Play Guitar Like George Benson

In this  lesson, we are checking out three guitar licks in the style of the incredible, George Benson. George Benson was unusual for a jazz guitarist, in that he had a fantastic voice to match his amazing guitar-playing skills. His combination of pure jazz, funk and pop made him the ultimate jazz crossover artist. Today we look at a sample chord progression using some beautiful chord extensions, a melodic singable motif in D major and a sophisticated chromatic line.

George Benson Guitar Example 1 – Jazz Chords

George Benson’s knowledge of jazz chords and combining them in his songs is fantastic. To me he is totally synonymous with the minor ninth chord as demonstrated here. Try using all of these chords with the gentle funky strumming pattern and move them into different keys for new jazzy sounding progressions.

George Benson Guitar Example 2 – Instrumental Melodies

Example two demonstrates George Benson’s use of instrumental melodies. This simple theme is based on D major. The combination of single notes, and double stops and the vocal quality all add to the sound. Often Benson would sing the same line he was playing. This is a very creative tool for writing  new sounding ideas.

George Benson Guitar Example 3 – Chromatic Jazz Line

G minor 7 and Ab major 7 form the backing to this sophisticated jazz line. The lick starts off using triads, adding in some slides and chromatic elements. The final run is purely chromatic and resolves back to G minor. Make sure you apply strict alternate picking and start slowly with a metronome.

Recommended listening

For classic George Benson style guitar licks, I recommend buying the album “The Essential Collection.” My favourite track on that album being “Affirmation.”

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Guitar Lesson Video Transcription

Hey YouTube, Simon here once again for Fundamental Changes. Today we’re looking at the amazing George Benson. Let’s get to a few of his licks just after this.

[guitar playing]

Alright then. There was lick 1. As you probably noticed, I’d been lucky enough to borrow my dad’s Ibanez GB10, which is the George Benson signature model. I’m very, very pleased to be playing this today, I feel super slinky.

Today, we’ve got 4 chords in the style of George Benson. The main one we’ll all be looking at is the E minor 9, but the 4-chord progression is D major 9, which is nothing, 5-4-6-5 middle 4 strings, then we’ve got a B minor 9, something a little bit different here. We’ve got 7, nothing, 7-6-7, and we’ve got your E minor 9, which I would call the George Benson chord – he uses it all the time – nothing,7-5-7-7-7, then we’ve got an A11 here, 5, nothing, 5-4-3.

I’m using a very light jazz funk-strumming pattern with my right hand here. Just keep your right hand consistent when you’re strumming through the strings, and get used to these changes, because they are a little bit tricky.

Maybe just get used to the changes first, and then apply the strumming pattern. Let’s move on to Example 2.

[guitar playing]

George Benson is a real master of the instrumental melody. Often he uses major scales and other type jazz scales too. This example here is around D major, kind of fits with the Example 1 chords, and you start off with a very classic Benson style, little D major type lick, and then we introduce some double stops up the neck that he likes to do as well.

A little slide, almost like B blues scale slide, but using it in a D major context, and a little 6th D shape to end, a very simple, highly effective melodic lead line that you can build as your hook or your motif to a song. Check it out. Move into different keys.

[guitar playing]

I try and make these lessons fairly accessible to all abilities; this last lick here is a little bit more tricky. Bear with it; it’s worth, worth doing. This lick here goes around the G minor 7, and an A flat major 7, just going between the two.

This would be kind of from a basis of C minor as your home chord, if you’re putting together a little chord progression here. You can see the first 2 bits here, we’ve got a G minor 3-note triad, and an A flat major 3-note triad, and we’re filling in the gaps with these little chromatic licks. Then at the end we’d get this longer chromatic line with a little run moving back into the G minor pentatonic blues scale right at the end, very George Benson.

So, once again, he’s building a motif, and he’s adding in chromatics in the middle here. Coming back 4 notes, or picking the top notes, then coming up the 3 lower notes. You can build these into your pentatonics to bring a really jazzy, sophisticated flavor. Quite a simple principle, literally using all the notes in a row, and then maybe using some of your other notes that you know as well.

Hopefully you’ve got something from these. Make sure you try these slowly, especially example 3. It might be some new stuff in there for you. It works for me when I was transcribing licks like this too.

I’ll see you soon for more videos. Take care.

Hi guys, thanks for checking out these licks in the style of George Benson. We upload at least one video a week, usually 2, so make sure you subscribe. Go and check out Joseph’s website Fundamental Changes, and go over to my YouTube channel, SDPguitar for more lessons. See you next time.