A composer of Renaissance consort music, Holborne's output was published in two collected works volumes, The Cittharn Schoole and Pavans, Galliards, Almains. He appears to have been a technically proficient composer particularly suited to the lively shorter dances, rather than longer, slower compositions, and it is these that are his best-known works today.
Holborne was born around 1545 and it was possible he was educated at Corpus Christi, Cambridge. The first fact we know about him was his marriage in Westminster to Elizabeth Marten on 14 June 1584. A piece for cittern named Walter Earle's pavan dates from 1581 and in 1586 to mark the loss of the Countess of Pembroke's father, mother and brother, he wrote The Countess of Pembroke's Funerals.
By 1594, Holborne's reputation had obviously spread abroad as copies of his pieces for bandora were requested in Antwerp. In the late 1590s, he was supported by several notable patrons, including Sir Richard Champernowne and Sir Robert Cecil. On 29 November 1602, Elizabeth wrote to Sir Robert with fears over Holborne's health and shortly after the composer must have died.