Voice leading is a great tool, but the strongest musical principle is probably melody. And that is also true when you are comping. Melody will tie things together and overrule voice-leading just as it does when you are making a chord melody arrangement.
I get asked a lot about how I think about the different extensions and alterations that I use in my comping. In this video I will show you some examples of how I comp thinking of a melody and harmonizing it at the same time. It is very similar to the how you approach chord solos and it is a very useful tool when making the comp sounding as a complete musical statement instead of a bunch of chords next to each other.
It also demonstrates how I focus on melody rather than trying to think of which extensions I want to include in the voicings.
To explain how I think about this I am going to take a turnaround in G major. I’ll use that to go over some exercises for each of the chords and then give you three examples of how I might comp through that progression.
To be able to play melodies with a chord we need a set of voicings so that we can play around in the scale.
In this lesson I chose to use Drop2 voicings. The reason for this is that if you know your drop2 inversions then you already have 4 of the 7 notes covered. Another good reason is that drop2 voicings are very useful in general for jazz comping. You can check out more on Drop2 voicings here: Jazz Chord Essentials – Drop 2 voicings – Part 1
The Am7 chord
Since the key of G major we can harmonize all the notes of G major with an Am7 voicing.
That gives us this exercise:
The D7 chord
The Tonic, Gmaj7
When comping a melody with a Gmaj7 chord there are two notes that need a bit of attention. When the root is in the melody it is often not that nice to have a maj7th under it, so in that case you can change it into a G6 chord (first chord in the example under here). The other note is a C, which I chose to harmonize with an Am7 voicing in this example. When you are comping you will not have to play a Gmaj7 with a C in the melody for any longer period (unless there’s something wrong with music 🙂 )
The E7, dom7th to Am7
The first turnaround example
Turnaround using motiefs
Focusing on the melody means that we can use all the same ideas to connect the chords across the whole progression together that we use when soloing. In the example below I am starting with a two note motief that is then moved through the Am7, D7 and Gmaj7 chords. From there it is varied and use to resolve from the E7 to an Am7 chord.
Turnaround with altered chords.
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Melodic Comping – How to get started
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