Tips for comping on piano? [Archive] - Sax on the Web Forum

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08-14-2008, 06:04 PM
Does anyone have any tips on comping? I may be filling in on piano at a private jam this weekend. Like a lot of others I've used piano as a tool and can play chords over tunes, but can't say have done a lot of comping.

Tim Price
08-14-2008, 06:33 PM
I got some stuff might help- hope it does ;

- - For the left hand, work on accompaniment patterns of many types is very helpful. For example: Stride patterns , walking tenths , broken tenths or walking bass and boogie patterns can all be exercises.

- - Two handed devices would include playing improvised lines two octaves apart in the style of Phineas Newborn or block chords (4 note close voicing in the R.H. with the melody doubled one octave below in the L.H.) in the style of George Shearing.

KEEP IN MIND KEN - No instrument can achieve endless harmonic variation like the piano. For this reason, exploring harmony is a big part of a jazz pianists practice. Many jazz pianists achieve a good part of their personal identity through their harmonic style.

When I find a voicing I like, the first thing I practice is transposing it through all the keys (most often via the circle of 5ths). 3 note voicings like 14 7 ; 1 3 5 ; etc are good for horn guys to know.Also play the voicing in different registers. Through exploration and repetition, and simplicity via Wynton Kelly or Red Garland, I make the voicing part of my vocabulary. Transposition and repetition are the most common ways of knowing the chords cold.

ALSO- Listen to Art Tatum, Hank Jones, or George Shearing; passing chords, tritone substitutions, and chromatic movements.

Understanding and practice of specific harmonic styles is an essential path, harmonic styles are often harmony in fourths , using a chord progression over a pedal point (Richie Beirach is great at this), exploring moving inner voices from chord to chord (Bill Evans, Jimmy Rowles), and dissonant harmony (Cecil Taylor, Monk or Jaki Byard), are among the things to think on.

It is important to be aware of different tempos and how they sound and feel.Especially due to the rhythm thing you can create as well; practice at 60, 160, and 260 and the mind will organize what kinds of rhythms can be created and executed. Your awareness of beats is also integral to rhythmic playing. By starting and ending phrases on different beats, you can get a variety of rhythmic implications out of a similar phrase.

Other than that you can think into more advanced tools and concepts to practice. Set parameters to new discoveries. Creating melodies in one duration like all half notes, all triplets, etc , or in a mode (dorian, lydian, etc.), or in a specific register (limit yourself to one octave) are ways we challenge our creativity and test our resourcefulness.

Ken remember jazz is essentially an aural tradition as echoed in the phrase "the records are the textbooks." The masters of jazz learned largely by ear. For this reason, a very important aspect of practice is listening and being able to hear the notes, phrasing, and the expressive devices of the music. This kind of aural apprenticeship is an important step and WILL ENHANCE YOUR SAX PLAYING AS WELL FROM THE PIANO.yOU DIG??:D

ALWAYS focus on the basics: chord scales, voicings etc. FIND A PRACTICE BUDDY AND JUST COMP FOR HIM TOO- just minor blues for a few weeks then some modal stuff or 1-6-2-5-1 you'll be into a new zone where your sax playing goes.

Once a kid asked Sonny Rollins..." Sonny give me one hint to become a better sax player"....Newk smiled and sais " Learn Piano".

Hope this helps.

ps- Johnny Griffin played great piano. He was " Jaws " fav pianist.

08-14-2008, 07:34 PM
Thanks Tim. As my teacher says, anything recommended by Tim Price is worth listening to :D

08-14-2008, 07:41 PM
If you are comping, and this is new to you, make sure you get the rhythm/swing right, and try to listen more and play less.

Tim Price
08-14-2008, 07:44 PM
Thanks Tim. As my teacher says, anything recommended by Tim Price is worth listening to :D

Tell your teacher, I said " DITTO " about him and he 's got one of the best tenor sounds in jazz and RnB. Tell him " HEMENWAY ST BLUES !!" ...LOL.

Al Stevens
08-14-2008, 07:50 PM
A lot depends on what kind of music you are playing and whether the band includes a bass player. Comping is an art. Mainly you stay out of everybody's way, which means you stay out of root position (left hand pinky on the root), and, during the head, stay away from melody notes on top.

Play sparsely and lightly with few chords sustained longer than a beat or two. Stacatto is good. You want to state the harmonic context of the tune, but if you lay it on too heavily you restrict the freedom of soloists to wander around the changes, go outside, play substitutions, etc.

Remember, "comping" is shorthand for 'accompanying." It is a subordinate role in the band. You'll get your chance to solo.

I ask students to listen to Oscar Peterson on the album he did with Getz.

Oscar was a monster technician with large hands and giant chops. He could dominate any bandstand. But listen to his restraint as an accompaniest. Oscar even holds back during his own solos, paying deference to Getz, the featured performer.

Tim Price
08-15-2008, 11:32 AM

This book I use with many sax students via piano;

Jazz Keyboard (Book & CD) (Complete Jazz Keyboard Method) (Paperback)
by Noah Baerman

It is a step-by-step approach for piano. A simple " hands on" methodical approach to learning the art jazz piano improvisation. It will free your creative sense of music too- GREAT BOOK.

It begins with a review of chord symbol interpretation, walks through bass line development, and ends with how to play several melodic lines simultaneously in stimulating musical conversation. You'll learn how to develop solos that embellish and support the melody, and use lead sheets to help you generate your own musical ideas. The lessons Noah presents are techniques, practice exercises, and tunes on jazz standards. Notated transcriptions of sample improvisations illustrate technique, and the accompanying CD lets you hear a master improviser put these ideas to work.

It's worth getting asap if you want to jump into this art of piano- It's fun too. I was lucky as a young kid because my piano teacher was A Lenny Tristano fan-and student at a point, and got me into some great stuff while still in high school.He loved Teddy Wilson and Dave McKenna too. ( When I came home from Berklee one semester I loaned him a Chick Corea record with Blue Mitchell and never got it back- he loved that stuff !! )

Also let close with two words my friend- DROP TWO !!!! ;)

Jazz Piano Masterclass with Mark Levine(With CD) (Spiral-bound)
by Mark Levine (Author)

I'LL " DROP TWO" COMP MY STUDENTS 24-7.... lol. Levines book deals with this so you can really get that " HoraceThing" going nice.As with any Levine book- :) - The book has well written, very musical phrases. The author suggests usage with standards that should be in everyone's play book and it's fun to work them in with tunes you already know - using DROP TWO. Then take them apart, and there is something to learn. Faster than fast results especially if you know your chords in root position which any sax player SHOULD know.

The printing is good and the binding is beautiful. Amazon has all these used too, so you can get some for under $9 is you shop wise. HAVE FUN!!!!

08-15-2008, 05:41 PM
If you are comping, and this is new to you, make sure you get the rhythm/swing right, and try to listen more and play less.
Thats basicly what I was gonna say.

08-15-2008, 07:04 PM
Thanks all.

BTW, Tim I passed on your message. "Hemenway St Blues" made him laugh, "Oh yeah, is that what he said?":D

08-16-2008, 01:29 AM
Chris Fitzgerald is a bass player who teaches piano for non-pianists at the Aebersold workshops. When I went, I didn't realize the class was available until the last day. Since I missed most of the material, I e-mailed him after the workshop and he e-mailed me a pdf. I pretty much taught myself how to comp using that. If I recall, it doesn't deal much with rhyhthm, but shows you how to figure out good, easy voicings. Try him through his website at info (at) chrisfitzgeraldmusic (dot) com. Good luck!