Learn Jazz guitar comping

Effectively accompanying other musicians, or ‘comping’ as it’s known is a key skill that any Jazz guitarist needs to master.

Comping is used to effectively accompany the soloist (either another instrument or voice) – historically, in the world of jazz, this has often been the piano player – however with it’s rhythmic qualities the guitar makes for a wonderful accompanying instrument and if you want to play jazz – comping is definitely a skill you need to master.

Chordal use is often very different to those employed in other musical genres and comping is as much about chord voicings (and chord extensions) as anything – while comping is all about supporting the other instrument – the highest note in your chord voicing provides a natural melody – and a well chosen chord extension can provide necessary color. However – choose carefully – 3 or 4 note chords work best – 6 string voiced chords can drown out your soloist.


Comping is also heavily reliant on rhythm. Here there’s no substitute other than practice (and listening to a rich diet of Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery!)- Comping rhythms are often improvised but due thought needs to go into them to ensure that it doesn’t just come off as random chord stabbings that make no rhythmic sense focus on swinging the beat and building rhythmic ideas that add texture to your track – and remember to leave plenty of space to let the music breath.

Common Problems with Comping

What makes comping difficult? Perhaps is that it looks relatively easy can often fool novices – commonly the usual problems of bad timing, poor style and poor chord selection are often glaring (its really difficult to accompany subtly allowing the soloing instrument to take the lead – guitarists often dont like playing 2nd fiddle!

Comping is all about “owning” that secondary role – leaving as much space as needed while providing harmony and sufficient interest – it’s not about merely repeating yourself over and over following your chord pattern religiously (remember comping can be improvisation too!)

CHeck out these great Youtube Comping vids

Jazz guitar – Jazz chord progressions for Guitar

Jazz, rooted in music technique and theory, is often thought of as difficult and hard to understand, with complex rhythms and strange chords. Understanding all of this often seems out of reach.

However, like anything Jazz can be learned – in this series of articles we’ll be looking at an introduction to jazz for the guitar.

In this first article we’ll look at some simple jazz chord progressions to get you started. We’ll try and keep the music theory down to a minimum so as not to scare you off!

Usually most chords we play in rock or blues music are based on triads. Triads are based on three notes taken from the scale that the chord originates from. Three notes that make up a triad are the root note (for C Major that would be the C note) the third (the note E in our example) and the 5th (G in our example).

Usually chords used in Jazz are more advanced than a triad (as a minimum jazz chords usually have 4 notes). Jazz chords are often said to have extensions – so for example if we were playing in the key of C we can add different notes of that scale to the chord to enhance the chord. For example a 7th note to a C Major chord (the B note) the chord would become C Major 7th.

Jazz progressions differ from the normal progressions used in blues and rock (which tend to be based around the root note (say C) the 4th note (F) and the 5th (G)) and often form around the tonal movement between chords. The best way to learn this is to listen to a piece of Jazz music and listen to the way the chords are voiced to allow the top and inside parts of the chord to move smoothly, from one chord to the next. When your practicing your progression see how this works for instance in example 1 of our chord progressions below note in the movement from C Major 7th to A minor 7th how the C scales 3rd note (the E) is retained in the second chord A minor 7th.

Often when your looking at Jazz chord sequences they may be written using Roman Numerals. Using Roman Numerals is a common way of memorizing short chord progressions. Instead of quoting the actual chord symbols people use the roman numerals along with the type and extension of the chord. The numbers represent each step in the scale so for example I represents the root note of the scale (eg C in the C Scale). Don’t worry too much about this now – it’s just another way of writing out a piece of music.

So now we’ve covered some of the basics – let’s jump into some chord progressions. As always practice these with a metronome and try these both in 4/4 time and 3/4 time

Jazz Chord Progression 1.

Cmaj7 – Am7 – Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 2

Cmaj7 – Amaj7- Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 3

Em7 – A7 – Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 4

Gmaj7 – C7 – D7 – Eb7 – D7 GMaj7 – C Maj 7th

Jazz Chord Progression 5

F – Cmaj7 – Dm7 – A – F#m7 – Bm7 – E7 – A – C7
Jazz Guitar Strumming patterns
Jazz often incorporates ‘swing’ and the rhythms can get quite complicated. For the examples above stick to the beat and hit each beat as a downstrokes. Try the above examples at some medium to fast tempos and at various neck positions.