I am a piano player but am new to jazz; I am classically trained. I have recently began playing jazz however and was curious as to what rhythms to use for comping. I know the rhythms are on off beats and down beats but I am not sure where to start.
1This video is perfect for you: youtube.com/watch?v=cIqrGZDz2to– PolydynamicalApr 20, 2020 at 19:41
1Could you edit the question to narrow it to tunes with swung 8ths? Bossa nova and Latin jazz are different beasts and would deserve a second question.– jdjazzApr 21, 2020 at 12:29
Here are the basic jazz comping rhythms for 4/4 time with swung eighth notes.
The Dotted Quarter Rhythm
This rhythmic pattern can begin on beat 1. It is often repeated over two bars, but not always. Notice that the first chord is sustained, and the second is not.
It also sounds great to displace this rhythmic pattern to later beats, including the up beats:
There's no limit to which beat you could begin this pattern on.
The Half Note Rhythm
Like above, this pattern also involves comping with two chords per bar of 4/4 time. Liked before, you can start this pattern on any beat, but it really sounds good when played on the up beats. In this pattern, the two chords are usually quick "jabs" that aren't sustained and can be played staccato.
Four to the Floor
This is a classic style often attributed to Freddie Green. It's characteristic of an older style of jazz. It entails playing a chord on every down beat.
Two Eighth Notes
Another common rhythm is to play chords on back-to-back eighth notes, starting a down beat. This is a very flexible rhythm that can be combined with other patterns. I've shown a couple examples below of how you can apply this.
Longer comping rhythms also exist. These can be helpful to practice when you're starting out. Here are two good ones to begin with. You'll probably notice some of the elements above appearing in these longer patterns.
1Some of common approaches to comping are: (1) play a set rhythm (like one of the examples shown above), (2) play "in the cracks" (where you use chords to fill the spaces between the soloist's melody notes), (3) block chords (where you play a chord with each melody note being improvised--this approach is usually only available when you're comping for your own solo), (4) lay out (where you don't comp at all), and (5) play polyrhythms (this is often done in concert with the drummer--be careful not to overuse it or extend the polyrhythm too long, or you risk distracting from the solo). Apr 21, 2020 at 13:55
1In your second image, I think that notating the hit on beat 3 as a quarter note would be more legible. Something like:
𝄀 𝄾 𝅘𝅥. 𝅘𝅥 𝄽 𝄀, with a staccato if you'd like. A similar situation in the first bar under "Two eighth notes."– MaxApr 22, 2020 at 4:10
1Thanks, @Max--this is something I've always been weaker on. Is there a guiding principle that I can have in mind for situations like this? When possible, show the downbeats? If that's the case, would it read well to end the bar with an eighth note rest followed by a quarter note rest? Also, how did you create that music notation--very cool! (Also, it looks like some of the stems on quarter note slash chords are missing--I'll have to fix this too.) Apr 22, 2020 at 17:23
1For writing swing, the rule I was taught in jazz school was "Don't write an eighth-note rest (or dotted-quarter rest) on an upbeat." (Furthermore, we were advised to avoid writing dotted-quarter rests altogether, since a quarter rest followed by an eighth rest tends to be easier to sightread.) In cases where you want to, a staccato is usually more readable. I made the little notation by copy-pasting from here: alt-codes.net/music_note_alt_codes.php– MaxApr 22, 2020 at 23:20
When I studied at SJS (SwissJazzSchool) we had to write all combinations of 8/8 in a bar e.g. 111311 and notate them singing and counting the rhythm in swing: daba daba-a-a daba etc. da was on- and ba was off beat. I found this was a very useful, helpful and creative task.
Then the same exercise analog with 16th notes, all possible combination and variations, the sum is always 8.
This practice enables you to sight read any binary rhythm.
The problem that musicians with a classic education have, are not the problems of learning comping patterns but performing the right groove with a perfect feeling.
That’s why you have to listen a lot to other jazzers analysing their playing singing along with daba daba dabap bap bap etc) The
The question asks for comping rhythms. The information you've shared is useful, but it doesn't attempt to answer the question that has been asked. I think it's better suited for a comment. Apr 21, 2020 at 22:15
1I don’t think so. You don‘t understand my philosophy. You‘ve given in your answer - which I‘ve voted up - some examples how a beginner could start reading and practicing rhythms. e.g. 4/4. In my answer this would be: 2+2+2+2 (the elements of the sum 8). This makes also sense as you can develop a system of stage and sequence. But you‘re expecting that a beginner can read the rhythm and play it. Apr 22, 2020 at 6:03
1My approach is to give the student the material or elements to construct, invent his own ideas. This is fundamentally different but leads also to a success. Yours is imitation - a selection of youtube videos would be appropriate too - mine is analyzing, constructivistic, problem-solving. Yours is playing by reading, mine is reading by writing and seeing through. Your 1st. example e.g. supposes that a beginner is able to decipher the notated off-beat and also to interpret it as a swing or advanced accent (beat or stop). But I didn’t think to criticize or downvote it as it’s helpful too anyway. Apr 22, 2020 at 6:13
1I really appreciate the thoughtful explanation. This is something I'll continue to think about. I think I interpreted the question to be "What are the standard comping rhythms?" (which I think is a finite, answerable question--many jazz piano teachers and books will offer such rhythms). It seems like you're interpreting the question to be "What is the best way to learn comping rhythms?" I tend to think of these as two different questions. The former question might be useful to a jazz piano teacher who may later come along and want a quick reminder of the main comping rhythms. Apr 22, 2020 at 17:14
I do think the question "what are the main comping rhythms" is valid to ask, and it's valid to have an answer to that question, without assuming that all readers are seeking the best way to learn. That's why I thought your answer was really insightful and extremely useful, but still not an answer to the question that was asked. I'll keep reflecting on this, though. It's totally possible I misinterpreted the original question. Thoughts on this? Apr 22, 2020 at 17:16