Before tackling this course, you should be comfortable with all the material from George's Trick Bag

To play jazz at the level Mr Benson does you need to have a firm grasp of theory and chord construction. In this section Dion will be breaking down a typical Benson jazz progression to get you mastering the rhythm side of his playing as well as the lead.

Summary: "George's Jazz"

Jazz rhythm parts can be extremely complicated and therefore repetition is a very useful thing when learning them! For this tune we have a 4 chord piece that loops around for 4 minutes. This is so that you can learn to play along through these complicated chords and typical jazz groove. So, your first task is to listen. Try to get through the whole track before tackling the theory in the next lesson.

Summary: Mixolydian

To understand the theory within this tune we need to first understand what Mixolydian means as this song is based around a Bb mixolydian key. The Mixolydian mode is the 5th mode of the major scale. It therefore makes sense, at this stage, to relate Bb Mixolydian back to its parent major scale. So, a 5th down from Bb is Eb. This is therefore in the key of Eb major. If you are confused about that, hopefully this diagram will help a little:

Summary: Theory

So, with that sorted we can now understand the theory a little more. In the key of Eb major we would normally harmonise the 7 chords as Ebmaj7, Fm7, Gm7, Abmaj7, Bbdom7, Cm7, Dm7b5. In our song we have the basic chords: Bb7, Em7b5, Ebmaj7 and Ab7. So, as you can see the Bb and Eb are natural to the key, but the Ab7 and Em7b5 isn't. Bare this in mind as we run through the following videos, where we'll talk in more detail, but essentially the Em7b5 is a passing chord and the Ab7 is made dominant (rather than major 7th) to create tension that resolves more effectively to the Bb7.

SUMMARY: B flat 9 Rootless voicing

The chord progression for this tune is:

Bb9 /// Em7b5 /// Ebmaj7 /// Ab13 ///

The first chord of the loop, the Bb9, is played using a really cool voicing that doesn't use the root note. This is simply because the bass player is playing the root note and therefore suggesting the chord. 9th chords usually have the 1st, 3rd, 5th, b7th and 9th in them, but here we are omitting the the root and 5th to create the chord. The chord shape itself looks like this:

RHYTHM: The Charleston rhythm

Throughout the entire progression we are using a typical jazz groove called the Charleston rhythm. For those groove we basically hit the 'one' and 'two and' beats, and specifically with down strokes. This means you are essentially running in 16th notes, but you don't need to constantly play strict 16th movements with the arm. The rhythm pattern looks like as shown below. Focus on getting the Bb9 and rhythm together before moving on.

SUMMARY: E minor 7 flat 5 & E flat major 7

For the second two chords we can theoretically link them together. To start with, learn the chord shapes as shown below, then we will talk theory!

Theory: Why E minor 7 flat 5?

The Ebmaj7 fits beautifully into the key, but why does Em7b5 work? Well, if you look at the chord diagrams you can see that the top 3 notes are identical on both chords. This means that 3 of the 4 notes of Ebm7b5 fit perfectly into the key. The E (rather than Eb) note just creates tension which resolves perfectly down a semitone to Eb. This is a cool little tricky that you can use a lot in jazz. Try to now apply your rhythm to all 3 chords so far.

Summary: A flat 13

Our final chord is the Ab13, which is essentially a dominant 7th chord with the added 13th. To construct an 13th chord you typically take the root, 3rd, b7th and 13th (you can also use the 5th and 9th if you want to!). As we said at the beginning, this chord should theoretically be a major 7th, as that fits into the key. However, by flattening the 7th and creating a dominant chord (As well as adding the 13th) we create a pull back to the Bb9, which helps settle the Bb9 as the root chord, and therefore establishes the overall mixolydian sound. This chord is played like this:

TAB: Putting it all together

Time to put the whole thing together. Use the tab below to slow down the track, loop tricky sections and basically get it nailed! Remember to force yourself to play through the whole 4 minute track to really embed these new chords and rhythm into your playing

Audio: Backing Track & Audio

When you are ready, the backing track and full track are here to play along to. It is worth trying to play with just the backing track, as you will not be 'hiding' behind the recorded guitar part; it's all up to you to make it sound awesome!

Ready to move on? Remember to check out every lesson in this unit first – then try the next unit...

Benson's Blues

Following on from the rhythm section we will now take that 4 chord jazz piece and learn how to solo over it in a George Benson style. This is all about timing, targeting chord tones and vocal phrasing.