self-comping

(9 posts)
  1. grantgordy
    Member

    Hey folks,

    I've been getting really into the whole "comping for yourself" thing, a la Lenny Breau, Kurt, Kreisberg, etc. It's really an amazing thing, particularly in a trio context, and seems like sort of a relatively new development in the jazz guitar world. I've been working on it for the past year or so, and it's definitely a very physically challenging technique; requires, seemingly, a lot of forethought during your lines. And clearly a good understanding of the fingerboard and what voicings you can grab.

    I spoke with Kurt briefly about it after a Standards Trio show a couple weeks ago and he told me that he's improvising the chords that he plays. That was a bit inspiring and discouraging, if you know what I mean.

    Anybody have any ideas or tips or insights on how to dig into this a bit more? I'm getting a sense that really the answer is just: "shed". But any additional thoughts would be cool, and much appreciated. Thanks guys.

    Grant

  2. Sandemose
    Member

    Great topic, love to hear some pros share their thought on this one. I can only share what I do/know to develop this:

    1a. Chordknowledge: I think the best thing is to start in a small scale, but always keeing it musical, and always "improvising". I dont like when it sounds practiced or unspontainous. Maybe start with doublestops: seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, etc. Start with II-V-Is only, or just static chords perhaps? If you play thirds and want to create a Dm sound, which ones are available/perferable? Can two or more thirds be paired? Does it sound Dm? I would systematically build an arselan of double stops before I would do anything else.

    1b. Start with triads (major, minor, alt). Look for different way of using them to convey different sounds. Keep it basic, and keep playing. Combine them with the double stops.

    1c. Do you want to play lines with chords, or do you want to play chords between lines? Playing lines probably wont work to great with full chords, or triads (I guess some can pull it off, van Eps, Ted Greene, Jack Wilkins etc), maybe thirds are better for that. If you want to play chords inbetween the lines, maybe you could play one bar with chords and play a phrase over the next. Maybe keeping the rhythm concistant with the chords and sort of answering with a phrase?

    I always got more attracted to gracefulness rather than a forced/unsmoth style. Bill Frisell keeps it quite simple but so fluently and graceful. Search for chordpairs that are similar in structure and geographically. Like Gtriad and a Atriad to create a A mixolydian sound.

    2. Technique: do you wanna strum the chords with a pick, or use hybrid? I cant get a good sound strumming chords. Kurt do it insanly great. I prefer hybrid. Knowing different techniques is a good thing I guess.

    This is one of my favorite solos with chords/lines:

    [+] Embed the video | Video DownloadGet the Video Widget

    Best, Sandemose

  3. libmanj
    Member

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the first person that I am aware of that played like this was Jim Hall. Sonny Rollins's The Bridge is a quintessential example of this kind of playing, and IMO is one the best examples of guitar comping (in lieu of piano) that I have ever heard. From another thread on this forum, Kurt said he really liked Jim's playing on the quartet records with Paul Desmond. Jim also did some quartet playing with Art Farmer. Check out Live at the Half-Note.

    I think Kurt playing "All Or Nothing At All" and "Nefertiti" on Mark Turner's A Ballad Session show a high level of mastery of this kind of comping, and in general a seamless and artful interplay lines, double stops, and larger chords. Just brilliant, really.

  4. cruxtable
    Member

    yeah, good topic - here's my take:

    i find that it really helps if you work with a lot of standards, harmonizing the melody in different ways. take each melody note of a tune, maybe a ballad or something like darn that dream, and figure out several ways to harmonize each note of the melody. if you keep doing this on a lot of tunes, eventually while you're soloing you'll just be able to visualize different chords you can play when you're on a certain melody note, or in a certain position, over any chord.

    obviously to be able to do that well you need to have a good knowledge of chords - take your basic 4 note voicing of all the major chord types and play them on every major string set and every inversion -and also do it replacing the root with the ninth. when you harmonize melodies or solos you can start with these voicings, and then alter them to make them more interesting, like adding altered notes over a dominant chord, 2, 4 and 6 over a minor chord, etc..there's a lot of possibilities. also, try taking any chord voicing and take it up through a scale by raising each note in the chord one degree in the scale - this works well for structures and modal type things.

    transcribe - figure out how they do it and copy them - eventually you'll have a large vocabulary of this kind of thing and it won't sound like you're imitating anyone.

  5. Colonel Trane
    Member

    I have been working on this a lot lately and the transcription book that just came out of Kurt's East Coast Love Affair solos is invaluable for looking into his approach. I've been working with a lot of triads and using them mostly as either 357 voicings or 137 to comp. Another thing that has helped me is associating these shapes with scales that I already work with so that A. It is easier for me to see where they are on the fretboard and B. My single note lines have more focus because it's easier to see chord tones.

  6. I think this is an endless journey, the trick is to keep inventing new combinations and variations on the voicings you know. A thing that helped me is just taking one voicing, and trying to figure out what lines and melodies are possible within the voicing. Ofcourse this one voicing can be used in different harmonic contexts, so a lot of different melodies can be made with just one chord. The method sandemose mentions seems a really good way to systematicly internalize all the different material that can be used for comping: thirds, sixths, triads etc.
    What fascinates me is that kurt used a lot of 'outside' voicings. For example keeping one or two note that lie within the harmony and moving the bottom voices chromaticly. A lot of new figures can be found this way.

  7. riverstooge
    Member

    There's a thing I do personally and with my students that's relatively simple and helpful....I take a scale like C major but only on the B-string....then I play the three triads of C major on the D, G, B strings. So if you walk up the scale on the B string then add the voices on top (for example) you get interesting voicings and you're thinking harmonically and melodically at the same time...Kurt mentioned doing the voicings on particular beats.....for example:

    here are the triads here is a combo, putting the voicings on 2 + 4
    ---------------------- ---------------------------------
    -1--5--8----13----- ----1--3--5--6---8--10-------
    -0--5--9----12----- --------5-----9--------9-------
    -2--5--10--14------ --------5-----10------10-------
    ----------------------- --------------------------------
    ----------------------------------------------------------
    If you do triads on the 6,5,4 strings, then the 5,4,3 and so on you will start seeing voicing and soloing options open up a bit hopefully. Also, this is example works in a lot of other situations other than C major. You can impose C major in a lot of other situations. The voicings I wrote in the second example could be thought of as G7sus depending how the bass is functioning.

    I've noticed Kurt uses is thumb to death to get an extra finger working, and is ridiculously aware of the counterpoint...here's a Kurt example he used in an intro for "Darn That Dream"...

    In the last chord he thumbs the low C note...notice the bass moving down chromatically and then melody on top moving up. Ridiculous!!!

    ------------------------------
    --8---10---12--------------
    --9----9----11--------------
    -10---9-----9---------------
    -------9-----10-------------
    -10---9-----8--------------

    Lastly (sorry for the long post) as a guitar player, transcribe or work out the ridiculous voicings of Bill Evans and apply them to guitar. I worked out "Blue In Green" a while back and I have 20 different subs for Dminor because of it, haha. Take care all.

  8. grantgordy
    Member

    Thanks so much guys; these are all really great ideas... I notice that most of the responses seem to relate to voicings. Does anybody have thoughts on the other side of it, i.e. how to effectively throw those chords (double stops, triads, whatever) in during lines, in a pianistic way? I'm thinking mostly in terms of using a pick to grab chords, as opposed to grabbing them with fingers on the right hand. The main problem I have seems to be an inability to effectively get variation in tone between the top improvised melody line, and the chord that I might throw in on the lower strings. I notice that Kurt is really good at this; when he comps while playing a line, the chord so often sounds like an accompanying instrument, not just like a chord solo kind of thing.

    I take from this that he just has such incredible control with his picking hand. He gets such a great difference of attack between the top melody lines and the lower chords. Anybody have thoughts on this?

    Thanks for all the great responses so far!

    G

  9. cruxtable
    Member

    i prefer a couple of approaches -
    i like kurt's approach, how he separates melody/improvisation and his comping, very pianistic, using just the pick. you just have to work on your attack, making a contrast of dynamic between the melody note and whatever voicing you use, and find out when you can fit in a chord between lines, or if you're playing the chord with the melody, how to make the melody stick out more than the rest of the voicing.

    i also like the chord solo approach, like a bill evans style block chord sound.. i usually hybrid pick this if i'm doing a bunch of chords, but if i'm jsut throwing in a couple chordal figures i'll use my pick and give all the notes a pretty even attack, so the notes sound together at the same volume for that block chord sound..

    all this is tricky on guitar. try taking one of kurt's self-comping ideas you like, figure it out, and figure out how to play it dynamically with your right hand to get the same effect that kurt does.


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