Essential Jazz Guitar Comping Rhythms
This article presents 15 comping rhythms arranged for the study of jazz guitarists.
The most important aspect to developing good jazz guitar comping skills is rhythm.
It is better to play 2 or 3 chords with great rhythm than 100 chords with no rhythm.
Comping rhythms is a huge subject which would require an entire book to properly explore, so this article aims to be an introduction to 5 of the most common patterns.
Each comping rhythms pattern is broke down and explained in a methodical order; starting with the easiest first before moving on to more challenging rhythms.
Knowledge of basic jazz rhythmic values is required to fully understand this lesson.
Comping Rhythms Chords
The chords in each example have been kept to simple shell voicings to keep things simple.
Each example is applied to a separate chord first, and finally a ii-V-I progression.
The diagram below shows each of the chords I used for the recording examples.
Comping Rhythms: Eighth Notes
The first comping rhythm study focuses on the different ways jazz guitarists and pianists integrate eighth notes when comping.
Eighth note rhythms are commonly used in both jazz single line soloing and comping.
This example below shows how two eighth notes can be used together over a static G7 chord.
Play along with the recording until you lock in.
Try to get a nice swung eighth note feel when comping through this rhythm.
When this comping rhythm can be comfortably played over a static chord, try adding another chord such as D-7.
When you can comfortable use the rhythm between both chords, add one last chord, Cmaj7.
Rhythms sound different when they are placed on different beats of the bar.
The next example demonstrates how individual eighth notes can be practiced on the off beat, which is on 1+ in this example.
If playing on the off beats is challenging, try playing constant eighths, and slowly start to remove the first.
Once this off beat comping rhythms example can be played fluently try to start feeling it rather than thinking about it mechanically and try it out over the ii-V-I.
When you can feel where the off beats are, try experimenting with longer rhythms such as whole notes and quarter notes.
When learning new comping rhythms it is important to mix up different examples.
The next comping rhythms example shows how the two patterns looked at so far can be practiced together over the ii-V-I.
If you find this tricky to do, just try switching between the two rhythms on one chord at first.
The last eighth note comping example is almost a reverse of the previous pattern.
This comping rhythms example starts with two eighth notes and finishes with an eighth note on the and of 2.
The syncopated eighth notes sound particularly effective after the two consecutive eighth notes.
Comping Rhythms: Charleston
The next rhythm pattern to practice is the charleston rhythm which is a dotted quarter note followed by an eighth note.
The charleston rhythm is probably the most common rhythm pattern and I have already published an article applying this to a 12 bar blues.
Like with the eighth notes, it is important that the rhythm is first practiced over a static chord situation as shown in the example below.
Like with the other rhythms it is important to practice using this rhythm with different chords.
The next comping rhythms example shows how you can practice the charleston rhythm over a ii V I progression in the key of C.
The next step is to practice changing chords while only using the charleston rhythm.
For example try playing D-7 on the dotted quarter note and a G7 on the off beat eighth note as shown in the example below.
Practicing Comping Rhythms
Each of the rhythms in this article must be practiced on different beats of the bar like in the charleston article.
Starting a rhythm on a different beat of the bar completely changed the sound so it is vital that this is part of your practice routine.
It is also very important to practice each rhythm at different tempo because that also changes the sound of the rhythm.
Applying the rhythms to various tunes and progressions that you are working on is also recommended.
Comping Rhythms Chord Lick
Just like with anything you practice, some of the rhythms might sound a little strange when practiced alone.
Because of this I have included a chord lick based off the comping rhythms in this article for your study.
This should help give you an idea of how the comping rhythms can sound when you start to mix them with different inversions.
I hope that you have enjoyed playing and working through each of these jazz guitar comping rhythms.
Another important comping rhythm to explore is the quarter note which is used exclusively in the four to a bar comping style.
If there’s enough interest I hope to write a more advanced rhythm comping lesson that involve triplets.
What is your favorite jazz comping rhythm to practice? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.