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Michael Johnson >> Contemporary Folk Guitarists >>

Teacher: Welcome class to the lesson on the style of Ben Harper. Ben Harper has a very unique style that blends folk, blues, funk, reggae and other styles. This lesson will focus on his acoustic rhythm guitar sound. Ben Harper's style can sound anywhere from Dylan, Hendrix, The Beatles, Bob Marley to whoever... The emphasis of this lesson will be on rhythms. Check out the lesson sample of what you will learn.

Lesson Sample - Lowband - 1.8 Meg

Lesson Sample - Highband - 4.9 Meg

Let's jump to the first rhythm which will use G, F & D.

Part 1

Part 1

Teacher: Notice the rhythm pattern. The scale pattern at the end uses the G Major Pentatonic scale. Here's the scale pattern.

G Major Pentatonic scale

Teacher: Here's the jam track you can practice over.

Looping Jam Track 1 - Lowband

Teacher: This next rhythm pattern will use G as well.

Part 2

Part 2

Teacher: This section changes the rhythm pattern. Notice that Ben Harper's style uses a lot of basic chords. He also plays simple licks in between the chords. In this example you have Em9 and the D7 and then D7 sus4, which is a pretty cool sounding combination. Here's the jam track.

Looping Jam Track 2 - Lowband

Teacher: The groove of this rhythm changes. Notice the use of a conga pattern. Ben Harper will use simple layers of instruments and focus on letting the rhythm of the guitar stand out. This next section will layer rhythm guitar parts. In this example you will start with a B5 chord.

Part 3 - Rhythm 1

Part 3 - Rhythm 1

Teacher: Here's another rhythm variation using simple chords. This layers the foundation for the 2nd guitar part. Here's the 2nd guitar rhythm.

Part 3 - Rhythm 2

Part 3 - Rhythm 2

Teacher: Notice how the Bm7 and the E7 and G7 chords add a nice voicing over the 1st guitar track. This section comes alive when both guitar parts are played. Try playing the 1st track a few times then playing the 2nd later. Here's the jam track with both parts.

Looping Jam Track 3 - Lowband

Teacher: Notice how the Hendrix sounding riff stands out at the end of the phrase. This section has a funky groove to it. Ben Harper will also incorporate reggae, ska and other rhythm styles as well. Let's move to the next section. This rhythm pattern will start with B as well.

Part 4

Part 4

Teacher: This pattern fits nicely with the previous rhythm. This time you will ascend B, D, E and G. You repeat the progression, but this time you shift to low G and F#. Here's the jam track.

Looping Jam Track 4 - Lowband

Teacher: Notice the simple variations in the rhythm pattern. You can make your own patterns up as well, which I strongly suggest.

tobey: Should those be played as barre chords or power chords?

Teacher: Yes Tobey, that's what they are. This next rhythm pattern uses more of the Hendrix type intervals.

Part 5

Part 5

cowboy: Very beatleesque!

Teacher: Oh yes! The intervals use various voicings for the E Major. These voicing basically play off the E Major barre chord. Here's the chord and E Major Pentatonic scale.

E Major - E Maj Pentatonic w/4th

Teacher: Here's the scale, notice the 4th is added. The A (4th) adds an interesting variation to the sound. Here's the jam track.

Looping Jam Track 5 - Lowband

Teacher: The track has a nice laid back feeling to it. Some musicians refer to these voicings as "flowery". A term I believe Hendrix used often as well. Here's the next rhythm.

Part 6

Part 6

Ben: The licks/bass runs sound VERY hendrix-esque.

Teacher: Ben yes, it's interesting how you can change the sound with different chord voicings.
This rhythm has more of a reggae groove. Here's the jam track.

Looping Jam Track 6 - Lowband

Teacher: Notice you repeat bars 1-4 2 times through, then repeat bars 5-8 2 times as well. Here's the last lick, Ben Harper will use interesting picking patterns as well.

Part 7

Teacher: The chord structure uses the C5 and B5, the next bars uses the open E note as a pedal tone will ascending the Em scale on the A string. Here's the jam track.

Looping Jam Track 7 - Lowband

Teacher: Notice the bass doubles the guitar. Ben Harper will use EQ to make his guitar sound lower. This helps fill up the sound when he plays solo.

Teacher: Well that's it for this lesson, I hope you learned more about Ben Harper's style. Bye!

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