Across the entire history of music, there are very, very few guitar players who we can point to as true innovators of a new style or technique of guitar. Not just truly gifted players, (so many of those!) but players who crafted an entirely new and fresh approach to the instrument, which in turn, became a staple influence for years and years to come.

How many can you name?

Charlie Christian, Robert Johnson, Django, Chet Atkins, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and Jim Hall would make that list. More contemporary players like Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Yngwie Malmsteen, Van Halen, SRV and Jeff Beck would likewise qualify (IMO).




Now don’t freak…I know I’m leaving many innovators off this list (we’d love to hear your nominations), just trying to make the point that true innovation on the guitar is quite rare. However, there is one true innovator that I’d like to add to everybody’s list… Ben Lacy.

Ben will likely cringe when he sees that I’ve mentioned his name alongside so many giants of guitar. Ben’s a bit shy, super humble and he’s certainly not out there seeking fame and fortune. Besides being a great husband to his lovely wife, Ben’s sole mission in life is to explore the full potential of the gift he’s been given, and to use that gift to excite the ears and put smiles on the faces of his audience.

Several years ago, while wandering the aisles of the NAMM show in Anaheim, we encountered a major gridlock of people blocking all intersecting aisles (not unusual when a superstar dignitary makes an appearance at a booth on the show floor). This also occurs when a bevy of bikini-clad booth hostesses are giving swag away. Either way, my curiosity was piqued, and so I pushed my way forward.

“I just played a show a couple of weeks ago. After the show a woman came up to me [Ben] and said, ‘Your music made my husband cry.’ That’s when you know you’ve done something. It’s not the size of a paycheck or anything like that for me. If you can move somebody that much, that’s real success.”

As I got closer, I could hear a group of musicians playing a very cool cover of Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen.” A couple more steps and I caught my very first peek of Ben Lacy. Eyes closed, head bobbing to the groove, fingers slapping/tapping/plucking at the strings along to the rhythm track. Wait a minute…no rhythm track? Nope. Ben was playing all of the drum, horn, bass, rhythm and melody parts solo on his electric guitar.

I was hearing, but my eyes did not believe. I’ve witnessed a lot of crazy, amazing techniques on guitar, but I’ve never (ever) seen or heard anything quite like that. I am not alone. Another amazing virtuoso musician, Steve Adelson (monster stick player and also a TrueFire artist) wrote an article about Ben for 20th Century Guitar. Here’s an excerpt…squiggle2

“About once a decade, a new guitar talent comes along that knocks this writer out. It was like that when I first saw and heard Michael Hedges. So musical, so unique. Same with Stanley Jordan. Four years ago, I met the newest killer guitarist at a California NAMM Show. My first encounter with Ben Lacy was literally thrilling. He was incorporating multiple techniques into a truly musical blend. There were chords with bass lines. There was melody and horn lines. All done simultaneously and above all, there was a rhythmic sense few have attained. A constant groooooove that propelled the music. And I was blown away when he added the drum solos…ON GUITAR STRINGS? Ben Lacy has done what few guitarists have done in history. Not just digest the styles of the past. Ben has raised the bar a notch. Maybe two.”

Very well said Steve, but I’d suggest we’re talking more than just a couple of notches. He doesn’t just incorporate percussive parts into his music, he’s innovated a technique for electric guitar so that he can play actual drum parts (bass drum, snare, hi-hat, etc.) in his arrangements. He’s also crafted a special technique for inserting horn parts. Then somehow, he’s able to complete the ensemble with bass, rhythm and melody parts. And he does it all with such soul and groove you’d think Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown and the Funk Brothers possessed his fingertips.

I spent several days in the studio filming Ben’s TrueFire course, Two-Hand Groove Guitar. Ben demonstrates all of the techniques he uses to create each of the individual drum, horn, rhythm, bass and melody parts. My eyes still have a hard time processing what my ears hear, but it’s real and we have it all on film, with close-ups and multiple angles. I can only hope that one hundred years from now, musicologists will consider this footage priceless.

We get email all the time thanking us for producing the course, many of them from people who don’t even play guitar, which blows my mind on the one hand, and makes perfect sense on the other.

Ben is an artist in every traditional sense of the word. He eats, sleeps and breathes for the music. He’s fiercely driven to practice his craft and take it as far as he can. It doesn’t matter how many records he sells, how much money he makes, where he plays or how many people are in his audience — all that matters is whether or not his music touches someone.

“I just played a show a couple of weeks ago. After the show a woman came up to me [Ben] and said, ‘Your music made my husband cry.’ That’s when you know you’ve done something. It’s not the size of a paycheck or anything like that for me. If you can move somebody that much, that’s real success.”

So yea, Ben is on my list of all-time guitar innovators and if you haven’t yet tuned in to him, then please do so. Then grab a pencil because you’ll want to add him to your list too.

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