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Lesson 68: Comping Part II - Rendering an Accompaniment from a Lead Sheet

The Lead Sheet Is Not to Be Taken Literally

You are not supposed to take the information on the lead sheet literally.

  • If the lead sheet says four bars of the same chord, you don't have to stick to the same voicing or even the same chord
  • If the lead sheet contains a lot of chords, you can often simplify

Elaboration - Using More Chords

Let's say the lead sheet says Cmaj7 for a number of bars. Here is an idea to try out for several bars of Cmaj7 in the key area of C:

Now let's say the lead sheet says Dm7 for a number of bars. Here is an idea to try out for several bars of Dm7 in the key area of C or if you want a Dorian type of sound:

Another neat trick is to employ a so-called line cliche. One ( often an inner) moving line simulates movement in the static harmony and makes things more interesting:

Here is an idea for several bars of Fmaj7 in the key of area of C, or if you want a Lydian type of sound:

Finally an idea for several bars of G7 in the key of area of C, or if you want a Mixolydian type of sound:

Beware of over-playing, though. The above ideas are most useful as an intro, before the melody enters.

Here is a nice little C Lydian groove pattern. Sounds like it could be an intro to a Steely Dan tune, doesn't it?

Let's take a look at So What by Miles Davis. The lead sheet says 16 bars of Dm7, 8 bars of Ebm7, 8 bars of Dm7. What is normally played, however, is this type of pattern:

Now let's take a look at All Blues by Miles Davis. All Blues is a 12 bar blues in G and in 6/8 time. The lead sheet says 4 bars of G7, 2 bars of C7, 2 bars of G7, followed by 1 bar of D7#9, 1 bar with Eb7#9, D7#5#9, and finally 2 bars of G7. What is normally played is this generic blues pattern:

Simplification - Using Less or Simpler Chords

Now, let's go to the other end of the spectrum. Let's find some easy ways to comp rhythm changes, where the lead sheet often says Bbmaj7 G7 | Cm7 F7 | and so on. One way is to play single note lines that outline the most important chord tones - the guide tones:

You can make it even easier for yourself if you like. The A parts of the rhythm changes form are all Bb major, so just about any nice and swinging lines in Bb major will likely do the job.

The A part of the rhythm changes form can be treated modally, since it is very static. Here are a couple of vamps that negotiate the A part very nicely:

2006 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.