The George Benson Method To Playing Changes. Get Ready To Improve

Tag

Gold Supporting Member
@Megatron

I found this on my computer from over 10 years ago when I first posted it. IMO, this is the absolute best way to not only learn, but to play jazz. Everyone claims their method is the best. This one is, because its the way the greatest players the world has known have approached and played jazz. It completely turned my playing around in 1-2 years after struggling with teacher after teacher, for years and years, and seeing only slow improvements. I figured there HAD to be a better/different way. All these great players could not be super geniuses, or just gifted from God. (Though some surely are) This is that way. Anyone interested in really making huge improvements, please read the following in its ENTIRETY. It all goes together, hand in hand, and its not really a step by step method. It has to ALL be followed. This is not a "shortcut", but it will save YEARS of wasted energy and practice. Its a method that is very different than what is usually taught. It will not only change how you play and approach songs, it will totally change the way you hear music, and the way you analyze songs. If it worked for me, it will work for you. Its not easy. It takes all kinds of work, HARD practice, listening, and thinking. But every single thing you do will be bringing you closer and closer to the goal we all want. To be able to improvise freely over songs, while having lots of interesting ideas to choose from. I will try and post video clips of examples. Especially to get a few basic lines down to start, or add to your existing vocabulary. Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie did all the hard work for the rest of us. Now to see what they figured out......


This was taught to me by Richie Hart, who was taught it directly from George
Benson, who picked it up from hanging with Wes, Coltrane and the masters.

First off. You need to know your harmonized major scale. In the key of C,
this is I
chord: C maj7. II chord: D-7. III chord: E-7. IV chord: Fmaj7, V chord: G7,
VI chord: A-7. VII chord: B-7b5. The scales you should also have a good
grasp of are the major scale,
The Dorian mode, the Harmonic minor scale, the Melodic minor scale, and to
some but less extent, lydian.
You should always learn your arpeggios, and learn them all over as much as
possible! As you advance, you will need to basically know your
Wholetone and diminished scale as well. You do NOT need to over practice
these or spend hours playing them in all different shapes and patterns!
A general awareness of where they are and where you are on the fingerboard
is most important. Its very important to know the arps, and the sound of the
notes, like are you on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th etc. This is important
because as you learn lines from the masters, you need to see how they are
relating to the chords/function at hand. To learn a line, and not understand
EXACTLY where it is coming from is almost a complete waste of time! You
want to be able to use that line RIGHT away. Yep, it will sound forced at
first, but that is totally natural. Just like in rock, you are going to
sound mechanical at first, but that will fade fast the more time you put in,
and the more you understand the below. The key is to build a large
vocabulary of melodic bop and jazz which to draw from, and then, just like
speaking, choose what you want to say and when. It is just like learning to
talk. You learn words and phrases and put them together as needed to get
your thoughts across.
EXACTLY the same in music!

Back to the major scale and the basis of this. In the key of C again, I
chord: C maj7. II chord: D-7. III chord: E-7. IV chord: Fmaj7, V chord: G7,
VI chord: A-7. VII chord: B-7b5.
Now each of those chords has a function, meaning what it does to the melody
being played over it. It is either stable, (a resting place called Tonic). Or
is creating unstability, or wanting to move to a stable place. (Called
Dominant) Dominant areas want to move to tonic areas. A simple example of a resolution would be when you sing AHHHH-mennnnn in church. You can hear the first part has tension and wants to resolve, then it moves to the resting area, or tonic. Like a sus4 chord and then release the sus. Continued...next post......
 
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Tag

Gold Supporting Member
Now you have the seven chords above. There are three tonic chords. The I
(CMaj7) the III (E-7) and the VI chord (A-7). These chords act the same way.
They are all resting places, they just create a different kind of color, but
they all function the SAME. Now there are 4 chords left. These are all
Dominant chords. This means they are looking to resolve, or move to a
resting area. Theses chords are the II chord: Dmin7. IV chord: Fmaj7. V
chord: G7. and VII chord B-7b5. Now you only have two groups of chords, and
ecah chord in each group functions the SAME way. This is SOOOOOOOOOOO
important!!!!!!

You do NOT have to learn 7 modes, one for each chord! If you do that, in a
progression like a simple I-VI-II-V, you will be trying to play 4 modes to
make the changes. Ionian on the I chord, Aolean on the VI chord, Dorian on
the II chord, Mixolydian on the V chord, then back to Ionian on the I chord.
UGGHH! Now if you look above at our groupings, you will see that the
I and VI chord are in the same group, and are both tonic chords.
(C MAJ 7 and A-7) YES! No need to make any changes there!
Treat them both the exact same way. Play all
your C maj lines, over BOTH chords. Of course A minor7 arpeggios will work,
as will Emin arpeggios. All are tonic right? That iii chord, E-7 is in the
same group. TONIC!
Now those two or three chords just
became one. Now you have a D-7 and a G7 chord coming up. This is changing
functions and is no longer a resting place. Although you are still in the
key of C, if you accentuate C Maj, A min or E min, it will sound wrong. You
will be playing the correct notes, but they will not be functioning the
right way. Here you MUST (for now) make a change to D Dorian. Now get this
and look at our groupings above.
D Dorian, G Mixolydian, F Lydian, and B locrean are the correct "Modes" for
those 4 chords,
all of which are Dominant. All the same function. What that means, is that D
Dorian, will work PERFECTLY
for all of those chords! The SAME exact lines and resolutions can and ARE
used! Its unbelievable how this works!
Now pay attention to this. Guys say a D Dorian is just a C major scale.
This is NOT correct! The two scales share the same notes,
yes, but they are different FUNCTIONS. This means that you can not play your
C major or that tonic group of licks over D minor.
You will be accenting and resolving on the WRONG notes. We need to make the
changes guys! But the good news, is you CAN
play those D Dorian lines over the other three chords as I said above, and
they will be 100% correct!


Guys, THIS is what sets apart the good players from the bad. The tasteful
from the bland. Dare I say it? Most jazz players from most rock players. On
the Dominant chords, you must accentuate the correct notes. This comes from
outlining the dominant chords. They ALL work! Look at our grouping above.
You have D-7, G7, F Maj7 and B-7b5. You can play as simple as just D
dorian over all those chords, or go wild and use all of those arpeggios.
This
will be accentuating the correct notes, and lead you nicely back into the
tonic area. To make it as simple as possible....The I and VI chord play C
maj, the II and V chord play D dorian. I will make up a progression here
that is more advanced, using all VII diatonic chords. Say we have a
progression like this. Bar 1: C maj7 for 4 beats. Bar2: E min7, A-7 for 2
beats each. Bar III: F maj7, D-7 for 2 beats a piece. BarIV: B-7b5, G7 for
two
beats a piece. Lets look at this and break it down by function. Bar I: C maj
7= Tonic. Play all your Cmaj stuff here. Easy enough! Bar 2. Oh no, two
chords! Damn!! But WAIT! They are also both tonic chords! YES!! That
means...Play more Cmaj
stuff here! Yep, same lines over all three chords! NO changes!

Bar III..DARN..two more chords F maj 7 and D-7. Uggh!! But wait!!..they are
BOTH dominant chords! I
can group them together as well! Make it easy, Ill just play D dorian over
both. Killer! Sounds GREAT! Ok..bar IV..SOB, I KNEW it! That strange
Bbmin7b5 chord. What the
heck do I do know?? I have to think of that stupid B Locrean mode?? What
does Tag say..hmmm.... AHHH!!!!!!!!! Its STILL a dominant area!! I dont have
to change at all!! WOW!!! Just keep playing D dorian! YEEEHAAA!!! This is
not to
bad!!! Love it!! Oh no, yet ANOTHER chord, just when I was really moving. I
KNEW it wasnt
this easy. That jerk Tag, I knew he was just a big mouth. Well, lets
see..hmmm, no way....you have got to be kidding me?? Its dominant as well??
That means I can STILL just play D Dorian?? I DONT BELIEVE IT!!!!!!! That
was
not that hard! I think I can do this!!!

Now this is breaking it down as easy as possible, but THIS is where you
start. You need to learn bop lines, and pay STRICT attention to what they
are being played over, and if it is a tonic or dominat area. You see, bop
lines are not like rock licks. They accentuate the notes that spell out the
background chords. I studied scale for YEARS, trying to learn jazz. I knew
everyone inside and out, upside down, in thirds, 4ths, triplets, 16th notes,
and I still could not play a thing over changes. I got a new teacher,he
taught me this, made me forgot
about all the scales, and had me start learning bop lines and songs, and
within a
year I was playing pretty darn well. If I had REALLY put the time in, it
would have saved me another 8.

As you advance, I can show you how easy it is to just apply the same
thinking over almost any progression. Then as you get better, you can start
adding little things like whole tone lines, and diminished lines (both of
which fall into the same groupings above, I just did not go that far.) All
the substitutions, Melodic and harmonic minor etc. It all fits together SOO
easily. The hard part is trying to develope your own identity with it, but
using this method, I think ANYONE can learn to be a very tasteful guitarist
in a very short time. You HAVE to learn bop lines and standard songs. Start
EASY. Polka dots and moonbeams. Stormy weather. Jazz/Blues tunes with
changes. Keep it SIMPLE. If you start with Giat steps, Stella etc, you are
in for frustration.

Start easy, get a grasp of one thing, then add another. But LEARN THOSE BOP
LINES!!!!!!!!!
 

Tag

Gold Supporting Member
Here is a strong A minor line to get you started. This can be used over A- A-7 A-6 etc Cmaj7 Cmaj9 Cmaj7#11 etc D7, D9 etc F#-7b5 I explain why in the video, but it works perfectly on all those chords. No need to think of a different scale or licks for all those chords. What I was trying to say in the video, and you will soon see, is you then apply this to say the flat 5 sub, which over D7 is Ab7. Now you look at the groupings that go with that. Ab7, Eb-7,C-7b5 and Gbmaj7. Now all the lines for that group, work over all those chords! So to make it simple like Pat Martino does, he just looks at the minor, which here is Eb-7. So you play all your dorian Eb-7 lines over those chords, and resolve to the G or G minor! Look at the possibilites with just A dorian and Eb dorian lines now! This is WAY WAY ahead of the game, but just pointing out where this takes you.

Warning! I should say F#-7b5. Not F-7b5!!!

 

quinnster

Member
Great stuff, TAG! It was really a revelation for me when I studied with a guy who broke down the tonic/dominant like you did. It made things that sound hard a lot simpler to pull off. It's good to understand modal relationships, but this is better for application.
 

stevel

Member
Could we then say, play C Major (assuming the key of C) for I, iii, and vi, and D Dorian for ii, IV, V, and viio?

Or are you saying C Major for I, iii, and vi, and D Dorian for ii, IV, and viio, then Mixolydian for V?
 

Tag

Gold Supporting Member
Could we then say, play C Major (assuming the key of C) for I, iii, and vi, and D Dorian for ii, IV, V, and viio?

Or are you saying C Major for I, iii, and vi, and D Dorian for ii, IV, and viio, then Mixolydian for V?
Play the Dorian for all four. Thats the same thing Pat Martino does, he just calls it converting to minor. And this is vitally important. This does NOT mean play your C major pent rock licks for C major, and your D minor Pent rock licks for the D Dorian. Rock licks play on top of the chord and do not outline the correct notes. Thats why the bop and jazz lines are vital. They outline the correct notes in the chords and get into the color and tonality of the chord. Rock/Pent licks ate ambiguous in that regard. They technically work, but will not sound real good and lead into the tonic area smoothly. Ill do a I iii vi tonic line tomorrow.
 

Tag

Gold Supporting Member
seeing it. That Dorian 6th is the 3rd in the V chord. the 3rd of the ii is the b7 of the V.......
Very good!!!! Yes...the important tones in each groups chords are the same! (I iii and vi for tonic, ii IV V and vii for dominant) You are catching on already! You will not believe the connections you will see and hear over time. Its insanely simple!! All of it. Even the way out ****. Thats why the best "in" players are the best "out" players. It all comes down to the same things! You will wonder why this isnt taught everywhere. Its like a little secret.
:beer
 

Kingpin

Member
Another way to look at the tonic vs. dominant grouping is that (assuming C major) the 4th of the scale, (F), is a chord tone in the dominant group, but not in the tonic group.
 

Megatron

Member
sweet, yeah, I've been memorizing ii V I licks from David Baker book II and wherever else I can get them. Just jotted your lick down from the video about 10m ago.
 
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Bluesful

Supporting Member
Its very important to know the arps, and the sound of the
notes, like are you on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th etc. This is important
because as you learn lines from the masters, you need to see how they are
relating to the chords/function at hand.
This is key.

I'm not there yet, but I'm starting to develop my ear to recognise what a b7 sounds like.
 

Tag

Gold Supporting Member
This is key.

I'm not there yet, but I'm starting to develop my ear to recognise what a b7 sounds like.
The Beatles "Shes a Woman".
MY (3rd) LOVE (Root) DONT (b7) give me presents.
Sing the first 3 words to that song over and over. That song is how I learned to hear Dom 7 chords. The first 2 notes are 3rd and up to root, then the flat 7th. Great way to hear the relationship on such a cool, popular song.
:beer
 
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Bluesful

Supporting Member
The Beatles "Shes a Woman".
MY (3rd) LOVE (Root) DONT (b7) give me presents.
Sing the first 3 words to that song over and over. That song is how I learned to hear Dom 7 chords. The first 2 notes are 3rd and up to root, then the flat 7th. Great way to hear the relationship on such a cool, popular song.
:beer
Thanks for the tip. I'll use that.
 

Mit

Member
Thanks for this Tag! I had already looked up the old thread but it's nice you made a new one.

Thats why the best "in" players are the best "out" players. It all comes down to the same things!
What do you mean? Play tonic lines over dominant chords and vice versa to sound out maybe? ....nah probably not it will just sound bad. (Not that I really aspire to be able to sound "out" :p)
 

frdagaa

Supporting Member
Pointing out the obvious, but m7 chords are in both the tonic and dominant groups, so in looking at a chart you'll need to decide if a m7 is functioning as a ii (dominant) or iii or vi (tonic). Usually it's obvious.
 
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Tag

Gold Supporting Member
Pointing out the obvious, but m7 chords are in both the tonic and dominant groups, so in looking at a chart you'll need to decide if a m7 is functioning as a ii (dominant) or iii or vi (tonic). Usually it's obvious.
Thats correct! But you will be able to tell instantly once you are familiar with this. Its a great point though, and why a good teacher when asked by a student "what can I play over a minor 7 chord" will say..."Well, it depends. What other chords are before and after it?. As you can now clearly see, it makes all the difference in the world! A iii and a vi chord have a totally different function and tonality than a ii chord!
 
This sounds like a great approach, especially the part about learning tons of bebop lines. While I get where you're coming from on the "d Dorian over the dominant chords in C" bit, I think it's a bit of a red herring. If you don't play bebop, learn at least one phrase by say, Clifford brown, playing over a ii-V. I think that will be helpful to illustrate the difference between lines and running scales, as well as chromatic stuff that makes 'Dorian" a pretty weak guidepost for bebop. I get it as a "way in" for guitar players, but I just wanted to point that out.
 
Stick to it, give it two years, learn tons of bop lines, and you will be SMOKING.


Agree with this method 100%. I've heard it called the Tonic-Dominant system. I learned something similar from an old trumpet player. And once you get it, when you look at lines, it just makes all the sense in the world.

Just a couple thoughts to add to this.

1) IMO it's also important to really understand the use of diminished concepts. For instance,

G7 = Bb7 Db7 E7, Abdim Bdim Ddim Fdim are all the same chord. Their lines can all be interchanged. Essentially, they are all dominant function and resolve into any of the tonic family chords perfectly.

If anyone is curious to hear a couple lines based off this approach, listen to the opening line here, phrase over the ii, moved up the next rung of the "diminished ladder", same phrase over the V (works perfectly, you could continue up in min3rds as well, all just dominant family vocabulary). Then still on the V (let's say G7), a line based off of Bb7b9 (again, if you understand diminished, it's the same thing as G7) and it resolves to the tonic beautifully.



2) A great little trick I picked up to get that bebop blues sound (like benson for instance) is over a dominant chord, play blues from the relative minor of the tonic, and resolve into the tonic.

So over G7, as it approaches the I chord, switch to an A blues line, then resolve that line into the C. In reality both the C and Am are the same thing, but it helps get the right sound in the beginning to think of them separately.

3) One thing critical to actually applying this to tunes is you must understand how to play the cycle. Once it is understood that the majority of harmonic motion through the standards is simply cycle based, you can practically predict what chord comes next.


@Tag something that was also very influential to me was studying Barry Harris and his method of harmony (his melodic stuff is great too), as well as Russel's LCC (not so much that I view everything through that lens, but helped open my mind and ears with regard to harmony). If you're not familiar with either of these, check them out, especially Barry, it ties in very nicely to the Tonic Dominant system.


Take care.
 
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Tag

Gold Supporting Member
Thanks for this Tag! I had already looked up the old thread but it's nice you made a new one.


What do you mean? Play tonic lines over dominant chords and vice versa to sound out maybe? ....nah probably not it will just sound bad. (Not that I really aspire to be able to sound "out" :p)
Thats right, it will sound bad. All of these are "in" tones. However, your ear will learn that the major scale is like two different scales in one. When played emphasizing the I iii and vi chords, it has a restful, tonic sound. When it is played emphasizing the other 4 chords, it creates tension, wanting to pull your ear back to the other three chords and areas. A dominant 7 chord does NOT have to resolve to the I chord. It can resolve to the I iii or vi. What this tells you right now, is while soloing OR comping, you can play lines or your chords on the V chord, and even though the rest of the band goes to the I, you can resolve your line on the iii or vi chord, or comp a iii or vi chord over the I! Also, that the basis to start reharmonizing chord melodies. The first time through you may want the melody on top of a C Major I chord for 4 beats. The next time through you put it on top of a E minor and A minor for 2 beats a piece. Sounds GREAT! Then you do the same thing over say the ii chord. Second time through, put the melody on top of the IV chord! Now you just changed the quality of the chord the melody is being heard over, from minor to major, and, it works perfectly well!!! This is the same with your lines, and why one line can do SO much yet sound so different. You play a D minor 7 line over D minor one time through, then play that exact line over F major another point in the song, and it works perfect over both chords, but sounds different. Because both chords are dominant chords. You do NOT want to play that line over the ii vi or I chord however. It will be wrong. Now think about that. All the ssme notes from the same C Major scale, but they can sound totally right, or totally wrong. Get these sounds in your head. Lay down some nice relaxed simple changes like a ii V I. Then a I vi ii V I and loop them learn some SIMPLE bop lines and arps, and play them over and over and over. Try subbing the different chords from each group over the changes. Get use to hearing it. Thats the first MAJOR step to learning to fly. I will get to "out" sounds shortly, but it relates DIRECTLY to this.
 


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