If you are trying to learn to play Jazz Guitar and especially comping songs then you have probably already found out that it is not only about knowing the right chords, there is a lot more to it.
In this video, I am going to show you how I comp a slow medium jazz blues. I have transcribed a chorus and I will go over the chords but I will also show you how I play the chords and make the comp more interesting by using melodies, arpeggios and other tricks to color the chords. In fact, it may surprise you how rarely I “just” play a chord.
The Blues Transcription
Let’s first check out my comping with the transcription, then I will break down 5 of the techniques I use to make it sound more like a piece of music and more interesting.
The next thing to do is to have an overview of the voicings. If I play through the blues with just the chords because that is the backdrop for what I am doing.
Just the chords
After that, I am going to talk about how I am using melodies and fills, inner-voices and arpeggiation to make it come alive and I am going to give you some easier examples to work with.
As you can see most of the voicings are really simple and for the most part chords you probably know already.
If there is a chord that you don’t recognize then try to play or imagine playing the root under it.
bar 1 Bb789,13) magic chord
bar 6 Edim
bar 8 Dø G7 – It is a II V, and the movement is done by moving the 7th(C) of Dø down to the 3rd(B) on G7(b9)
Melody is more important than voice-leading
The first two bars are more about the melody I am playing than connecting the chords. I am using the chords to fill in around the melody.
The first chord is just a color, after that, you get this melody and on the long note in bar 2 I add the rest of the chord but I arpeggiate the chord to create a little extra movement.
The same type of thing is happening on the Eb7 moving to Edim. First the chord, then a melody that takes me to a G, and under that, I add the rest of the chord.
Playing Jazz Chords One Note at The Time
In the previous example, you could see how I arpeggiate the chords and in that way get more movement out of a single chord.
This is something that I use quite a lot. Two examples in this blues are bar3:
and bar 7
Both are using the same basic Bb7 voicing and the notes are spread out across the bar.
In bar 6 I do this as well, but here I am adding an extra note while arpeggiating and in that way starting to have two melodic layers, something that I use to create almost a counterpoint in another place.
Notice how I actually use voice leading to go from the Edim to the Bb7 even though it is hidden by the way I play Bb7
Electric Counterpoint (in a Jazz Blues)
Here I play a sustained F as the melody on Dø, and then add the rest of the notes and that turns into a second melody under the F that yields the G7(b9) voicing. This is an example of adding the chord tones in arpeggiating and that gradually takes on its own meaning as a melody and I treat it like that as well, not just as an arpeggio.
Grab what is easy to get by
Being efficient is important when you comp, also because you need to be ready to react to what is happening around you.
One of the ways I use block chords in comping is to just change the melody and keep the same chord which is what I am doing in bar 9 on the Cm7.
Improvising with the harmony
Since you are improvising when you comp then you can also change the chords a bit. The final turnaround has two examples of this. The 2nd chord is written out as a Db7, though you would expect a G7 there I play (and think) Db7
Whenever you have a dominant chord that resolves then you can choose to use the tritone substitute. That is what I am doing here. And added bonus is that the Db is the #9 of Bb which makes it sound like a harmonized blue note. That is also why I have that note at the top of the chord. In Music context is everything.
In the last bar, I am also changing the harmony, but I am doing so by delaying the F7. II V cadences are very flexible and you can often get away with leaving out one of the chords or as I do in this case, leave the F7 until beat 4 and then use it almost as a chromatic leading chord for the Bb7 in the next chorus. The quarter note triplet rhythm also adds extra energy by being a sort of tension against the groove.
Learn some amazing drop2 voicings
The majority of chords that I use in this video are drop-2 voicings, and a lot of the other ones can easily be seen as derived from drop2 by being drop2 without a root note for example. So studying drop2 voicings and being flexible with them is very useful if you want to be good at comping and free to choose what to play.
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