Hi Bruce, what is special about the Benson technique?
I use alternate picking and sweepicking togehter. The thing with sweep/economy picking I find sometimes hard is that you have to anticipate the "odd number of notes on a string" thing so you can make to downstrokes in a row, so it can sometimes be a mental barrier,
I agree that you shouldn't have to think about picking when playing - which is why the sweep picking seems too "licky" to me - you have to plan out everything ahead.
The Benson technique is about how you hold the pick and the position of the wrist/forearm/shoulder. The Benson technique does take some getting used to and I haven't nailed it yet. Basically you rotate your pick counterclockwise to pick the string at an angle.
How did you learn sweepin? Do you mute your strings while sweeping ( ala: Frank Gambale)? Do you hold wrist against the bridge or float above?
I am a big Frank Gambale fan. I attended a workshop with him years ago and have all his books and videos.That is how I learned sweeping. I do the muting thing. It just takes a lot of time but is definately worth the effort; However you have to pay attention to really articulate every note and this is where Gambale is a real master.
A great thing to practise i find is diatonic arpeggios because here you can really work on letting every note ring while keeping the rhythm.
Of course there are tons of other great guitarists for sweeping, some good instructional videos i find are from Jimmy Bruno, also Greg Howe and Paul Gilbert.
But that is just my personal view. i have seen really young guitarists sweeping like hell, playing every note of a Steve vai album, but on the other hand they cannot improvise over a 12 bar blues...
So the technical aspect is one thing..the choice of notes, melodies and improvisation is so much more important..
i try to always practise both, just by curiosity..do you study melodic minor modes? it is something i am just getting into as this is such a great scale..
For the benson thing..i am not sure if im a getting it, it is more the way you hold your pick then right,,?is it still alternate picking then..? what is the advantage?
is it similar to the way pat Metheny picks?
The Benson technique picks at a 90 degree counterclockwise angle to the string. The pick hits the string at an angle rather than perpendicular. Some people say it is more like a "broom" action. The wrist is below where it is in "standard" position.
The action you use in your wrist is more like knocking on a door while in standard position, more side-to-side action. There is a definite difference in tone. You also are supposedly able to do more iterations with the wrist in the Benson position.
Benson does both alternate and efficency picking. Check out his killer version of Take Five on YouTube at Montreal Jazz Fest.
I don't think you can do the muting FG thing with the wrist in this position. Maybe someone else in the forum who uses this technique can shed some light.
i'll agree with bruce...the benson technique doesn't allow muting at all...i believe is the perfect technique for shredding and things like that but not for blues or jazz etc...no...we need our feelings and action to be controlled and the benson technique doesn't allow that in my opinion..
.....What is that?...........I want to know!......LOL! George does so many things and it depends which period your talking about;.....the 60's which inspired players like Mark Whitfield...... or the 80's which inspired players like Norman Brown...........I think George's technique if you will,comes from his fine sense of rhythm!......also the way he plays octaves and the trill that sometimes goes with it......I've seen this done with the thumb or the second finger..go for it!.........PEACE
First of all this has been a really informative thread. It's been really cool to see how other players approach this.
For single note runs I usually use a combination of alternate-picking and a teensy bit of sweep picking (I do the left-hand muting thing). For chords and octaves I use my pick, plus the middle, ring, and/or pinky of my right hand, to get that mellow sound. This technique helps me alot with chord melody too. :)
For my octaves I only use my thumb, and mute the string in between with my left hand. I use sweeping at times more on the 4th and third strings primarily in ascending. As I play a FAIR amount of classical, I some times use some right hand tech in chord melody
It's very interesting that everyone is ever inquisitive about picking techniques. I can tell you that I like you, have tried many, but I never had one I could depend on for everything until I met George Benson in 1975. When I first saw George, Earl Klugh, who was only 17 at the time, was in his band. I didn't even know the kinds of things George was playing was technically possible on the guitar until I saw him doing it. When I saw him again, it was in 1976 and I was playing at a jazz club in New Jersey struggling to keep up with the rest of the band on faster tempos. The band leader was jazz organist, Jack McDuff.
GB saw me having problems and had pity on me. On the break, I asked him how he dealt with the tempo problems since he had also worked with same band leader when he was 17. That evening we spent together changed my musical life forever. He sat down with me and showed me his picking technique and how to practice it. It took me 3 or 4 months to transition to where it was second nature and I no longer had to think about it. After that, I never had another problem playing tempos, or any technical difficulties playing anything on the guitar ever again.
Over the years, every time we'd get together, I'd find out there were other subtle levels of George's technique; each one he'd show me when he felt I was ready for it. And to this day, he is always adding other levels to it so it keeps evolving. Many years later, I find out that I am one of only four people in the US that George has personally taught his picking technique to. Of course I was freaked! Anyway guys, I just want to clarify that GB's picking technique is not based on sweeping, alternate picking, using the forearm, or any of that stuff. And yes, GB can mute if he wants to, but that's just not a sound he likes so you wont hear him doing it.
Also, GB has been using this technique since he developed it the mid-sixties, so every period of music in GB's career, he has been using this picking technique. And we're talking about Blues, Bebop, Funk, R&B, you name it, GB has played it. I think the other George in this discussion is confused when he says, "i believe is the perfect technique for shredding and things like that but not for blues or jazz etc...no...we need our feelings and action to be controlled and the benson technique doesn't allow that in my opinion.. george".
Let's be clear: you cannot shred using GB's technique. It doesn't work for that kind of music and that's exactly why you will not hear GB shredding. That's not the kind of music he plays. But what GB does play is exactly what the other George said he didn't, which is Blues and Jazz. This is why I said that he may be a bit confused as to what GB actually plays. Another thing: GB does not pick every note. It may sound that way because his technique is dead-on accurate and the notes are so clean, but if you slow his solos down, you can hear many slurs, hammer-ons, and pull-offs. Well guys, I hope that sheds some light on GB's picking technique. Till next time.
Thanks for the post. It is really helpful for us out here trying to figure this stuff out on our own to have a response from someone who knows and is close to the source. I've been watching GB videos to try to cop his technique - which isn't easy as copping a lick or solo. You were lucky to have GB explain it to you!
The issue of right hand muting isn't clear to me. It looks like his hand is "floating" over the bridge - as opposed to resting on the bridge. Is that accurate - that his hand floats over the bridge? How do you mute in that position? Do you rest on the bridge in order to mute the strings? In that rest position, the pick angle seem to revert to the "standard" position - perpendicular to the strings. Does this question make any sense?
I'm also constantly changing my picking grip. Lately, index and thumb with the middle finger also helping. How do you grip the pick? Is the tip of the pick pointing straight forward or is it angled?
What you're seeing is an illusion because you can't see the angle that's invisible. What's going on underneath is GB's hand is actually anchored and not floating, and it is that anchoring which allows him to mute the strings. His hand does not rest on the bridge, he picks fairly close to the neck pickup and lightly touching the strings keeps them quiet.
What about George's use of the thumb only in playing and improvising. I can hear the same fluidity, AND SPEED AND CLARITY, as with the pick, but a much warmer and some what more fluid sound , to my ear.
Aside from George's tech, what do you think of Mick Goodrick's thoughts on single string exercises from his book The Advancing Guitaris.
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