In short you want to work on your Jazz Guitar Comping. It is probably what you spend the most time doing when you are playing in a band. It is also one of the best ways to develop your ability to interact with the people you play with which can makes your solos much much more interesting to listen to and add a complete other dimension to it.
There are ways of thinking about comping that will improve how you comp and in this video I am going to talk about how you
Connect with the band
Support the soloist better
Help the song become a musical story
Comping is a difficult art to teach in a lesson because it is about interacting with several people at the same time, but it is also a huge part of what you do as a jazz musician, and for me a big chunk of what I do for a living, both as a sideman and in my own band. It is also something that I love doing because the emphasis is on playing together with other people.
One of the nicest things about playing jazz is Jazz comping where you play fills and small melodic statements behind the soloist. In this video I am going to go over a very easy way to get started playing jazz chords like this, starting with a very simple version of the chords and an easy way to add melodies to these chords.
I am going to demonstrate this on a Bb jazz blues. Starting with reduced shell voicings and expanding this into a set of chords that you can make melodies with while comping. I also demonstrate how this might work on the blues.
Reducing the voicings for comping
The first thing we need to do is to find some really easy chords for the blues. The way I am going to do that in this video is to just play the 3rd and 7th of each chord. This is also a great way to practice knowing the notes of the chords.
Bb7: Ab,D Eb7: G,Db G7: B,F Cm7: Bb, Eb F7: A, Eb
Before we start adding different variations to the chords to open up how we play them the we can Take this through the Blues this sounds like this:
Getting more options for each chord when comping
This way of playing the chords is pretty easy and is actually giving us a very clear sound of the chords.
To be able to play some more interesting melodies we need have some different melody notes. We already have one, namely the top note of each chord.
The way to do this is to add two more notes on the next string.
Bb7: D F G, 3,5,13 Eb: Db Eb F b7,1,9 G7: F, Ab, Bb b7,b9,#9 Cm7: Eb, F, G 3,11,5 F7: Eb,Gb,Ab b7,b9,#9
Before we start improvising with this we can play this through the Blues as an exercise:
To get started improvising it can be a good idea to work a bit per chord. In the video I give a short example on a Bb7 that you can check out.
Jazz Comping in Action
Once you get a bit more familiar with the chords you can play through the blues likes this:
Make chord voicings easier to remember.
Connecting different types of voicings is important because it makes it easier to use, remember and understand
An important thing to notice here is that the chords on Bb7 are really just like rootless versions of chords you probably already know. If we think about the chords as different variations based on the middle tritone Ab D (marked red) then we have this:
Take your comping further
If you want to check out more on how to practice and think about comping you can check out this lesson on comping on Autumn Leaves:
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.
Counterpoint is a beautiful way to add another dimension or layer to our jazz comping vocabulary! This lesson is going to cover how I add another melodic layer to some simple II V I ideas. I will also go over how you can use jazz counterpoint as an approach to add fills and movement in a chord melody arrangement. For this I have included the beginning of the song Stella By Starlight harmonized with this approach.
The II V I examples
In the II V I examples I am using voicings with three notes. This is mostly a practical limitation. Three note voicings are a bit more flexible and easier to keep a melody note sustained while adding another melody.
All the II V I examples are in the key of C major.
Keeping it simple!
The first example has a very simple step-wise top note melody. It is moving from C to B and then stays there.
The counterpoint idea is also a slow stedy moving quarter note melody moving one voice a chord to another voice in the next chord.
Notice that I am using an alternate fingering for the first Dm7 (F triad in fact) This is often necessary to make it possible to play a melody under the top note.
The way you work on making these is to try to play the chord voicings and then add a scale melody under the top note. I have done this for all the II V I examples in this lesson. The first one is shown here below.
More melodic movement
In the second example Moving into more movement in the top melody. On the Dm7 the top note melody is still just an A. On the G7alt it is a three note walk from #9 via b9 and back. This resolves to the B on the Cmaj7.
The Dm7 and G7(#9) are fairly common voicings. The Cmaj7 is an open voiced Em triad which is not at all far fetched even if we don’t use it as often.
The Example starts with stating the Dm7 chord and then adds a melody to take us to the G7. It is in fact targetting the B. On the G7 the chord is sustained while the top note melody is moving and then immediately after the lower melody continues with a G altered line that resolves to the low G in the Cmaj7 voicing.
As in the first example here is an exercise to find the notes available for these voicings.
A little more activity in the movement!
In the third example I now have movement in the top note melodies of both Dm7 and G7alt.
The Basic voicings are:
The Dm7 melody is moving from F to G and then the lower melodies takes over and leads us into the G7(b9) voicing. Here the lowest note is starting a descending melody that leads into another G7 voicing. Here the lower part of the 2nd voicing has a small melodic fragment that encircles the 5th of the last voicing. On the C the inner part of the voicing is moving from the 7th(B) to the 6th(A).
If we turn the last voicing set into an exercise similar to the first two examples we get this:
Getting your priorities straight
You should keep in mind that once you start playing the counter melody then you don’t need to try really hard to sustain the chord (if you played one) the collected amount of pitches and the melody should be enough to spell out the sound of the harmony. This also makes it technically a lot easier to work with.
Chord Melody on Stella By Starlight
The idea I am using in this fragment from Stella by Starlight is to use the main melody as the top note melody and then make a counter melody whenever there is a long note in the melody.
On the Em7b5 the counter melody is purely consisting out of arpeggio notes. This will happen a few times in these few bars. On the A7 the melody is moving so I don’t add a counter melody.
The Cm7 transition to F7 with a small melody that uses a chromatic approach to the 3rd(A) of F7. On the Fm7 the melody is a sustained G. Under this I add an Fm7 arpeggio melody that takes us into the Bb7. From Bb7 to Ebmaj7 the melody is moving.
On the Ebmaj7 I add a melody that takes us down to the Ab7 by playing a descending Cm Coltrane Pattern.
Taking Jazz Counterpoint to another level!
In the examples that I used for this lesson I am playing the chord on the one of each bar to associate the counter melody with the chord. But of course it is possible to leave the chord out and just rely on two layers of melody moving around. As a short example that I play of this in the video is shown below:
A few concluding thougts
My examples in this video are a bit busy and maybe not entirely suited for comping, but I thought it better to really emphasize the melodic movement and the two layers. You will probably use this in a more sparse way, at least I do, but it is anyway fun to work with!
Get a Free Ebook
If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:
You can also download the PDF of my examples here:
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.
Jazz guitar comping is a topic that does not get covered so much. There are a lot of lessons on chord voicings, music theory and extensions, but when it comes to comping it is more difficult to find material. In this video I want to talk about comping by taking the Jazz Standard Just Friends and comp through it in a few different ways and discuss some approaches and philosophies. Since this topic is more about fitting into a situation and reacting to other musicians playing it will be a bit more about approaches and ways of thinking than actual exercises. That said I do go over two ways of coming up with voicings, comping techniques and how to add melodies to your guitar comp.
1:43 Analysis 5:51 Why I don’t use diminished scale 6:58 Scales for a dim chord 9:50 Turnaround to the IV 11:26 Drop2 18:01 Triads 26:42 Comping and Interaction 30:53 Connecting the chords 32:54 Melodies in Comping 35:07 Techniques for melodic comping 39:30 Using Riff comping – focus on groove 45:39 Open Comp: Focus on color and melody 54:56 Conclusion and Outro