Tag Archives: jazz comping lesson

3 Reasons Your Comping Sucks and How To Fix It

Usually when people talk about comping then it is about what chords to play, extensions and voicings, but that is not at all what comping is about. There are other things that you want to focus on that are a little less obvious. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve them. And you want to, because otherwise you are going to get fired….

You can probably split this into 3 main skills that you can develop, and these are things that you need to have some control over and you can always develop them further, and if you don’t know them then you will probably ruin the music for everyone!

The upside to this is that the things you will develop with this are also going to make you play better solos, in quite a few ways.

#1 Rhythm

When I went to jam sessions or was teaching combos then one thing that I often had to spend time on was teaching guitarists or piano players to not only think about the chords when they comp.

What Not To Do

I always found that the worst type of comping is when the one comping is only thinking about the notes and the voice-leading and is not taking responsibility for the groove or the interaction at all. Basic things like listening and having a vocabulary of rhythms and grooves is much more important than knowing a ton of fancy voicings.

No Fancy Chords! It’s a Blues

But there are great ways you can work on this. Let’s get rid of the fancy chords!

If you take a Bb Blues then you should be able to play through it with 2-note shells, so just the 3rd and 7th of each chord.

Like this:

When you don’t have more material in your chord then you are not thinking about extensions and colors or how to get to the next chord, so you have a lot more time to work on being creative with rhythm and locking in with the rhythm section.

While you are working on this then you probably start to notice how repeating patterns can be really useful, and make the whole thing strong, solidifying the groove and the chord.

Exercise 2

This is something that you also can spend some time working on, so try to take rhythms from people you like listening to and make them into riffs that you can take through a progression.

Wynton Kelly is a good choice for someone to listen to for this, but a lot of the hardbop guys are really good at laying down a groove like that, if you know a great example of someone comping on a song then leave a comment!

You need to remember that we learn this by hearing how it is supposed to sound, not by reading a book or using some sort of ruleset.

Practicing Riffs

An example of a pattern to practice through a song could be something like this:

And if you try, then you can hear how the consistency that it brings when you make it through the song and how it really helps actually keeps in interesting and also makes whatever variation you play so much more powerful.

I think this is one of the most underestimated things in comping that will make pretty much everyone sound 10 times as good.

The Golden Tip For Comping Rhythms

One thing that can change so much about how you sound when you comp and especially if it grooves is to Be aware of long and short notes, and use that creatively!

There is a big difference between:

and something like:

Essentially the rhythm is the same, and I am only changing between long and short notes.

#2 Melody

When you play chords then melody is one of the most important things to make it sound good. Something that helps you tie the whole thing together.

So, besides rhythms, you want to work on playing strong natural-sounding melodies that make sense.

Simply because this:

Does not sound as good as this:

And the difference is that the 2nd example has a melody, it is in itself a story with an interesting flow and more surprises, so you can easily hear how that works a lot better, but how do you develop that?

There are two things I think you want to work on here, and they both have some nice bonus side-effects for your playing.

Chord Melody Will Teach You

If you want to have great melodies when you are playing chords then learn to put chords under some great melodies, so harmonize great songs and make your own chord melody arrangements, like this fairly dense harmonization of There Will Never Be Another You

When you are harmonizing melodies like this then you are finding practical ways of playing melodies with chords and that is something you can take directly into your comping, and you anyway want to be able to harmonize the melodies you play with others.

Shortcut to Chord Solos

When you can improvise a melody in your comping then this is really just a less active chord solo, and you can still think in motivic development call-response. That is a great way make music with the chords

And comping like this is really just setting you up for playing complete chord solos of harmonized lines, which is one of my favorite things to do!

Let’s look at what is the core of comping, and how not to get fired!

#3 Responsibility

Almost nobody talks about this, but I do think this is the #1 reason that you will be considered a good sideman: You Need to be aware of your role in the band and try to serve the music, not your ego.

What Peter Bernstein is talking about here is the importance of making things clear, and being aware of how the music feels. Making other people feel comfortable while playing is incredibly important and not being afraid to lay down clear harmony for the rest to fly over is underestimated. You might want to show your chops and hip rhythms and chords but you need to know when to do that and when to just support.

Again with this, repeating patterns are often a good place to start because you are giving the soloist something predictable to build on and then you can start the conversation from there.

The Most Important Practice Tip

In the videos that I talk about how to learn Jazz then I often tell you to practice playing songs and make music with the things that you practice, and for me that was always how I worked on comping. You really learn so much from putting on the metronome on 2&4 and cop through a tune, think about how to get it to sound good and what kind of vibe it should have. I think that is the best way to work on this, but also something that whenever I ask students about it they look like it is a completely alien idea.

The Efficient Way To Learn Jazz Chords

There is a way to learn and look at Jazz chords that is much more efficient than just practicing drop2 or drop3 inversions and If you want to connect what you know and have more options to use the skills that you have developed with these exercises then check out this video which shows you how to think and organize that.

Comping A Jazz Standard – This Is How To Get Started

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Comping – How To Add Movement To Static Chords

Often you come across songs where you are comping a static chord for a few bars, and it can get a little boring with just one voicing, not adding energy and movement to the music. This video will give you some tricks to make places like that more interesting and show you how to add some beautiful chords and reharmonizations to your jazz guitar playing.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:33 Example 1 – Diatonic Passing Chords on You Stepped Out Of A Dream

01:05 Diatonic Passing Chords – Easy, Solid and Effective

01:38 Example 2 – Secondary Dominants on How High The Moon

02:04 Dominants and Tritones – The Strongest Pull

04:18 Example 3 – Ladybird With Secret Dim Chords

04:37 #IV Diminished – Overlooked

06:06 Voice-leading And Chords You Can’t Analyze

08:25 Example 6 – Take The A train with some voice-leading

08:39 Make Your Chord Progressions More Interesting

08:55 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Comping A Jazz Standard – This Is How To Get Started

Just learning the chords is not enough to really play something that sounds like real Jazz Comping, and you need to develop more than just finding some chord voicings.

In this video, I am going to take an easy Jazz Standard, and then show you how you can start with basic chords and step by step develop your comping, improvise with the chords, and lay down the harmony so that it sounds beautiful and interesting.

Level 1 – Basic Chords

Perdido is a great and very easy Jazz Standard to work on if you are new to playing Jazz, and as you will see, it is a good chord progression to develop some very solid comping skills.

If you play through an A part with a basic set of chords then you only need these basic chord voicings

And making this a little more interesting is pretty simple.

Splitting The Voicings In Two

What I am doing here is just adding some rhythms and splitting up the chord voicings in a bass part and a chord part.

Thinking of the chords as two layers like this is actually a really essential way of thinking of grooves, even if it is not that clear in Jazz.

This is of course also what happens with a walking bass and chords where there are clearly two active layers

Let’s have a look at what you can do the chord voicings to start comping with them

Level 2 – Rootless chords and melodies

The first thing to do is to take the basic voicings from example 1 and then turn them into rootless voicings by leaving out the bass note, like this:

And you can take the 3-note voicings in example 4 and try some different melody notes here as well:

You can also start adding melody notes on the top string:

In this way, you also have some small melodic exercises for the chords and that is going to be really useful for the next section when this has to be turned into comping.

Level 3 – Comping

With this material, you can now start to make short melodies and riffs and comp through an A-part. First I’ll show you how that sounds and then talk about how you practice playing like this

As you can see these are small melodies with a few notes on each chord, so you want to keep it really simple so it doesn’t get in the way.

Notice how I am not writing any extensions here because we are improvising with the chords and they are changing all the time, so it is better to just write the basic chord.

Develop Your Comping Rhythms

If you want to develop your own vocabulary then you could start with a single chord and just play simple two note melodies.

You can then take this to the song and start developing your comping.

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How To Make Your Comping Rhythms More Interesting

In this video, I am going to take a simple comping rhythm that you probably already know and show you some different ways that you can develop that and get some new material so that you don’t always play the same rhythms and can start developing your own playing.

Remember: If You Can Comp – You Can Work!

The Most Important Jazz Rhythm Known To Man

Throughout this video I am going to show you how you can mess around with this rhythm and everything is really simple, just playing a II V, but sometimes the rhythm suggests some extra things you can try so there are a few other tricks as well.

As you have probably guessed the first rhythm is just the basic Charleston, if you know only one rhythm, then make it that one.

So this you already know and you should be able to play it on all songs. Actually taking these rhythms through songs is a really good exercise and that goes for all the rhythms in this video.

Adding an Extra note

The first thing we can try is to add an extra note to the charleston

Notice that this rhythm is easier to play but it still sounds great! What you are doing here is adding a note before the 2nd note in the Charleston, but that is of course not the only option.

Syncopated rhythm

and of course, you can also add a note after one of the two notes to get a rhythm like this, which is a basic syncopation.

The way I am going through these examples and coming up with them is really just doing simple things like adding a note here and there or shifting the rhythm as you will see in the next example.

Don’t play on beat 1

The next thing you can try is shifting the entire rhythm.

Here I am moving it an 8th note, so instead of 1 and 2& it becomes 1& and 3. Of course, this works better with really simple rhythms like the one I am using here with only two notes. After this one, I’ll show you a great place to add a chromatic passing chord.

How Do You Practice The Rhythms

The way you get rhythms like this into your playing is probably by repeating them similar to what I do hear and then try to take them through some chord progressions you know like a blues or a standard you are really familiar with.

When you play it like that you really start to hear it and then it will start to pop up in your own comping.

Syncopated Upbeat

This rhythm adds an extra note to the previous shifted rhythm, which makes the first two notes sort of resolve on beat 3. I make that a little more clear by also using a chromatic passing chord to resolve to 3

Using chromatic passing chords on the guitar is often really just about sliding into the chord you want to end on.

The Boogaloo Rhythm

This rhythm is really useful for boogaloo and soul-jazz grooves like Sidewinder and Alligator Boogaloo. It is the original pattern but now shifted an entire quarter note so that it starts on beat 2.

It is the accent pattern that Barry Harris plays on sidewinder and it is a part of what Dr. Lonnie Smith plays on Alligator Boogaloo. These are both songs you want to know by the way.

Chromatic Boogaloo

Here you can add a note as well to have a rhythm like this:

Again I am using the chromatic passing chord on the G7 bar which just slides in place. It can be a little heavy if you make this a groove and have that chromatic note on the 3, but as a comping rhythm among other rhythms, it is fine.

 

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Add Beautiful Colors And Fills To Your Comping

When you are comping Jazz songs then it is good to also change the textures you play, not always full chords but also fills and small polyphonic ideas. In this lesson, I am going to show you how to use intervals and counterpoint as a way of comping and as a way to add a new sound to the way you play chords. It will help you when you are comping but will also be great in a solo or in a chord melody arrangement.

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Content

00:00 Intro 

00:50 From Real Jazz Comping to Improvised Chords 

01:25 Reducing the Voicings – Example #1 

02:12 Reducing the Voicings – Example #2 

03:03 Intervals for fills and Block Harmony 

05:05 How to practice and explore the neck for this type of playing 

07:29 6th intervals and a Pentatonic trick 

09:14 Harmonized Arpeggios and more Pentatonic Chord Patterns 

10:44 Polyphonic Call-Response 

11:20 3-Note Voicings 

11:38 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

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How To Sound Great On A Static Chord – Modal Comping

You need strategies for Jazz Comping in modal or static chord sections of songs. When you start learning Jazz comping on the guitar then you learn to play progressions, focusing on how to connect the chords play through the changes and get that to sound good and natural.

But the skills you develop with this won’t help you when there is a long stretch of one chord, like modal jazz, and there is no chord progression that automatically makes your jazz chords sound interesting.

In this video, I am going to go over some examples of how to comp jazz guitar on a static chord, develop some phrases, add extra chords, chromatic sounds and other things to make your jazz guitar comping more interesting.

Other great lessons on Modal comping and Jazz Comping

Beautiful Jazz Chords from Allan Holdsworth – Modal chords

The 3 Most Important Things For Solid Jazz Comping

Comping Rhythms – 10 Examples You Need To Know

Jazz Chord Voicings – The 9 Different types you should know

Content:

0:00 Intro – Comping on Static/Modal Chords

0:39 Two Basic Strategies – Allan Holdsworth vs Wynton Kelly

1:29 Example 1 Basic simple riff around chords you already know. Clear melody

2:55 Example 2 Diatonic voicings and a little voice-leading

4:17 Example 3 Pedal Point melody

5:19 Example 4 Quartal Voicings – Borrowing from McCoy Tyner

6:22 Example 5 Two Layers and Call-Response

7:20 Example 6 Chromatic Passing Chords

8:11 Example 7 More Chromaticism

8:47 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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Jazz Comping – How To Keep It Interesting

Jazz Comping and especially good jazz comping is not about knowing a million voicings. It is more about how you play the chords you know. The different ways you add embellishments or connect the voicings that make the difference.

In this video, I am going to go over a few different approaches and techniques that you want to add to your comping. This will help you have a wide vocabulary of techniques and options available when you a playing chords behind something else.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:25 Focus on How you play not What You Play

0:47 Basic progression and why you should leave out the bass note

1:33 Top Note Melodies – How To Get Started

1:58 Turn you comp into a musical statement

2:47 Tying together a lot of voicings.

4:20 Arpeggiate The Chords

5:26 Chromatic Passing Chords

7:21 How To Add Fills

9:34 Inner-voice movement

11:03 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page

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Jazz Comping – Intervals is the (Beautiful) Simple solution

A great approach to Jazz Comping is to not only rely on chords but also use intervals as a way of conveying the harmony. Using intervals is an easier way to leave more space for the rest of the band, so it also works well if you play with a piano player.

In this video, I am going to go over some of the ways you can work with intervals and demonstrate how this works on the Jazz Standard All The Things You Are.

Finding intervals for Jazz Comping

If we first take a look at the first chord of All The Things: Fm7.

The note that we want to have in there is the 3rd and then add another note and check out the intervals we get, as shown here below:

Notice that I am not trying to find all options, just exploring and experimenting with what I think might work.

Voice-leading intervals

As an example, we can now look at how to voice-lead the different intervals on Fm7 to the next chord Bbm7. This could be done as shown in example 2.

In some of the examples I am adding extra movement between the two intervals. This is not too difficult when working with intervals so it is a good idea to already experiment with that option.

Counter melodies and polyphony

The final bars contain a few examples of several voices moving. In the last bar the voices are also moving in the opposite direction.

Playing the song with the intervals

When I comp like this I am not always staying completely clear with all chords, but I am trying to get an over all flow that makes sense on the song.

In this example I am keeping it simple by not having to many moving melodies and playing one or two intervals per chord.

Making an improvised Counterpoint as an exercise

You can turn the voice-leading part of this into a small counterpoint exercise that sounds like the one in the example below.

You can hear in the video how this example has a lot of moving voices, keeping one voice static while the other is moving around more.

Adding some rhythm and a little more Jazz Feel

Besides working on this with playing long notes and sustained sounds, you also need to work on using the intervals while adding some jazz rhythms.

An example of this is shown here below where there is also a focus on rhythm, not only moving voices, notes and extensions.

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5 Comping Exercises for Jazz Rhythm on the Blues

Rhythm is much more important than notes. This is very true for jazz and certainly for comping. The easiest way to learn some new rhythms for your comping is to come up with some small riffs and practice playing those through a chord progression. In this jazz rhythm guitar lesson, I am going to show you 5 great variations on some great Comping rhythms and how they sound through a Blues In F.

If you want to practice them with me then you can go to the second examples via the link in the description of this video. I’ll talk a little about that later. This way of really thinking in rhythms as phrases are really important because you can’t think about the notes, you have to hear them.

If you want to check out more material that you can use for both soloing and comping on an F blues then have a look at this Study Guide: F Blues Study Guide

The Shell-Voicings

Instead of using the voicings that I use in the example you can also simplify that part by using shell voicings. In the end this is much more about rhythm than it is about the chord voicings so that will still teach you the most important part of the material in this lesson.

Practice with the video!

In this video I have added the count-off to the perfromances so if you want to play the rhythms together with me then you can do that. If you are a Patron of the channel then you can also download the mp3 backing track via my Patreon Page

The Shell-voicings are shown here below.

You can go through these voicings and use them while practicing the rhythms in the 5 exercises.

#1 Charleston Rhythm

The Charleston rhythm is a great place to start! It is in many ways the most simple rhythm that has it all. It clearly shows the chords by stating that on the 1 and the groove and swing feel is clear from the 2& that follows it.

If you are playing with people you don’t know: When in doubt, Charleston!

#2 Pulling Forward

This rhythm is a little more busy. Here the goal is to state the groove with the first two 8th notes and then use the 3& to really pull the song forward. The 3& sound adds tension or energy and the following chord on the 1 resolves that tension.

#3 Clear Groove

This example is a little busy if you play it too much, especially if the tempo is higher than a slow medium.

It is however a complete groove and a way of laying down the harmony and the groove in a very clear way. This can work as a a great solid background for a soloist, but for some it may also get in the way.

#4 Up-Beat Energy

This rhythm is a little lighter and a great way to break things up a little. It is important to be able to play comping rhythms that are not on the 1st beat all the time.

#5 Leave it to Bass and Drums

Another exercise is to play rhythms starting on beat 2. This exercise helps you feel(or think) the first beat and then play on the 2nd. Internalizing the rhythm and the meter like this is really useful for your overall timing and time-feel.

Get more ideas for comping

If you want to expand your comping and check out some more ideas then check out this lesson in my WebStore:

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How to Practice Comping and Not Just Chords

Most of the time advice on Jazz Guitar Comping is about what chords to play and not how to play them. This one is about how to actually Practice Comping.

Comping is important, but since it is about playing behind somebody else it can be difficult to practice on your own. So how do you work on it? In this video I am going to show you a few ways to work on your comping and a list of things to think about when it comes to listening to your own comp.

Ways to Practice Jazz Guitar Comping

The old method: Metronome 2&4 play some comp think about how you want it to sound and imagine the band playing with you. 

This is the most important thing to practice and you want to be able to do this well, but there are other ways where you can try to work on it.

One of the ways that take advantage of some of the things we have available in this more modern tools like recording yourself and using backing tracks. I also discuss some of the things that you can learn and think about when doing this.

Content:

0:00 Intro – Getting the Wrong Answer

0:57 Different ways to practice comping and a check-list

1:13 Traditional VS Modern Methods of working.

1:41 #1 The Ancient Method of practicing

2:52 #2 Record yourself with a backing-track

3:09 Good resources and Good Drummers

3:30 Comping with drums – Learn to Listen

4:31 #3 Be Your Own Soloist

5:50 The Essential Checklist for Comping –

6:08 Over comping?

6:44 Conveying Groove and Harmony?

7:06 Is it in Style and fits the context?

8:23 Interacting with the Band

8:43 Interacting with the Soloist

9:14 Develop You Taste with Comping – Get Inspired!

10:00 My Favourites when it comes to comping

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