Comping is a term that is commonly used in jazz circles. It refers to the art of playing chords to accompany a soloist or ensemble. The term “comping” comes from the word “accompaniment,” and it is an essential part of jazz improvisation.

What Is Comping?

Comping is the act of playing chords on a musical instrument, usually a piano or guitar, to provide harmonic support for other musicians. In jazz music, comping is often used to back up soloists during their improvisations. Comping can also be used in other genres of music, such as rock and pop.

How Is Comping Used in Jazz?

In jazz music, comping is an integral part of the rhythm section’s job. The rhythm section typically consists of a piano or guitar player, bassist, and drummer. The pianist or guitarist is responsible for comping while the soloist improvises.

During a jazz performance, the soloist will typically play through a series of chord changes. The pianist or guitarist must quickly adapt to these changes and provide appropriate harmonic support. This may involve playing chords that are not written in the original score but are necessary to create the desired sound.

The Role of Comping in Jazz

Comping serves several essential functions in jazz music:

Comping Techniques

There are several techniques that pianists and guitarists use to create interesting comping patterns:

Shell Voicings: Shell voicings are chords that contain only the essential notes of a chord. They are often used in comping because they provide a solid harmonic foundation without getting in the way of the soloist’s improvisation.

Drop 2 Voicings: Drop 2 voicings involve taking a four-note chord and dropping the second-highest note by one octave. This creates a more open sound that is ideal for comping.

Four-to-the-Bar: Four-to-the-bar is a common comping pattern that involves playing four evenly spaced chords per bar. This creates a steady, rhythmic foundation for the soloist to improvise over.

The Bottom Line

Comping is an essential part of jazz music, and it requires skill and experience to do it well. Good comping can add depth and interest to a performance while providing essential harmonic support for soloists. By using various techniques such as shell voicings, drop 2 voicings, and four-to-the-bar patterns, pianists and guitarists can create compelling accompaniments that enhance the overall musical experience for performers and audiences alike.