Tag Archives: jazz comping rhythms

Jazz Beginners: Grant Green Is The Most Important Guitarist To Check Out!

The Most Difficult Skill To Learn

You want to sound like Jazz. That’s the goal! You want to be able to take a song, solo over it, and play stuff that sounds right, with good phrasing and good timing. And That, is the most difficult thing about learning Jazz is not the technical things like scales and arpeggios, hitting the changes.

One of the best places to get started with this is to start learning solos by ear, and I think you should start with Grant Green solos. You might wonder why Grant Green

That is because His solos will teach you:

  • Amazing Bebop Phrasing and Vocabulary on the guitar (so it is easier to play)
  • Great Jazz Blues (In A few different variations)
  • Fairly simple with Friendly tempos

Because if you are learning solos by ear then don’t go straight to Allan Holdsworth.

I’ll show you some great Jazz Blues examples from Grant Green and in the process show you solos to check out that are fairly easy to start with.

Let’s start with a great Jazz Blues line from his solo on Solid which is both my favorite Grant Green album and a great Bb Blues:

You can hear how strong the phrasing is and how he is just sitting so nicely in the groove. The line is simple, it’s just triad stuff, major pentatonic with that 6th, the G,

in there and sliding into the 3rd:

Notice how he also has a lot of dynamics in the lines the low G at the end of the example is almost not there.

From Blues To Bop

You can probably tell that this is far from impossible to learn, and alsoa lot of fun to play! That’s the blues side of things, but there’s also some Bebop stuff to check out. Here are some triplet arpeggios, pivot arpeggios and trills:

I don’t know why, but that last phrase ending with a maj7th arpeggio that dips to the 6th and back to the maj7th reminds me of Peter Bernstein. I need to figure out why that is. This and the next example shows how Grant Green uses different sounds to keep the solo interesting.

First we get all this Bebop: You have a descending Fm7 triplet arpeggio,

some phrasing with a slide into G then an Abmaj7 pivot arpeggio,

something he uses VERY often, and which is also a great Bebop sound. And on the Eb7 you have the maj7th arpeggio from the 7th: Dbmaj7.

This is exactly the type of line and the type of vocabulary building blocks that you want to have in your fingers and in your ears as a part of your playing.

Changing Things Up

But to change things up then Grant Green really shifts to another gear, going back to some Blues phrasing:

Notice that he just really sticks to simple Bb lines and isn’t playing material that is based on the F7 chord that’s in the song.

Digging into the Blues as a contrast to the longer Bebop phrase. That is also a huge part of what makes him such a great example.

I am focusing on Jazz Blues because Grant Green is amazing at this, but there are many other things you can learn as well, as you will see.

My hot take on Grant Green’s tone not being great on all albums also makes this a good example because here he sounds quite different from some of the later examples, that might also be why this album is my favorite, though having Joe Henderson on Sax also doesn’t hurt!

Mixing Major and Minor Blues

One of the greatest parts of the Jazz Blues sound is when you mix major and minor blues and get some of that blues sound but also has some of the expensive extensions in there. That is what happens here in this simple but strong example. Later I’ll go over an example that really leans on the minor blues scale. Check out how he is using a short 3 or 4-note motif and just sitting on the root, but using that to connect the whole thing and turn it more than just running the chords. In the 4th bar goes to minor pentatonic to create a bit of tension to drive the Bb7 sound home before the progression moves to Eb7.

Often when you start to play Jazz then you only want to spell out the changes, play lines and add chromatic notes and arpeggios. That is important, but it is good to remember that all the guys we look up to also sometimes plays something really simple. It is about balance.

Grant Green – A Tale Of Two Tones

I’ll show you more examples of this Jazz Blues Mix later.

This example is from Cool Blues, another Bb Blues, and here you can also hear an example with a much thinner tone luckily not so much spring reverb as he has on the Standards album. I suspect that it is a combination of which amp settings and then which guitar he uses, possibly also what the recording engineer decided to do. In these earlier recordings like Cool Blues he is playing his ES330 which has p90s and he showed George Benson that he always sets his amp by turning down treble and bass completely and turning up the mids. I believe he was using a Fender Super Reverb. I do wonder if he wasn’t playing an amp without a mid control, I think most amps didn’t have that in 60s, but I am not sure. The tone is in any case fairly thin even compared to how he sounds in the first example from Solid, which I prefer. I tend to think it is about him not using a p90 from then on, but again I am, not sure. Let me know what you think, I know it is an unpopular opinion that I am not a fan of his early tone…

Check out how minor blues is also nice for Jazz:

Raw Minor Blues

Here’s another example from the album Grantstand which came out in 1961. When I was checking out what year this was from, because it sounded like an early album I noticed something quite mind-blowing: Grant Green Recorded 8 Albums as a leader in 1961!

That is pretty insane! And he was a sideman on 15-16 other albums.

Pretty impressive!

Check out how he starts his solo with some REAL minor blues:

This is all Box 1 Bb minor blues,

the only thing that doesn’t make it something Stevie Ray Vaughan or Clapton could have played is that he isn’t using any bends here. He stays with this sound and elegantly transitions into a solid Bebop line that I think also illustrates something that often is analyzed wrong on m7 chords, especially from this period.

It’s Not Melodic Minor

Check out how he is really just sliding into that B to go the G7 (play) and it is not just scale or arpeggio there is immediately a trill in there as well.

That Cm7 line really shines, it is simply a beautiful Bebop melody with that skip and the enclosure! (PLAY) Often you will hear people analyze that as Grant Green playing Melodic minor on Cm7, because there is no Bb in there but you do have a B.

That isn’t really what is happening, it is just an enclosure of the root with a chromatic leading note.

But as I have said in other videos: If you are trying to analyze and understand a lick or a melody then the answer is probably not a scale. That is just what notes are used and a random set of notes from the scale won’t sound that great. There is always more going on.

Let’s check out some motivic stuff with rhythm and maybe a line George Benson stole from him.

Melody and Rhythm

George Benson plays this exact turnaround in his Billie’s Bounce solo,

right t the spot where the studio lost power and the tempo gets warbly. I don’t know what you think, but I think it is a nod of gratitude to Grant Green.

Check out this pickup from his solo on Blues For Willarene:

 

I just wanted to include that. This Blues is from Grant’s First Stand which is another of his albums recorded in 61.

The main reason I am including this is this next phrase:

So again mixing the Major and minor blues sound setting up a motif (play) then he changes it a bit, mostly by moving it so the rhythm is more on offbeats.

then the next version uses a higher note and morphs into this motif which is all on one string, and he works with that going to Eb7 and back.

Another Intro To Jazz Blues: Joe Pass

The way Grant Green works with the rhythm in developing this motif is phenomenal! You can learn so much from playing these solos! Another solo that both defines great Jazz Blues and taught me a lot is the track “Joe’s Blues” from the album “Intercontinental” Check it out!

It is by far my favorite Joe Pass album to listen to and that Blues is incredible!

This Jazz Blues Solo is Perfect And Nobody Is Talking About It

 

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Jazz Comping – A Difficult Conversation With Aimee Nolte

Comping is one of the most fun parts of playing Jazz, but comping with both a piano and a guitar is incredibly difficult and the source of many frustrations!

In this video, I visit Aimee Nolte and we have a long and difficult conversion about comping, and we also play some music but most of that is on Aimee’s channel.

Check out Aimee’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wvWkP1_C68

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This is Missing In Your Comping and Nobody Is Teaching It

When it comes to comping then you have lots of books and online lessons on learning chord voicings, and voice-leading, but when it comes to turning that into something that really works then there is really not a lot of advice available.

But there is actually a place to get some inspiration and strategies for developing your comping, which is what I want to show you here.

Probably a lot of you are now thinking that this is about rhythms, and that is sort of true but it is actually more than that, and I am 99% sure that  your solos will also benefit from looking at things from this perspective, because there are things in this that can really open up your playing in other ways as well.

A Blues with some Basic Ingredients

For this lesson, I am going to use a simple C blues as an example, and since this is not about using incredibly fancy chord voicings, the most chromatic voice-leading tricks or the hippest extensions then I am going to just use two different melody notes for each chord. Extensions and voicings are nice too, but that is not the focus right now and they will just become distractions that take away from what you should focus on, and I think you will see why.

The chords are kept pretty minimal but it is still more than enough to make some good music.

I will show you 3 types of exercises so that you can actually get your chords to sound like comping, and maybe open up how you think about phrasing and rhythm in general.

#1 Longer Phrases

When you focus on voicings and voice-leading then it is about either what notes you put together or how you get to the next chord in the song.

Of course, both of these things are important, but you can also see that when you focus on that then you are zoomed in and at most looking one bar ahead, and you are almost never playing a song with two bars, there is a whole form.

I don’t know about you, but the people in the rhythm section that I usually admire the most are actually the drummers. That is where the groove and the interaction are both clearly present and where the dynamics of the song are being created. A part of that is probably also that the musician that I really have to connect with when I am comping is the drummer, and for a drummer it is not about voice-leading or extensions, so how do they practice?

Rhythm is melody!

Where most guitar examples are one or two bar rhythms then drummers tend to do exercises that are over longer parts of the song, and working on something that is a combination of different patterns. An exercise might look like this:

Very often then the entire groove is not written out so it is assumed that the ride cymbal is being played, here the highhat is included, but what you want to focus on here is the snare drum rhythm, the rest is not important, you essentially want to read it as if it looks like this:

And this rhythm you can use as a comping pattern on guitar.

If you apply it to the first 4 bars of the Blues then you get:

The big advantage here is that you are starting to hear the rhythm as a melody, and phrases that are not just on a single chord but are a part of a longer sentence with a repeated part and a conclusion.

So phrases that contain smaller parts which fit together. That sounds like something that could be useful for other things than comping?

Thinking in 4 and 8-bar phrases

A side-note to this is that it makes a lot of sense to work on thinking of bar 4 as a conclusion, as the end of the sentence. That is also how our sense of form works, we feel things in groups of 4 or 8 bars and the more you play like that the better you feel that which will later eventually make you a lot stronger and more free.

There is an interview with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter where they talk about how they feel the 12-bar blues as groups of bars together so that a Blues chorus is essentially a 3/4 bar. If you start feeling the form like that then you get a lot of freedom to do stuff in between which of course also describes how they often played.

Of course you want to take a 4-bar pattern like this and go through the whole blues form as well, but let’s move on to how you level this up to get some great comping rhythms going!

The method and exercises that I am showing you here was not how I learned to comp, but I sort of wish it was, because it would have made it a lot easier, and I have seen this work really well for my students. The way I learned was by being around great drummers and having the good fortune to be told about how comping worked as an interaction between drums and guitar, or drums and piano. What I am showing you here will help you listen to yourself to play something that makes sense and tells a story but it will also help you play natural phrases that a drummer can work with so that if you listen to each other then you can also connect and make music together.

#2 Making Your Own Phrases

You can of course start checking out Jazz Drumming lessons on comping to find more patterns like this, that is a great thing to do, and please leave a comment if you have some good resources like books or online lessons, but you can also start creating your own by taking the rhythms you already know, or listening to drummers that are great at this like Philly Joe Jones or Jimmy Cobb and take phrases from them and combine that with what you already know.

The important thing is that you take a step back and worry less about what extensions moving from the 9th to the b13, and instead try to play some strong melodic rhythms, some phrases that last 4 or 8 bars and make sense like that. Often listening to big band can be very useful for this, because you have the right types of simple melodies and strong rhythms in there.

If you start with the previous example but then change it up then you can get something like this for the next 4 bars of the blues, with the same format of a repeating figure and a phrase to end it all:

 

But you can also introduce more variation, for example going back to the original motif like now also changing or developing one of the repeats:

And really what you are doing making these is developing your ability to hear rhythms that make sense, and also listen to whether the rhythms you put together make sense as a melody for you.

How Wes Uses This In Solos

Another thing is that this can really open up is your soloing: Maybe take a listen to your solos and ask yourself how often they have phrases that last 4 bars with a beginning, a middle and an end? Maybe taking some time to think like this and incorporating that into your solos could be useful as well, there could be a video in that, et me know! The king of this is Wes! If you listen to how Wes improvises then you can certainly hear repeating patterns and motivic development.

Green = Call – Red = Response

You Can’t Practice Comping

Very often when I do a video on comping then I get a comment that tells me that comping is about interaction and therefore you can’t practice it. In my experience, that is not true, and the next exercise is actually about interacting but you are playing alone. Besides that, then there are so many skills involved with comping that you have plenty to work on even without interacting with a soloist and a rhythm section. Simply because you need to Play the chords, keep time, make sure that what you end up with makes sense and has the right colors, and the easier that is and the more freedom you have and it will be the easier to listen to what is going on around you. You also don’t only practice soling with a band, but there you have to interact as well, I hope you do at least…

#3 Call-response

Until now it has been about written exercises and composing, but you can also start to incorporate  improvisation so that you can work on hearing the rhythms in real time and get it to fit together while creating phrases, and this exercise can also be incredibly powerful for solos, but I will show you that in a bit.

An easy way to do that is to start with the layout from the written exercise, and in fact this is also about interacting because you play the written part and then treat that as a call which you then respond to with the next phrase which is your response. A chart using the first one-bar rhythm would look like this:

and with that you can pick a comfortable tempo and then start to fill in the empty bars and see what you come up with. You listen and then you play what fits with that.

If you get stuck then you can also stop and try to explore it out of time

As I said then this is also a very useful exercise if you are working on getting your solo phrases to go from licks next to each other and become more of a coherent story.

A simple version of that could be something like this where I repeat a first phrase and then develop material that is a response:

And your solos can also really improve from working on this:

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Jazz Blues – How To Solo Only Using Triads And Why It Is Powerful

Why would you want to play a Jazz Blues just using triads?

When you have one triad per chord then that is only 3 notes:

  • That It is easy to remember
  • It helps you play better melodies and use more creative rhythms and
  • It is an amazing foundation for more complicated lines.

And finally, It also kind of fun to mess around with.

What is a Jazz Blues?

Let’s take a blues in C. If you take a simple 12 bar blues, the kind that would make ZZ top proud, then that would be these chords:

For a Jazz Blues then there are a few other chords in there, the II V, a dim chord, and some short II V’s:

To keep it simple let’s reduce it to one chord per bar and turn some of the quick II V’s into a single dominant>

Let’s keep it really easy:

For the C7 you can use a C major triad, like this one:

and then you can play solid phrases like this:

The next thing we need to figure out is what to play on the F7, but you probably already know this F7(9) chord:

and the top part of this F7 chord is a Cm triad, so for the F7 you can use a Cm triad.

and you already have a line on the F7, just change one note in the C7 line.

With these two triads you can cover the first two bars of the solo:

This idea of playing a C major and then a Cm phrase on the first two bars is a really great way to connect melodies and is something you’ll hear Parker do ALL THE TIME.

Triads For Altered Dominants

The next chord in the progression that you need a triad for is C7alt.

One way that you often play a chord like this is this C7(b9b13):

Here you have a Dbm triad as the top part of the chord, and that will work very well:

And because it is really close to the C major and the Cm triads then it is easy to make some strong melodies:

The Bonus of Limitation

Notice how you are really using the limitation of 3 notes to get a lot more creative with rhythm and melody. This is something I always liked about limitation exercises: Limiting yourself with one thing actually opens up more options with all the other things that you are not limiting. You will also see another nice side effect once we get to the II V in a few bars.

That Damned Diminished

Now we have the F#dim chord,

and here I will just take a triad in the chord: Eb dim, which is F#dim without the C.

And you can use that in a lick like this:

Notice that you can create the lick by moving the melody on the F7 and play the same melody on the F#dim, and again that also just ties those two phrases in a musical way.

A Scary Altered Chord

Before going on to the II V then there is one difficult-looking chord to deal with that isn’t really that difficult: A7alt.

You can use the same trick as with the C7alt. A7alt could be played like this:

So you have a Bbm triad at the top of this chord, and that triad is going to be a great fit for the chord. You can play that like this:

And then you can create lines like this:

II V Hacking with Triads

Let’s use a hack for the II V Since they are so common in Jazz then it makes sense to figure out these two chords at the same time and make sure the two triads really fit together.

One way you could play the chords would be this:

For the Dm7 that gives you an F major triad and the G7(b9) is an F diminished triad.

And these two fit together very well so they are easy to make lines with and also to create some motivic melodies. Something like this:

What you want to practice with material like this is really just being able to play more rhythmical and clear melodies. It is also a great way to really start getting those nice syncopated rhythms into your solos.

 

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3 Things That Make You Sound Better Comping A Jazz Blues

When comping sounds great then it is actually not because of the chords you are playing. It is more about all the other things that you do with them that makes it work. Things like rhythm, chord movement, and melodies. This video will l help you get started developing your comping so that you don’t get stuck just playing chords and wondering why it doesn’t really work.

#1 The Easy Guitar Trick for Chords

One of the main things that you need to include in anything you play is tension and release. That is the way you make things interesting to listen to and keep people listening.

In this case, this is something that you can add to your comping in a very easy way on guitar, and it sounds both natural and pretty hip. But

 

at the beginning of this example, I am just using the basic 3rd and 7th voicings on the chord but as you can see this works just as well with chords with more extensions.

The principle is really simple; you create tension by moving the chord up or down a half step and then resolve the tension by moving back.

And this works great for the 3rd and 7th shells but is equally useful for larger chord voicings.

Let’s have a look at how you can use tension and release in a different way to make things flow a lot better

Comping in a band

One of the things that I learned a lot from with comping was focusing on being together with the drummer, so really trying to play clear ideas and react to what was happening especially on the snare so that it really becomes like a single instrument backing up the soloist! Of course, this doesn’t really work with a backing track as I use in this video.

#2 Give It Direction and Energy

One of the things that I love about Bebop is how the solo lines flow through the changes and are always moving towards the next chord.

And this is actually built into the harmony, so the chord progressions are really pushing forward which is not always what we focus on when playing the chords.

But it is really useful to always think ahead and try to work on ways to move to the next chord. There are 3 things you can use to get that forward motion.

In the first bar, I am using a melody that is ending clearly on the Eb7 which is helping things to move along.

The next two bars are setting up a rhythm and then in bar 4 playing the 3& really creates tension that wants to resolve on the next downbeat which pulls us to the Eb7

Bar 6 is first a bit of movement with the Edim chord and then a chromatic passing chord on beat 4 that resolves back into Bb7 and in that way adds energy and tension.

So I am using:

  • Melody
  • Rhythm
  • Chromatic Passing Chords

to create a comp that is moving forward, and working on these things with the forward motion in mind can help you get that into your playing.

#3 The Most Important Rhythm To Learn

Jazz is about rhythm, and If you think about it you probably already know that the rhythms that are important are the syncopated rhythms, the off-beats.

One way of really using this in your comping is to work on playing anticipated chords, something often associated with Red Garland, the piano player in the 1st Miles Davis Quintet

Practicing to use this in your comping is something you can do by only focusing on that by setting a metronome to 2&4 and play a vamp, like this:

And once you are familiar with this exercise then you can start to work on using it on the Blues like this

Rhythm is probably the strongest ingredient in comping, or in Jazz in general, and this last exercise is also the one that will improve your comping the most.

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The 3 Most Important Things For Solid Jazz Comping

Think about how you would feel soloing over your own comping.

That is probably the best way to evaluate how you comp. There are some things that you need to get right if you want to be effective in comping. You don’t want to just play jazz chords while the music is happening. You want to be part of the music. That is what this Jazz Guitar Lesson is all about and if you can comp then you get asked to play at sessions and gigs.

Related Guitar Lessons on Comping

10 important comping rhythms

Video on being your own teacher

Great examples of comping:

Wynton Kelly behind Miles Davis: So What Live https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Amyp4v-I84

Herbie Hancock behind Wayne Shorter: 502 Blues https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aTwWZweGSw

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:50 #1 It is Clear

1:34 Beat One is your friend

1:59 Don’t be afraid of repetition

2:38 #2 Don’t Get In The Way

3:31 Not just the soloist, there are more people in the band

3:39 A Great Strategy

4:08 Great Examples: Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock

4:38 Understand what fits the soloist

4:49 #3 Are You Playing Music?

5:42 Listen, Listen, Listen, Listen!

6:14 How Do You Practice comping?

6:30 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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Comping Rhythms – 10 Examples You Need To Know

Rhythm is everything in Jazz and especially comping. Building a solid vocabulary of great Jazz Comping Rhythms is difficult. In this video, I am going to go over 10 examples of comping rhythms to check out.

I play each example 3 times, so you can either use it as inspiration for your own practice or even use the video as a play along and comp together with me.

For each of the rhythms, I have an illustration of how the basic pattern is and a version that is written out with chord voicings to play on guitar.

All the examples are using a turnaround in C major.

Rhythm #1 – Charleston

This first example is the “Charleston rhythm” and is very useful also as a repeating riff.

It has the clarity of the changes with the chord on beat 1 and the syncopation with the chord on the 2&

Rhythm #2 – Shifted Charleston

A variation of the Charleston is this 1 bar pattern where the whole rhythm is shifted an 8th note.

Rhythm #3 – Forward motion with Syncopation

This rhythm uses the tension of the sustained note on the 3& to move the progression forward towards the next chord stated on beat one.

Rhythm #4 – Red Garland

Red Garland is often associated with this way of mostly comping on the anticipated heavy beats: 2& and 4&.

Rhythm #5 – Basic Syncopation

This rhythm is a great way of turning the basic syncopation rhythm into a riff that sits well on top of a swing groove.

Rhythm #6 – Quarter Note Rhythms

Often the focus in comping is too much on all the 8th note upbeats and we forget that you can do a lot with quarter notes as well.

Rhythm #7 – Dotted Quarter notes

Using the dotted quarter note rhythms in jazz comping is very common and very worth incorporating into your vocabulary.

Rhythm #8 – Shifting motif

Another great way to work with rhythm is to shift a motif around. This example is a very basic version of this.

Rhythm #9 – Call-Response phrases

Besides motifs you can also use call-response as a way of generating phrases in your comping.

Rhythm #10 – Anticipated Beat 4

This rhythm is often left out but is very common in a lot of themes (and pretty much all of Salsa), so it is very worthwhile to know and feel comfortable with.

Take the Comping Rhythms Further

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Beautiful Chord Ideas That Will Boost Your Comping

Most of the time when you think about comping you are concerned with the chords, voicings and rhythms you are using. Those are of course important but there are also other things to consider when Comping and playing chord melody that can really transform how your chords sound.

This video is going over 4 examples of ways to play chords that can help you add something new to how you sound when you are comping or making a chord melody.

The importance of comping

In my experience, being a jazz guitarist you spend a lot more time playing chords than soloing and that skill is something you want to take as far as you can!

Content: 

0:00 Intro — Sounds better if you break a few rules 

1:09 Not Always Voice-Leading! 

2:49 Explaining the Example 

3:52 Inner-voice movement 

4:29 The Example and why you should listen to Bill Evans

 5:18 Putting it to use in a Chord Melody arrangement 

5:56 How To Practice using this

6:46 Melodic Pedal Points or Sustained Melody notes 

8:47 Arpeggio Polyphony — What most jazz guitarists forget to do.. 

9:25 The Example 

10:39 A simple application with Drop2 voicings 

11:14 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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