Nights" by running a Boogie Mark III head through the Extractor prototype, into an equalizer, and back into a Boogie Simulclass 295 power amp, using only one side of the unit to drive his speaker box. There, the signal from a Celestion KS speaker was brought to tape via a Neumann TLM 170 microphone. The inline processing for his lead tone included an ADA Stereo Tapped Delay, two ADA mono delay lines and a Lexicon PCM60. Formulas differ on each track; there are few constants. "I used that power amp and the speaker box on all the tracks, with different variables," Allan reports. "On ‘Peril Premonition,’ for instance, I substituted a Boogie Quad preamp, and used a combination of a Shure SM58 and an AKG 460 on the same Celestion I’m very flexible, because it’s all a big experiment to me. If I thought that I’d gotten a really good guitar tone and just left the mike and everything in the same position and used it, I know I’d die after-wards. I wanted to get back to using tube amps. Since I started using the Juice Extractor with the Boogies, I’ve fo und that I can get more flexible variations of tone than ever before. I find myself customizing the amp from the outside."

The Unreachable Star (Guitar World 1989)

GW: So you don’t presently own an acoustic?

HOLDSWORTH: Yeah, I do. I own one custom - made guitar built by Bill DeLap, which is beautiful. It’s a five-string guitar, tuned in fifths. I like that tuning [C,G,D,A,E, low to high]; it’s a really logical tuning to me. The guitar’s standard tuning is really illogical, and if I were starting again… if I hadn’t had so much trouble trying to figure out how to get round the B string, I’d probably have learned to tune like Stanley Jordan, in fourths, to C and F [for the two highest strings]. That’s the most logical tuning.

No Secret (Guitar Extra 1992)

Q: Tell me about the new guitars you’re using with the super-long necks.

Allan: It’s a baritone guitar, made by Bill DeLap from Monterey. They’re kind of like Steinbergers. They have to be made of wood though, because we can’t get a mold done, it’s too expensive a process.

Q: And it’s a six string instrument?

Allan: It’s just a normal guitar, but unbelievably long. There’s one with a 36-inch scale, the other one’s 38, one of them’s 34. Basically, one of them is like a long scale bass length, the other one is longer than a full size bass, and the big one is four inches longer than that.

Q: What are the tunings?

Allan: They vary. The smallest one is tuned down to C, the medium one is tuned to Bb, and the huge one is tuned down to A. They’re all a 25 1/2 inch scale length from the low E, so the tone is as close to a normal guitar as I could get. I didn’t want to have a short bass tuned down with thick strings on it. So they’ve all got the same gauge strings on it that I use on a normal guitar.

Q: Oh really?

Allan: Yeah, that’s why they’re so long. But the thing that I wasn’t expecting was the extra bonus in the tone. It’s not only the low end, which really sounds great, like a big cello or something. The midrange is different as well, it has a totally different color. I’m really loving it. It’s a more nasal sound in the midrange, like an oboe or an English horn, beautiful. They did something that I didn’t expect, but something that I could have only dreamed of. It’s a beautiful tone, but the instruments are unbelievably hard to play.

Q: What do the tensions feel like?

Allan: The tension feels a little looser, but I don’t bend strings very much. If you wanted to bend the string, you’d have to bend it a mile to get a tone. I use more of a classical vibrato, and you have to do that less because that kind of vibrato puts more of a pitch. Ever if you play in the middle of the neck or high up, it’s kind of hard to control because you’ve got so much string behind your hand, and that makes it more difficult to play cleanly.

Q: How about the balance factor, having that giant neck sticking out?

Allan: They all feel perfectly balanced, with the exception of the difficulty in having a first fret you can fit your whole hand in (laughs). It’s bigger than two inches at the first fret. You can fit a normal barred F right in there! So trying to play certain chords on there is pretty gnarly. But I only wanted it for the sound. It might not become something that I use all the time, but I really like that C one because it’s playable, and it does have some of the depth that I was looking for.

On The Level (IM&RW 1991)

The huge guitar that I was talking to you about is a complete success but it’s just tuned like a regular guitar but really long."

IM - Are you going to use that on your next album?.

"Yes. It’s really hard to play though, I can just reach the bottom fret with my arm fully extended and the fret is over two inches wide. It’s really hard to play a little bar chard down there, but it sounds unbelievable."

Blinded By Science (Guitar Player 1993)

Holdsworth plans to record an album of multi-tracked, orchestrated guitars using several custom 6-string baritone and tenor guitars he developed with luthier Bill DeLap. Unlike most baritone guitars, which utilize heavier-than-normal strings, Holdsworth’s instruments have regular-gauge strings but extended scale lengths. The baritone guitars come in three sizes - the largest has a 38" scale.

Unrewarded Geniuses (Guitar Player 1993, reader's letter regarding 1993 article)

It was great to see the photos and mention of my work in the recent Allan Holdsworth article (Feb.’93), but some clarifications are in order. The guitar on page 65 is actually a Steinberger with a spruce wood top I made as an experiment. After noticing how different in sound two apparently identical stock plastic tops were, we decided to try a few different woods for the top. Allan’s regular 25½" scale DeLap hollowbody can be seen in the ads for his new instruction and performance video from REH. The two baritone guitars pictured on page 68 are a blonde 38.2" scale hollowbody and grey 36" scale solidbody. The last few years have produced a dozen prototype instruments ranging from a 19"-scale soprano guitar to the 38" baritone, all of them headless designs featuring Steinberger tremolo bridges. Allan knows the qualities he wants to hear and feel in an instrument, so it can be demanding but rewarding to work with him. He is a constant experimenter, a true innovator with music and the tools he uses to create it.

Bill DeLap

The Guitar Lab

Monterey, CA

Allan Holdsworth: An interview (Atavachron 1994)

CH: Would you ever consider playing a seven-string guitar?

AH: Ah, no.

CH: Why? I’m just curious.

AH: Well, because the whole principle of making the baritone guitars was to extend the range of the guitar. But if you put seven strings on a guitar, you really falsely extend the range of the guitar. What you do is you put this big, thick string on the bottom of the guitar, with a scale length that’s far too low for it to go. It’s like the relative scale length between that and the... it’s like putting the low C on a violin.

CH: So how does that affect the sound of the instrument, by doing that?

AH: It can never sound... good. It can never sound... I mean, it won’t` stop anyone playing... playing music on it and being good at it. But to me, the sound is really important, and it can’t possibly ever sound right. That’s why we made the big guitars [the DeLap baritone guitars-JP]; because the big guitar has the string length to go down that low... I mean, relative to 25-1/2" scale. Because a bass is actually a much shorter scale than the guitar relative to its pitch.

CH: How important an experiment, in your recent body of work, has that been-developing the baritone instruments?

AH: Oh, it’s been real important. You know, unfortunately I ran into a few... fell into a few holes, just simply because Bill [DeLap], the guitar builder-I never really am able to pay him a load of money to just work for me. You know, it’s a pain to build an instrument. So he makes everything... [but] he’s basically a repair guy. He makes beautiful instruments, but he can’t...

CH: He can’t afford to support your habit all the time, huh?

AH: No. And the thing is, with the big guitars, an unfortunate problem with them is, the two guitars I really played-or that I like to play -- is that he took one of them back to work on it. And that was over a year ago, and I haven’t seen it since. So it’s really a problem, you know, because he lives so far away, and I only get to see him once a year. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t play a baritone guitar on this new album, ‘cause I didn’t have it. I mean, I have "Gonan," but I think the way they were, there was a 34", a 36" and a 38" [scale]. And the 38" one, which is the only one that I have right now, is too big for me-I can’t play it. It actually sounds great, but it is beyond... [pause]

CH: Your technical ability...? [beyond his technical ability-suppose that’s the mental equivalent of being denser than a black hole...]

AH: My capability to play it.

MP: Just because of its size?

AH: Yeah. It’s too big.

MP: Could a big person play it?

AH: Ah, no, probably not. It’s like the size of a human hand.

CH: So we’re not likely to see you play a baritone guitar on a tour?

AH: Yeah, you are! But not that one. Not the 38" scale one. The 36" scale one was a good compromise.. it was a compromise, ‘cause it wasn’t truly 25-1/2", uh... [to] E. But it was the only way to do it.

CH: What was different about this new guitar you were designing with Bill DeLap? What was the difference between it...

AH: Well, I was trying to take the concept... Because I couldn’t work with Ned anymore directly because he sold out to Gibson for various reasons, you know. Of course, I don’t know him on a level where we were like close personal friends, or anything. So I don’t really know what his reasons were. I think the guy’s wonderful, and I respect everything he’s ever done. I think he’s a genius. The [tuning] machines he came out with-the ones that come from the back? That’s another thing, before we get back to that, is that the machines come out the back like banjo tuners and they’re fantastic; it’s a straight string pull. You pull it through the hole, turn it and tighten it. And you get guys with acoustic guitar players saying, "Well, can’t you make the machines that stick out at the side?"

MP: What’s the point?

AH: Because of the way they look. Because of the way they look, man. You have this fantastic mechanism... three times more precision than anything else... pulls the string down into the head, instead of wrapping it ‘round like an anchor on a boat. And they just rejected it because of the same reasons as his guitar, you know, it was just something that looked strange. Like it had a big nose, or something. I dunno.

CH: What was the factor... I mean, why pursue the hollowbody?

AH: Well because Steinberger got me back on that, because Steinbergers are hollow. If you take the top off it... if you look at a plastic Steinberger-a little G2, or whatever it’s called... the plastic one; I never know the numbers-but you take the top off it and it’s like a little archtop. This little plastic body, you take it off-it’s hollow! It’s completely hollow.

And the neck comes down in the mold, and then goes down, and a ridge runs down the back, and up to the bridge. And the ridge down the back is about that much higher than the actual back of the guitar. I’m not sure-I guess it’s a reinforcing thing, you know. ‘Cause that material’s so strong, and then the top just fits on it. So Bill...

MP: Is it graphite, or something?

AH: Yeah, it’s some kind of plastic compound.

CH: So, what were you trying to do with Bill?

AH: Well what I was trying to do is that he knew I liked that guitar a lot, so he took that as a place to start. So, he basically copied it-in wood. Only instead of making a little square body, he made the body a little bigger. But he took a piece of alder, and hollowed it out, in exactly the same ways it was hollowed out in the Steinberger. And I really liked it. It sounded really good. And essentially I wasn’t trying to make a guitar; it was the baritone guitars that were that way first, because he wasn’t trying to make me a guitar-I was totally happy with the Steinberger. But I was so happy with the baritones, that then he decided to make a regular one. So he made a regular one and I loved that. Even more. So then, I started off on this thing, so now we’ve been working on changing the inner portion. I’ve got some ideas of my own now about how the wood should be on the inside of the guitar, to free up the back-what I’ve decided to do with the top and the back, is to make the top and the back free. Instead of having a piece that runs along the rib at the back, which it would have to, when you poured it into a mold, for the plastic. With a wood guitar, that’s made of separate pieces-a neck and a body- it doesn’t have to be. So if you took a piece of alder that was hollowed out, you could put your hand right through it, you know... but then down the back , where the backbone was, if it came away from the back like it comes away from the front, so neither the back nor the top-touch the guitar. And then it’s slotted... that piece of wood is slotted, because if it was a thin piece of wood, it’d be too weak. It’s like taking a two-by-four and turning it on its side. The thin piece of wood has a lot of strength this way, but not this way [gestures]. So you lose weight, but you gain rigidity; you cut wood away but the guitar would be stronger because of it.

KK: Was "Boris" and "Natasha" [Allan’s nicknames for two of the DeLap baritone guitars-JP] supposed to be for commercial production, ultimately, or just one-off for you?

AH: No. No, they were just exclusively for me, yeah.

Allan Holdsworth: One Of A Kind (Guitar Shop 1995)

“I love the Steinberger design, but ever since they merged with Gibson, I’ve had trouble communicating with them. Fortunately I met this guy named Bill DeLap who made me two Steinberger-styled guitars that use their hardware, but have wood bodies instead of plastic. We took the best things of a Steinberger and just tried to get more out of that design. They’re full-sized instruments – 25 – ½” – and like a violin, have a maple neck, ebony fingerboard, spruce top and a maple back. Bill also made me some baritone ones that are just really long-scaled guitars – there are 34”, 36”, 38” scale versions. I didn’t use them on the new album, but I did on my last one, Wardenclyffe Tower. I played the 34” on “Zarabeth” and the 38” on “Sphere of Innocence”. And now he’s making me a piccolo guitar. But they all work like a regular guitar with regular strings, partially because the Steinberger bridge system doesn’t need a lot of winds to get in tune. I use LaBella strings – the company has been really amazing to me, too, and helped out whenever they could. My action is pretty low, and I don’t use the tremolo bar much anymore, either. About five years ago when all the heavy metal guys were using them, I sort of stopped, because it started looking like a new toy that everybody got. It was like when the wah-wah and the fuzz box came out and all of a sudden you heard them on every record. So I basically stopped using it.

Med Siktet Innställt På Total Kontroll (MusikerMagasinet 1996, Swedish language)

He has worked with Charvel, Steinberger, DeLap Guitars and most recently with Carvin.

- These people have been very helpful, but usually something has come in the way. Grover Jackson was the one who took care of the band when we first came to the United States. He let us rehearse in his factory, and built a red Charvel that I had for a long time.

- Something that has always been a problem is that [factory made] guitars vary in quality so much from one to the next [in the production line]. I do not like to rely on a (single) guitar and Steinberger came to the rescue. Their guitars sounded amazing and because the material was plastic, the copies were almost identical. I ordered custom-built guitars with a flatter neck. My communication with Ned Steinberger was very good, and we had a constant dialogue where I made suggestions regarding product development. At first, there were only a few parameters to control, but it developed. Unfortunately, it went as it always does when Gibson buys something - downhill. I received no help and they did not even bother to call me back.

- The DeLap guitars were good but the collaboration ceased because it took a very long time to complete the builds, and I could not wait.

Allan Holdsworth ( 2000)

TCG: When did synthesizers enter the picture?

AH: I tried the early Roland synth and loved the idea of the sounds, but it didn’t really work for me. Tom Mulhern at Guitar Player magazine recommended the Synthaxe and that was where that relationship started. Also guitar-wise, I played Charvels for a while, and later discovered the Steinberger. That was it. I just thought it was amazing. It was real hard to switch back to any other guitar. I became friendly with Ned Steinberger. He would send me the guitars without any frets, and then I would send them to a luthier by the name of Bill DeLap and he would flatten the fingerboard, and take out the relief. I like the neck to be absolutely straight. We would put Jim Dunlop 6000 fret wire in it. I had quite a few of these. Also, Bill built me a few baritone guitars. He made me a regular length wooden Steinberger and basically I’ve been playing that till I hooked up with Carvin for this new custom guitar. I play about 80% of the time now on the Carvin and 20% on the Steinberger. It’s still nice to switch back and forth. I love headless guitars. I think the new Carvin is an excellent guitar.

Allan Holdsworth in exclusive LMS interview ( 2000)

MRJ: Are you still using Steinberger guitars?

AH: Yeah I still have an original Stenberger. I’ve been using a Bill De Lap guitar. I also use a custom Carvin. The only difference between that and the Steinberger is that it has a headstock.

Patron Saint (Guitar Player 2004)

Although Holdsworth is pictured in All Night Wrong with his custom headless guitar built by luthier Bill DeLap, he still relies on his signature model Carvin Fatboy. "When we travel to Japan, I often take the headless guitar because of size limitations. Now, Carvin and I are in the process of making a headless version of my signature model, because I really like the way the headless guitar hangs on me. It’s so balanced." Holdsworth strings the DeLap with a LaBella .008 set, and his Carvin with a .009 set. His pick is a 1mm Dunlop.

A Conversation With Allan Holdsworth (Abstract Logix 2005)

Bill: Well, you’ve gone through so many instruments through the years. Do you still have your long neck baritone guitars?

Allan: No, those are gone. Although Bill DeLap, the guy who built those baritone guitars for me, has made me another baritone guitar with a 34 inch scale that goes down to a C. The other baritone guitar I had, which I named Boris, was 36 inches and went down to B flat. And then I also had Gonan, which was the biggest one of all -- it was 38 inches long and went down to an A. And he made me a piccolo guitar too that was tuned up to a high A. I was trying to get a guitar orchestra going.

Bill: But the one that you played last night was...

Allan: Just a regular DeLap. You know, I designed a couple of guitars with Carvin and was on the road with those for a number of years, and I always had a few custom made headless guitars too. I was really fond of headless guitars. It’s such a struggle for me to jump and forth from a headless guitar to a regular guitar. If you get used to playing a (headless) Steinberger, it’s really hard to go back to a headstock. I can’t really describe it, it just feels awkward.

The Allan Holdsworth Interview! (Jazz Houston 2006)

MM: What gear are you currently using?

AH: Well I’ve been playing on a bunch of Carvin guitars, prototypes and my productions models. I’ve also got a bunch of custom made guitars. Bill DeLap guitars, the baritone guitars, although I’ve kind of abandoned those things. You know a lot of speed metal bands started using them and drop down tunings so I just left them and moved on. I used them extensively on a couple of albums then I just figured it became more and more difficult logistically to travel with them. That’s why I like the Steinberger guitars. They’re easy to travel with…and they don’t get messed up by the airlines. Most airlines don’t let you take your guitars on the plane with you, they make you put them in the (cargo)hold which can really mess them up. I usually only take one, maybe two, guitars. It’s a convenience thing and also the condition of the guitar staying in the cabin, not the hold.

Harnessing momentum (Innerviews 2008)

The last time we did an interview, you were heavily into baritone guitars. What’s your guitar of choice these days?

I quit playing the Steinberger-based baritone guitars because I had to carry around too much stuff. In recent years, it became impractical to carry two or three guitars when flying. Unfortunately, that means we don’t really play much Wardenclyffe Tower music, which heavily featured the baritone guitars. I can transpose the tunes but they don’t sound the same. So, I put those tunes on the back burner and hardly use the guitars anymore. I might pull them out for a recording project if someone wants me to play on a song and I think one might fit that track. These days, I typically use a Bill DeLap wood-bodied, headless guitar. I’m totally hooked on headless guitars. It’s hard for me to go back to a headstock and big body guitar. They don’t feel comfortable at all anymore. The DeLap is totally custom, but still all-Steinberger based. It has the Steinberger TransTrem and headpiece.

The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever (Guitar Player 2008)

Which guitars are you currently playing?

I played the Carvins for the past 15 years, though for the past two years I’ve been drifting back to the DeLap headless guitars, because there’s just something about the way that they feel. But, I kind of wish that I hadn’t; I picked up the headless and thought, “Oh no, what have I done?”