Ascending & Descending Comping Exercises

John Abercrombie Night

John Abercrombie Night

I have always been a big fan of limiting exercises. For example, I have heard Jim Hall, Mick Goodrich, and John Abercrombie talk about practicing improvising on only one string, or a pair of strings. Placing restrictions while practicing is a great way to focus on one particular aspect of performance. Also a great way to unlock musical doors by breaking out of routines and familiar shapes. Today I offer an exercise that places some very specific limits on comping through a tune. It may seem difficult at first, but by keeping at it, you will unlock many of said doors. Under the surface, you will be training your brain to see and hear these relationships faster and smoother. Continue reading

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Pat Metheny Chord Melody Transcription: James

Pat Metheny Group: Offramp

Pat Metheny Group: Offramp

Happy New Year! I thought I would kick off the new year with a long overdue post to my blog. After a very tough year, I have resolved to pick myself up and have another go at posting information that interests me (and hopefully you).
I have only one request for those getting some useful information here. Please comment, drop me a note, subscribe, send me a smoke signal, donate a buck or two to help with the site costs… Whatever. I am amazed at the amount of spam that I am bombarded with and I am wondering if there are real people out there? (Those few that commented and such, thank you).
Ok, here is a great Pat Metheny tune called James that I played at a concert this past fall. I lifted the head and want to share it with you. Continue reading

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Mike Stern Chord Transcription: Like Someone in Love

Mike Stern: Standards and Other Songs

Mike Stern: Standards and Other Songs

Funny how when you get older, it is a lot easier to look back and pinpoint events that changed your life. I was performing with a big band in Japan, and picked up the Mike Stern CD, Standards and other Songs on the way home from a gig. I put it on in my tiny little hotel room and the walls fell down, the roof opened, and my world shifted. Maybe being a little too dramatic here. Anyhow, I had been a big Mike Stern fan, but such a modern treatment of standards, I had not been privy to before. Sound, lines, chords, chops, cool arrangements, this CD has it all!
Today I want to look at some chordal ideas present in Mike’s “Like Someone in Love” solo, as well as Mike’s chord melody of this classic jazz standard. Continue reading

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Common Tone Substitutions of the Harmonized Major Scale

Bill Frisell Ghost town

Bill Frisell: Ghost town

Common tone substitution is a must have tool in your comping tool box. It is fairly straight forward and is easily incorporated, giving you exponentially more options of chord voicings to choose from. Every chord has other diatonic chords sharing notes, and while this is true, I will focus on the most usable relationships. I have included some backing track vamps that you can use to audition these sounds. Try to start using these ideas over tunes as soon as possible. Continue reading

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Barney Kessel Chord Melody & Chord Solo: Satin Doll

Barney Kessel: The Poll Winners

Barney Kessel: The Poll Winners

For about a year I had Barney Kessel’s album “The Poll Winners” stuck in my Volkswagen Rabbit’s auto-reverse cassette deck (circa 1987). I couldn’t get it out and the knobs didn’t work either, so I was forced to listen to this cassette tape every time I drove my car. As the year progressed I was able to sing just about every note of the album. More time passed, as did my enjoyment of this recording, and I ended up ripping out the cassette deck and throwing it out the window. Continue reading

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Line Cliché, Chromatic Cliché or C.E.S.H. Voicings.

Bill Evans: Explorations

Bill Evans: Explorations

The term CESH (Contrapuntal Elaboration of Static Harmony) scared the bejesus out of me when I first read it. The what of what? After I initially balked at the language, I found the idea to be both familiar and usable. It means to juxtapose a static chord with a moving line. If you have ever heard the James Bond theme song, you will understand directly what we are talking about. Some people call this Line cliché or Chromatic cliché. This technique can be found in more tunes than James Bond has had…ahh…never mind…it is in lots of tunes. Today we will look at some voicings and Continue reading

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Down the Pipe: A Jazz Ending

Tal Farlow

Tal Farlow

Years ago I was playing jazz with an old timer. Largely due to the fact that I am starting to get into old timer territory myself, I use that term carefully and respectfully. Anyhow, getting near the end of a tune (Bye bye blackbird I think), he yelled over to me…”Down the Pipe”. I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was telling me. I simply smiled back and said “pretty good” or “same to you” or something like that. The song came to an end and sure enough he went down the pipe. So, having missed his hint and the ending, I made a note of it in my head. After the gig, we talked about it and he Continue reading

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Wes Montgomery Chord Solo Transcription: Unit 7

Wes Montgomery Smokin' at the Half Note

Wes Montgomery Smokin' at the Half Note

Today’s transcription comes from Montreal Jazz guitarist Pat Mahoney. A high energy chord solo from one of Wes Montgomery’s Best recordings: Smokin at the Half Note with the Wynton Kelly Trio.
This is a great study in block chords. Actually the entire solo is a great example of Wes’ approach. Starting with single-note lines, moving to his trademark octaves, and ending with a chord solo. The energy builds over the entire solo. At Pat’s request, we are going to dig a little deeper into the chord choices that Wes has made. As you will see, this will lead us to the land of hipness known as chord substitutions. Continue reading

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Comping Jazz Part One: Fill in the Blanks

Ella and Louis

The word comp comes from accompany or compliment. Playing a supportive role to a soloist or vocalist shouldn’t be seen as a dull or mundane duty. It is in fact very rewarding and challenging. It is another form of improvisation where you respond to the soloist and/or suggest a direction and mood. You can kick the soloist into a higher gear, you can follow them down the rabbit hole of a cross-rhythm or a dissonant diversion from the tyranny of the chord changes, only to arrive back into the harmony with a burst of sunshine laden resolution. Continue reading

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Pat Metheny Chord Melody Transcription: Old Folks

Pat Metheny Question and Answer

Pat Metheny Question and Answer

Pat Metheny’s album “Question and Answer” is without a doubt one of my desert island disks. I have been listening to Pat since I was a teenager and credit him for much of my early inspiration to be a jazz guitar player. So today, I am posting a great chord melody arrangement of a great jazz standard played by a great jazz guitarist. Sound great? Great!

I am going to spend a bit of time picking out some ideas and working on them. Sure, this head arrangement can be played as is on gigs, but with a little of effort, we can get so much more out of it. Continue reading

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