Tag Archives: jens larsen comping

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 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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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

11:01 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page!

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Jazz Guitar Comping 3 Things You Want To Think About

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.

Jazz Guitar Comping – The Content

 0:00 Intro – Comping and what you need to learn

0:33 Overview of Focus areas

1:32 Jazz Guitarists Can’t Comp – Who to learn from

2:04 #1 Lock in With The Drummer

2:23 Understanding interaction and groove in a swing groove 

2:57 Don’t Clash with the Drummer

3:42 Is Good Comping Predictable?

3:58 Listen to great examples

4:35 #2 Listen To And Don’t Get In The Way of The Soloist

4:39 What is your goal when you are accompanying?

5:03 Interaction?

5:52 The #1 Rule of when to play!

6:38 Use your “Comping Ears” To Improve your own Soloing

7:31 #3 Give the Music Form, Dynamics and Variation

8:33 The Masters of making variation and development

9:35 Other examples of interaction and variation.

9:55 Take the Responsibility!

10:37 Any Advice? Leave a comment

10:50 Like the video? Check out My Patreon Page

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Minor Blues Comping – How To Use Drop2 Chords

The Minor Blues is a great vehicle for improvisation and a very common chord progression that you want to be able to comp and solo on. In this lesson I am going to show you two different sounds that you can use in minor blues comping. One of the great things about minor is that the options we have several options when it comes to the extensions or sounds available on the blues.

The easiest way to think about this is probably to link the chords to scales and use that to describe the sound of the chords. This way of thinking also opens up what you can use and gives you more options when it comes to using different extensions on the chords.

The Different Comping Sounds


The easiest way to think about this is probably to link the chords to scales and use that to describe the sound of the chords. This way of thinking also opens up what you can use and gives you more options when it comes to using different extensions on the chords. 

Therefore this lesson has three main parts. Two on different sounds, Melodic Minor and Dorian, and one final example which is more open and as concerned with rhythms as it is with the voicings.

Minor Blues Drop2 voicings

The voicings I use for this video are all drop2 voicings and all on the top string set. Drop2 voicings are very practical for playing chords with extensions, both on guitar and piano. I won’t cover the basic Drop2 voicing stuff in this video, but if you want to check it out then maybe have a look at the Jazz Chords Study Guide

Melodic Minor – Rich Jazz Minor!

The best place to start when it comes to Minor sounds is the Melodic Minor scale. Melodic minor is the go to tonic minor sound for Jazz. Dorian, the other topic in this lesson, was added later after the introduction of Modal Jazz. If you check out the original Coltrane solo on Mr PC you will find that it is mostly Melodic minor on the tonic chord.

The first example is using Cm6 and Fm6 for the I and IV chord in the Blues. These are both the most stable versions of chords from the melodic minor scale. The m6 chord is a little more stable than the mMaj7 chord.

Example 1 is a very basic way to play the Blues Chorus, but if you want to expand on your options then it is a good idea to harmonize all the notes of the melodic minor scale with the chords that you need.

Below is the C minor melodic scale harmonized with Cm chords.

And you can do the same exercise with the Fm6 chords:

The Dominant Chords

In the form I also have 3 dominant chords. A C7alt to pull towards the Fm6 in bar 5, and the final cadence with Ab7 and G7alt.

These are all played using the melodic minor scale, so C7alt and G7alt are both altered dominants using Dbm and Abm melodic respectively.

C7 altered:

G7 altered:

The Ab7 is a Lydian dominant so that uses Ebm melodic:

Dorian Sound – Modal Minor Blues

The Dorian sound only differs one note from the Melodic minor sound: It has a b7 instead of a maj7. But the sound of the chords changes quite drastically because of this.

Below is an example of one chorus of Drop2 voicings using Cm7(9,11) and Fm7(9,11) on the I and IV chords. The dominants are the same as in the previous example so they are still using material coming out of the melodic minor scales Lydian b7 and Altered sounds.

Dorian Scale Harmonizations

Similar to the exercises with the melodic minor scales it is also possible to harmonize the Dorian scales with the chords. Here is how this is done with the Cm7 chord

Chord Extensions

With the Dorian scale there are still quite a few ways to color the chords that are used. Here are some of the options you can create from a basic Cm7 voicing.

The basic rules:

  1. The Root can be replaced by the 9th
  2. The 5th can be replaced by an 11th or a 13th

In one example I am also replacing the root with a 13th.

Minor Blues Comping Example

In the previous part of the lesson I was focused on how to find some simple clear solutions with a very basic set of chords. The transcription below is demonstrating how you can put some of this to use adding some more interesting rhythms and tying it all together with top note melodies.

More Drop 2 voicings in Action!

Of course if you want to dig a little deeper into using Drop2 Chords in comping then check out this lesson on using Drop2 voicings and adding Chromatic Passing Chords:

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