George Benson Blues Licks

In this lesson we will look at 5 licks in the style of George Benson.

To really get into the essence of George Benson’s playing style, listen to as much of his playing as possible. A wonderful example of his jazz blues style playing is a famous recording from his 1968 album Giblet Gravy entitled Billies Bounce (a tune originally by Charlie Parker). Be sure to check out that recording and the rest of the album!

The licks in this lesson are based off harmonies commonly found in an F blues.

A few of licks below have multiple sets of harmony associated with them to illustrate how flexible these licks can be in a general jazz context.



Practice suggestions

1) Practice slowly and deliberately

2) Be able to sing the lick you are working on

3) Apply the lick to all areas of the guitar

4)Play in all keys, and experiment with playing licks in different harmonic contexts



George Benson Blues Lick #1







This is a great lick featuring a chromatic approach from G# to A (the chord 3rd of F7), continuing to the chord 7th (Eb) and finally descending to the chord 5th (C). The most interesting part of this lick is the rhythmic phrasing. The lick begins on the off-beat of beat 2 and ends with 3 syncopated notes in the second bar. Knowing a number of syncopated lines and licks is key to developing great jazz solos!



George Benson Blues Lick #2







Just as in lick #1 this lick also begins on the off-beat. It features approaches to the chord 3rd (A), 7th (notated as D#) and 5th (C). This is a very strong lick to use over any dominant 7th chord as it outlines so many of the dominant 7th chord tones.



George Benson Blues Lick #3-A







George Benson Blues Lick #3-B








In lick #3 notice how playing the same lick over 2 different sets of changes sounds great.
Over the dominant chord in example A, key target notes (highlighted in blue) include: G (chord 5th), E (chord 3rd), G (chord 5th), Bb (chord 7th)

In example B, after adding Gmin7 as a chord substitution and creating a II – V progression, key target notes become: G (chord root of Gmin7), E (chord 3rd of C7), G (chord 5th of C7), Bb (chord 7th of C7)

The lick sounds great because the target notes are relevant to both sets of changes.




George Benson Blues Lick #4-A








George Benson Blues Lick #4-B







Similar to lick #3, lick #4 works great over a dominant chord. In adding a II – V chord substitution, in this case Gmin7 to C7, the lick still sounds great because of the target notes used.

In example A, we can see the target notes outlined at the the beginning and end of the chromatic line (starting on beat 2). In this case, the target notes are F and C (chord root and 5th).

In example B, after adding a II – V progression, the lick still outlines the harmony. The chord 7th of Gmin7 (F) is used on beat two, followed by a chromatic line over C7.

In both examples, the long chromatic line beginning on beat two is approaching the chord 5th of F7.



George Benson Blues Lick #5-A







George Benson Blues Lick #5-B






Finally, for lick #5, we have two fairly different sets of harmony for the same lick. In example A we have a dominant 7th chord, the IV in an F blues, and in example B a II – V – I progression. Lets take a look to see why this might work…

In example A the lick begins with a chromatic approach to Bb (chord root). The triplet outlines the basic Bb major triad and  continues to outline the entire Bb7 chord in the next two highlighted notes (7th and root). Finally the lick ends with chord 7th (Ab) and 5th (F) of Bb7 in bar 2.

For example B, the harmony has been completely changed to that of a II – V – I progression of the I chord in an F blues. In analyzing the same notes as before, we see that the first chromatic approach to Bb is now an approach to the chord 3rd of Gm7. The triplet continues to outline chord 5th and 7th of Gm7. On beats 3 and 4, relative to the C7 chord, we have a chord b13 (Ab) and chord 7th (Bb). In bar 2 the lick ends with an approach to the very blues #9 note of the F7 (Ab) and chord root (F).

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