So ive decided to join our high school's jazz band this year, and ive run into a bit of a problem. They gave me some music to practice from "Bye bye blackbird" "belhaven blues" and a couple other pieces. I learned all the chord shapes and am confident i can shift between all the weird shapes pretty easily (ive been playing for around 5 years). Well i just dont know what to do with my picking hand. ive heard of "comping" but im not sure what it is.

So.. is there any certain picking/strumming technique i should use to play these songs? im not planning on being an incredible jazz guitarist, but i want to hold my part well.
I haven't ever been taught any techniques, but I like to alternately pick a bass note with my thumb and then the other notes with my fingers.
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Comping means accompanying. If your jazz band has alot of people, I would just play some straightforwards rhythms with quarter and eigth notes. If its a small group, I would learn a few different voicings for each chord, and also do some more interesting rhythms that work around the melody of the tune, so you have more options to work with. Sometimes the charts they give you have some suggested rhythms, but just do whatever you think sounds good and fits in with the rest of the band.

Also just start listening to jazz, try Count Basie for the jazz band context. Freddie Green is his guitarist.
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Last edited by aetherspear at Jul 27, 2008,
I normally just play straight quarters and try to switch it up occasionally. If the song has a rhythm written in, then I'll play that instead.

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Also just start listening to jazz, try Count Basie for the jazz band context. Freddie Green is his guitarist.

I had to play Moten's Swing for jazz band this past year, I damn near killed myself having to learn that hard ass song.

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Quarter notes with accents on beats 2 and 4 always. Buy a Count Basie album now and learn how Freddie Greene did it.
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accentig on the 2 and 4 is good as it adds syncopation to the song, what about playing some eight or saixteenth deadnotes as well? give it a blues funk sorta feeling?
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I'm pretty new to jazz rhythm, but here's an idea that i like to use.... try strumming in a sweeping arpeggio that starts slow on the first two notes then speeds up on the last two or three notes of the chord. You could combine this with accenting the 2 and 4 beats like said before, and probably get a cool sound from it.

Think of it like this: instead of just playing the bass note and then strumming the rest of the chord, play the first two notes as bass notes and then quickly finish off the chord. This probably wouldn't work too well on a fast beat, though.

There are also bossa nova rhythms and latin rhythms that translate well into jazz..... look em up...
Like other people said mostly stick to quarters accenting 2 and 4, especially if it's a large group. If it's a smaller group (less than 6), let us know because then you have more freedom and I can give you some more tips.

Also keep in mind that with a large group it is not a good idea to play the full voicing of the chords. Try to limit yourself to three note voicings, even playing only intervals with the important tone centers. Playing full voicings can really muddle up the sound of the group.
I play in my high school jazz band (lead alto sax) and my director (taught at Northwestern University as their jazz director for years) always tells the guitarist to keep just straight beats unless other wise noted, though we always play big band classic type stuff, so the guitarist is usually, sadly, unimportant, just a straight quarter note chunk chunk chunk chunk, type of rhythm, unless otherwise noted. I do remember some songs like some latin things he'll get the guitarist to change it up and try and get some "hip" rhythm patterns going on.
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alright, thanks guys that helps out alot. Ive really been focusing on my picking hand the last month or so and i can tell the difference its had.
I'll just do straight quarters and work out some different voiceings.
thanks again!