As a guitar instructor at Long & McQuade, I have taught countless students (beginners to advanced) how to play or improve their chops.
Jazz Guitar Comping
I have arranged this piece in the form of a comping chart. Comping simply means playing rhythm accompaniment, as opposed to melody. Jazz guitar players comp in behind vocalists or other lead instruments. Usually, players add passing tones between the chords to make a walking bassline, which is played on the lower strings.
This transcription is played fingerstyle. Use the thumb for the bass notes and the index, middle, and ring fingers for the upper partials of the chord.
- Play the B♭with the thumb, and the higher note of the chord with the three fingers.
- Pluck the B♭again, move into the B natural while setting up the Bdim, and pluck those notes with the index, middle, and ring fingers.
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- Play the Cm7 with the four finger combination.
- Move into the bass note fill (C, E♭and E natural), with the thumb.
- Play the F7 notes altogether with the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
Measures Three and Four:
- Play the B♭, Bdim, and Cm7 the same way you played the previous Cm7 and F7.
- Use the thumb for the three notes (C, B♭ and G), before plucking the F7 again.
Play the first verse in a similar fashion to the intro, with the same configuration of thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
- In beats three and four, B♭Maj7 has been substituted for the normal B♭Maj chord. This is a very common jazz substitution.
- The second half of beat four is the note A leading down into the note G followed by the full G7 chord. These two notes are scale tones form the B♭ Major scale.
- Most basslines in this style of playing are either scale notes, or chromatic runs, very similar to what a real bass player would do.
- The G♯dim serves as a passing chord entering into the Cm in the next measure.
- This is the normal role of diminished chords, sort of a bridge sound transitioning from one chord to another.
Measures Seven and Eight:
- These are arpeggiated chords descending from Cm, CmMaj7, Cm7, to Cm6.
- This is a very common sound found in many tunes.
- This moves into two types of a dominant seventh chord, F7 and F7sus4.
- Beats three and four are an F7 tritone.
- Each note in a tritone is three whole steps (two frets), away from the previous one.
Measures Eleven and Twelve:
- These serve as the turnaround and are simply a repeat of the first two measures of the intro.
- Quite often in jazz and blues, turnarounds intros, and endings can be substituted for one another.
Measures Thirteen to Eighteen:
- The second verse is an exact repeat of the first verse.
- The movement is from the 'one' chord, the B♭Maj to the 'four' chord, the E♭9.
- The bass notes in between these chords are, B♭, C and D. These are scale tones from the B♭Major scale.
- This is a well-used note combination to bridge the one and the four chord.
- Coming out of the E♭9, the pattern is reversed moving back to the B♭.
- There is a B♭Major triad. B♭, D, and F, the one, third, and fifth of the chord.
- The measure concludes with two types of the dominant chord, B♭7 and B♭13.
- Another well-used progression to get to the 'four' chord is E♭, which begins the bridge.
- Other examples of the chord movement can be found in "Sleepwalk" and "Unchained Melody."
Measures Twenty-One and Twenty-Two:
- E♭Maj7 and E♭6 have been substituted for the normal E♭ Major chord.
- Another B♭Major scale sequence leads into the first beat.
- Once again, the B♭7 and B♭13 serve as transition chords into this measure.
- This time the movement is not to the four chord (E♭), but to a dominant seventh version of the two chord, C7.
- The normal form of the two chord in B♭ Major is Cm7.
- Gm7 has been substituted for the normal C7 chord.
- This is a very popular replacement for a dominant seventh chord. To find the chord, count up five scale steps from the root of the C7.
- The scale sequence is C, D, E, F and G.
- The minor seventh chord is based on the fifth of the dominant seventh.
- Play Gm7, Gm6, Gm13 or any unaltered form of the Gm chord as a substitution.
- There is a semi-chromatic run leading back into the C13.
Measures Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight:
- These measures act as a turnaround to lead back into the tonic chord of B♭. There is a two-note chromatic sequence leading into the Cm7 and F7, followed by a single chromatic tone returning to the F7 tritone.
Measures Twenty-Nine to Thirty-Two:
- These are an exact repeat of the first four measures of each verse, with the exception of the last two notes of measure thirty-two.
- The chords descend scale-wise from the E♭Maj7 to the B♭Maj.
- E♭Maj7, Dm7, Cm7 and B♭Maj are the 'one, two, three and four' chords in the key of Bb Major in reverse.
- There is a chromatic run to the Cm7.
- There is another chromatic run to the F7 and a scale tone run back to the B♭.
- The F♯Major chord at the end of this section sets up the modulation that occurs in the next part. This is a key change within the song.
- The next verse moves up a half step (one fret) into the key of B Major.
This is the chorus, moved up a half step into B Major. All the chords, melody line, bassline—everything—must make this change. Many old standards and even some rock and pop songs employ modulation. Listen to the Eagles' "Hole In The World". Don Henley sings "kick it up" before the modulation. It is very dramatic and is not always limited to a half step.
- This is a repeat of the first measure of the song in the new key.
- This serves as an ending, resolving to the tonic (B Major).
- If this were an intro or turnaround, the moment would normally be to the five chord.
From The Top
This is the full arrangement performed with a backing track. There is an extra bridge and chorus at the end, in the key of B Major.
© 2014 Lorne Hemmerling