Lesson 18: Rhythm/comping

A fairly concise lesson yesterday with Master and I said that I wanted to spend a little time away from How High The Moon for a bit and focus on accompaniment for a while and rhythm.

The way he approached this was to start with a simple chord vamp – in this case Am7 to D7 and round, and to put a walking bassline over it – something like this:

Then, he asked me to play the chords on different beats, so starting on the 1, then on the 2, etc. and trying to understand what kind of feel this gives, something like this:

Basic bassline, then chord on beat 1


Chord on 2, then 3


Chord on 4


He explained (and I understood) that each has its own application or feel. For example, the chord on beat 1 is really used when one wants to state a tonal centre (perhaps as part of a modulation) or to help harmonically support a note in the melody.   Putting the chord emphasis on beat 2 gives the accompaniment a bit of rhythmic ‘push’ (best understood by playing it to see what I mean).  The chord on 3 is getting to be a bit anticipative, i.e. we are looking forward into the next bar now, and the chord on 4 is very much leading into the ‘1’ of the following measure. At all times, my bassline must be nice and distinct and keep walking.

I need to spend more time on this.

Next, we spent some time putting chord emphasis on the ‘ands’ of each beat which made things very interesting and correspondingly more difficult. I started losing time with my foot and doing some spastic things. Examples:

Chord on ‘and’ of 1 then ‘and’ of 2.


Chord on ‘and’ of 3 then ‘and’ of 4.


Note that these are Swing 8ths – not straight 8ths. Also, my notation isn’t right because I couldn’t be bothered to but the rests in for the chord line above – I think you get the picture anyway.  Note that putting the chord stab on ‘and’ makes the comp much ‘hipper’ (i hate this word, but what to do?) and gives the whole thing a bit more motion as opposed to putting it on the beat which is much ‘straighter’. Also note that while I have written the chord stabs as 8th notes, when I play I actually sustain them over the next beat, but again, I couldn’t be bothered to notate it.

The next step is to mix and match, so for example, while keeping my bassline moving, I might play a chord on 1, then another on the ‘and’ of 4 and so on. Video examples coming in a couple of days.


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