Jazz Blues Comping with Jens Larsen

A lesson describing how jazz guitarist improvise while playing accompaniment for others and giving the tools to apply this to a Bb Jazz Blues.

Ultimate Guitar
The main difference between jazz and most other styles of music is that almost everything that is being played both as accompaniment and as solo is for a very big part improvised and related to what is happening in the music at the time.

This means that you have to approach playing chords the same way you would playing fills behind a soloist, so you need to be able to play the chord in several different ways to make up melodies and sounds that fits the music.

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A 12 Bar Jazz Blues

First let's have a look at the harmony of a Bb jazz blues, think of songs like "Tenor Madness," "Straight No Chaser" and "Trane's Blues." As you can see in the example the 12 bar blues is very similar to what you are probably familiar with in a standard 12 blues in rock, soul etc. Except for a few II V's and possibly a dim chord it's exactly the same. If you listen to Charlie Parker playing blues you can also clearly hear that it was a style that he knew very well, this was one of the things I liked about him when I first heard his playing.

Example 1 is written out with standard full chords so that if you play it you should be able to hear how the progression sounds.

Scales with chords

In this lesson I am only concerned with improvising with the top note melody, not so much the color of the chord or the rhythm. In order to be able to improvise a top note melody for each chord we need different versions of each chord each with another top note. In example 2 I have made some simple ways to do that with on or two versions of each chord. I tried to get 5 notes per chord and make it easy to play.

In order to practice playing the chords and making melodies that last across several chords I suggest you try to first compose and later improvise simple exercises like the one I've written out here.

Once you can do this on a blues you should probably try to do the same thing with a standard or something similar. From there it can be a good exercise to start to harmonize the melody of a standard, but that is for another lesson I guess.

Here's a link to the pdf with the examples: Jazz Blues Comping.

About the Author:

By Jens Larsen. I hope that you liked the lesson. There are more lessons on my website. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Alright, you are officially my jazz teacher from now on. I start learning maj7b5 chords, I run into your lesson. I start going deeper into jazz chords, I again run into them. Hope to be a player worthy of your lessons some day. Keep these up and thank you!
    Good stuff man, I'm a guitar slut, so I'll take some of this to my next jam session
    Haha, I just enrolled in school for jazz, and you could not post this at a better time. I'm playing Tenor Madness with my combo, so this is perfect. Thank you so much!
    Jazz has always been such a difficult subject for me to approach, and the only times it's made much sense for me is in your lessons. You are truly a godsend!
    You're very welcome Kevin! Feel free to ask if you have any questions or comments!
    Thank you! This is very helpful for someone who just started jazz band this year.
    That's great to hear! Thanks for checking it out! Feel free to ask if you have questions or ideas for topics
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