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  1. #1

    Become bulletproof with guide tone comping

    Hey folks,

    since a lot of the voicings I like to play are essentially building upon 3 & 7, I decided to become bulletproof at comping with guide tones. I've noticed it's a common thing for piano players to do, which is something I usually consider a good hint - cause they certainly know their chords.

    My goal is to be able to comp basically anything from a chart (except for real crazy or super fast stuff maybe) on first sight, or anything from memory, thinking in scale degrees and therefore in all keys - with high certainty. I definitely wanna be able to do it on the 5th & 4th as well as the 4th & 3rd string. 3rd & 2nd would be a bonus.

    I've noticed my weaknesses are: Some areas on the 5th & 4th string (especially dom7 chords with the 7th in the bass), diminished and major6 chords in general.
    Obviously on the one hand chords that are being less executed have suffered. On the other hand the 5th & 4th string voicings seem to be weaker, as guide tones of the shell voicings we tend to start out learning are mainly located on the 4th & 3rd string.

    I've realized there's one problem with how things work on the guitar: As opposed to the piano, we have no distinct shapes that separate different keys for a certain type of voicing from each other. While it's easy to move them around it's at the same time easy to confuse them. I'm sure you all know the feeling of screwing up by accidentally playing any set of notes a half step too high or too low.
    I've noticed while it's very easy to comp a blues like that, even if practiced through all keys, you barely learn anything by doing so. It's very easy to just follow a certain pattern of shapes and while that's great for the given song, but you barely progress with your guide tone skills in general and it's therefore hard to develop real freedom.

    I was thinking of a couple of ways to work around this:

    1) Learn the actual note names of the 3 & 7 (or 6)
    2) Use random roots and make it a "drill exercise"
    3) Jump between A and B form on the same string set
    4) Learn MANY tunes in all keys, think in scale degrees

    There could be multiple preparation steps included in any of these methods to make em effective. I think 1) is something piano players tend to do. Can you think of any effective method of approaching this for the guitar?
    What else comes to your mind? Also how would you deal with pure major and minor chords? Play 1 & 3? (I can barely find any songs that I could comp exclusively with 3 & 7)

    I wanna also mention: I respect if your position is that you just have to play songs and at some point you'll "get it". But with certain areas of my playing I've had more success with methodical approaches. Also this is probably meant for the advanced player. I have no troubles comping a song with guide tones and also transposing is usually not a problem. I just want to take it to the next level and cover all areas of the neck with great certainty. If your interested join me and let's think it through together!

    Cheers

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  3. #2
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    Heya from the title I thought you were selling a course.

    I hear you on the 4/5 string thing.

    I don’t tend to comp in pure guide tones either. 1 & 3 works well for pure major and minor chords I think.

  4. #3
    I figured fretting for instance a Db7 and focusing on the Cb and F on the 5th & 4th string already helped a great deal. I also tried to focus on the fretted notes + the Db above the Cb. It's easy to do so if you just stick with that one chord and I can sort of manage to think 3 note names at a time. Once I try to apply this thinking while playing a song I still fail. Too much going on I guess. However it seemed to help me with building a stronger connection with the location of that voicing on the fretboard.
    It probably needs more training in order to be able to think of all the notes while playing. At the school I went to they made me do it at the piano and it felt easier. That's probably because of the stronger visually distinct "appearance" of the notes.

    Perhaps an idea to overcome this would be to practice just note names on single strings going through a random cycle. I did that for a couple of days and I've seen great improvements. Not sure if it pays off with the guide tones in the long run though.

    I also have a feel with this approach you're supposed to stick with something you're trying to learn for a reasonable amount of time before moving on - weither it comes to a single chord and it's guide tones or a single string with regard to the note names drill. Otherwise you start mixing things up. Not sure if it's best to stick with 1, 2 or a couple of things, but certainly don't do 10+ at a time. I'm sure there's literature on that.

  5. #4
    yea... maybe guide tone comping isn't really comping. It shouldn't be the goal, maybe just a step in learning how to comp.

    Guide tones are basically playing the obvious, what the bass player world play and use to help imply the basic target chord(s).

    I don't know what stage of playing your at... but being aware of 3rds and 7ths is a somewhat basic playing and musical requirement... somewhat like the root.

    Eventually comping becomes more. There are different styles, but generally... your comping becomes more like playing a simple lead line on top and you voice harmonic movement below. 3rds and 7ths can become part of that lower part. The better you become... the more details you can incorporate in the lower part(s).

    Different styles or feels require different types of lead lines. The lead lines are basically just short melodic figures or melodies that help create a style and feel. They imply the changes and rhythmically help create that feel of movement and repeat.. within the Form

    The bottom 5th and 6th strings are more for effect. Voicings or intervals in lower strings need to be open... not to close. Same as top or lead line.... I tend to use 4ths and larger for space between the top note and voicing. Again you use them, but they are more for effect... or comping for a bass solo.

    The point of comping is to support the melody or soloist ... not be the soloist. So different soloist require different styles and levels of performance.... eventually you can help set up what the melody or soloist is doing or going... but you need to be able to able to listen and think while your playing.... be able to remember what happened before as well as what is coming in the future... and be locked in the moment.

    Anyway... just trying to help you be aware of where the process should be heading. If you need more details or help with organizing the starting process... I'll gladly help...

  6. #5
    Sure, I was trying to point that out with my introduction. Actually this shouldn't be about me really. It was meant as an offer to work together and figure something out - to whoever this may appeal. If that helps: I'm finishing my masters right now and have been teaching jazz guitar students for 10 years. My impression is that in certain areas especially we as guitarists lack a reliable and structured method and work ineffectively on a trial and error base. Much different from the piano players I've worked with for instance.

    I really appreciate the effort and time you put in, to point out what else one should be aware of besides the particular thing I asked about. I'd still like to keep this thread tight and discuss the actual topic and not wander off too much. I don't mean to offend anyone but I see this a lot on the forum and while I think it's a beautiful thing to let the mind wander and add anything that you associate with a topic, I believe sometimes it's good to have a counter balance to that and really stick with an idea/question.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Philidor View Post
    I was thinking of a couple of ways to work around this:

    1) Learn the actual note names of the 3 & 7 (or 6)
    2) Use random roots and make it a "drill exercise"
    3) Jump between A and B form on the same string set
    4) Learn MANY tunes in all keys, think in scale degrees
    Just out of curiosity, what happens to your playing when you don't name the chords, notes, intervals, or scale degrees, and disregard adhering to string sets, fingerings, and positions? Do you still grasp and play music or does it fall apart?
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  8. #7
    When I'm "in the zone" and my ears, brain and hands are warmed up, I play from what I hear and at the same time know whats going on harmonically. It's actually more of an effort not to know for me then. That definitely counts for material I've totally ingrained.
    When I'm not in the zone and force myself to stop thinking, some things get easier, some get more difficult. When I can't enter the flow, playing the blues by just following the impulse of what I hear becomes easier than keeping track of everything. Vice versa playing 26-2 (which I hardly remember and only practiced for a few days some years ago) becomes more difficult.
    Stuff that I've never practiced before can fall apart, when I stop trying to create solutions on a cognitive base on the spot.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Philidor View Post
    Sure, I was trying to point that out with my introduction. Actually this shouldn't be about me really. It was meant as an offer to work together and figure something out - to whoever this may appeal. If that helps: I'm finishing my masters right now and have been teaching jazz guitar students for 10 years. My impression is that in certain areas especially we as guitarists lack a reliable and structured method and work ineffectively on a trial and error base. Much different from the piano players I've worked with for instance.

    I really appreciate the effort and time you put in, to point out what else one should be aware of besides the particular thing I asked about. I'd still like to keep this thread tight and discuss the actual topic and not wander off too much. I don't mean to offend anyone but I see this a lot on the forum and while I think it's a beautiful thing to let the mind wander and add anything that you associate with a topic, I believe sometimes it's good to have a counter balance to that and really stick with an idea/question.
    Cool.... good luck
    Last edited by Reg; 10-30-2018 at 05:27 AM.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Reg View Post
    Cool.... but shouldn't you as a guitar teacher.... already have those technical skills together. I mean... teaching for 10 years, and working on your education.... I'm assuming Music something.

    Are you doing what your knocking.... trial and error..ing your way to learning how to comp. Comping generally isn't just about playing 3rds and 7ths or right notes.... (That would be another subject).

    The other small detail... learn how the guitar works, it's not a sax or piano. The organization of producing notes is based on a 12 fret 6 string repeating pattern....

    But... I'm from the school of ... knowing any technical skill on your instrument... is better than not knowing it. Even if the point is just the skill it's self. A good starting area would be... Common Jazz Chord Patterns..... and generally work them through cycles. Like 2nds, 3rds etc...

    Back when I was a kid.... and even through college days... we would play tunes and each chorus or each time through... modulate through different cycles. Ex. play Autumn leaves.. using minor 3rds(G or E- whatever you chose).... so start on A- 1st chorus, then C- for 2nd time, Eb for 3rd and Gb for 4th... then your back to A. Good for many technical skills as well as learning the fretboard.

    There are lots of different organized patterns for controlling how you modulate etc... you could also cycle your choice of guide tone lines as well as the melodic pattern you use to realize them.

    Good luck.... the results of doing those types of drills are great... I can transpose in my sleep... play harmony lines with melodies from lead sheets... etc...
    man, the constant chest-thumping is really getting old.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by djg View Post
    man, the constant chest-thumping is really getting old.
    Reg, you liked that post!

    djg, I'm not sure anyone on this site has been more generous than Reg. And, he's got a thick skin and doesn't easily get bothered.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by djg View Post
    man, the constant chest-thumping is really getting old.
    Not chest-thumping, happy talk. It's a critical and important service to this forum; an honest and informed personal effort to remind struggling guitarists (aren't we all?) what success looks like by describing it.
    There are people here struggling without an idea of where they want to be, without a firm feel for the end results - without a dream...

    Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
    Talk about things you'd like to do,
    You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream,
    How you gonna have a dream come true?
    (South Pacific)
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  13. #12
    Hey Frank... yea when I read djg's post... it made sense. I don't want to come off that way.... so, yea, I liked his post. My post sound lousy... so I deleted etc...

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    Reg, you liked that post!

    djg, I'm not sure anyone on this site has been more generous than Reg. And, he's got a thick skin and doesn't easily get bothered.
    thank goodness

    We love Reg !

    I learned along the way that
    when someone like Reg is prepared
    to explane this stuff ,
    I should shut up and listen ...

  15. #14
    So my main intent was really to come up with a method that will address this in great depth. I don't know how you feel but sometimes it appears to me, it can be more challenging on the guitar to play smaller voicings, because there's less "visual information". For me it can be easier to locate a drop 2 & 4 voicing than just the guide tones for instance. And while it became pretty easy to me on the 3rd and 4th string, it's less stable with 4 & 5.

    Sure on the one hand I want to develop my weaker areas, on the other I'm also constantly seeking on how to improve the way I teach my students. Not every method will appeal to everyone, therefore I'm also seeking to find different ways I hadn't thought of.

    I was under the impression pianists were better prepared with this when I compared them to myself, my fellow students, even the teachers of the different schools I know. I therefore think it's not a bad thing to take them as a model and adjust their concepts in a way that will suite the specific requirements of the guitar.

    I have some new thoughts that I'll post later if anyones interested

  16. #15
    I think this is an interesting topic, I tend to think of these chords as '2-note chords' I suppose. Very useful for doing a sort of 'minimal comping' for yourself, it's a bit like the kind of thing Lenny Breau used to do when playing solo guitar.

    I guess I tend to visualize where the 'root note' would be on the fretboard (although I am not actually playing the root), it helps me locate the chord correctly. Apart from that, I guess I just practice them a lot on a given tune, to gain more familiarity.

  17. #16
    There was a very good thread on this a while back, some really good stuff in here:

    Just Got Tim Lerch's "Art of Two Note Accompaniment"

  18. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu View Post
    thank goodness

    We love Reg !

    I learned along the way that
    when someone like Reg is prepared
    to explane this stuff ,
    I should shut up and listen ...
    Absolutely. If I posted on any topic in the universe and Reg started replying and explaining stuff, I'd forget about on topic or off topic and just start taking notes.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  19. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philidor View Post
    Sure, I was trying to point that out with my introduction. Actually this shouldn't be about me really. It was meant as an offer to work together and figure something out - to whoever this may appeal. If that helps: I'm finishing my masters right now and have been teaching jazz guitar students for 10 years. My impression is that in certain areas especially we as guitarists lack a reliable and structured method and work ineffectively on a trial and error base. Much different from the piano players I've worked with for instance.

    I really appreciate the effort and time you put in, to point out what else one should be aware of besides the particular thing I asked about. I'd still like to keep this thread tight and discuss the actual topic and not wander off too much. I don't mean to offend anyone but I see this a lot on the forum and while I think it's a beautiful thing to let the mind wander and add anything that you associate with a topic, I believe sometimes it's good to have a counter balance to that and really stick with an idea/question.
    If Reg is talking about it, you likely need to know it. If you don't think it's relevant, maybe you need to ask if you really know what's relevant. He's one of the most valued members of this forum. I suggest you take notes.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  20. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I guess I tend to visualize where the 'root note' would be on the fretboard (although I am not actually playing the root), it helps me locate the chord correctly.
    That's what I do too for these shell voicings. I don't know if that's a crutch, or whatever, but it's where I'm at now.

  21. #20
    Autumn... So these are just inside two notes of basic changes. when you comp... you should use each note of the voicing as a Part.... a voice that has meaning. The top note is almost always the most important. It is generally the one you hear first, then usually the lowest and then the middle .... unless your doing something for an effect. Like the basic changes below. This would be for an effect or an arranged part.

    X X 5 5 X X
    X X 4 5 X X
    X X 4 4 X X
    X X 2 4 X X
    X X 1 2 X X
    X X 5 7 X X
    X X 5 6 X X

    X X 5 5 X X
    X X 5 4 X X
    X X 4 4 X X
    X X 2 4 X X
    X X 4 5 X X
    X X 7 8 X X
    X X 5 7 X X

    X X 10 9 X X
    X X 7 8 X X
    X X 5 7 X X
    X X 5 6 X X
    X X 5 5 X X
    X X 4 5 X X
    X X 4 4 X X
    X X 5 5 X X
    X X 7 7 X X
    X X 6 7 X X

    X X 10 9 X X
    X X 7 8 X X
    X X 5 7 X X
    X X 5 6 X X
    X X 3 5 X X
    X X 3 4 X X
    X X 2 2 X X
    X X 1 2 X X
    X X 5 7 X X

    Generally Pianist have ten fingers and that's how many notes they play.... Guitars have a much thinner and percussive sound, much better for latin music.... and of course.... if you can play blues and pentatonics... your already more useful. Not really, play the piano if that's what you want to sound like.

    But just as there are good and bad guitarist.... the same with pianist.
    Last edited by Reg; 11-01-2018 at 06:50 AM.

  22. #21
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    +1 for those "2 note chords", one of my bases, any style, from pop rock to ...

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  23. #22
    Here's one way:

    Learn the notes in the chords you play in every key.

    Learn the fingerboard -- cold.

    That's some work, but it pays off.

    Now, if two note "chords" are the goal, there are a few ways that I know how to do them.

    One is thirds and sevenths. Usually on strings 3 and 4, but sometimes I use strings 2 and 3. Depends on how things are sounding in the band. Sometimes, it seems like the 4th string is too low and is making the band muddy.

    The other way that I learned from listening to Jim Hall is holding a note, often on the high E string and passing a second voice, descending, on the B string. Same idea can work with other string pairs.

    So, for Dm7, he might hold the A (5th fret 1st string) as a kind of pedal and play, on the B string, G F E D.

    When you know the notes in the chords and are aware of the concept of the passing tone under a pedal, it becomes obvious where you can apply it.

    Bear in mind that I heard Jim do this in piano-less groups.

    An alternative is finding notes other than 3 and 7 that work, and you'll hear Jim Hall do that too, for example, playing a note and its third and moving that shape around.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 11-03-2018 at 02:42 PM.

  24. #23
    Alrite, I'm out. I don't like to be told who to listen to - especially not if it's based on that persons reputation rather than content and how it relates to a given question. I'm not saying anyone does not deserve their reputation. I'm not saying what's been added isn't generally valuable information. But I'm not sure how - from my few posts - some people seem to be able to tell what my playing lacks, what I'm unaware of and who I'd better listen to.

    It's perfectly fine if to anyone other topics are more interesting than the one I wanted to discuss. This, however, does not necessarily mean I'm on the wrong track and therefore have to be ruled what I actually should be thinking about. Perhaps some topics aren't relevant to me because I had already spent hundreds of hours working on/thinking about them. And I think it's always possible to have another thread if you wanted to talk about a different subject, right?

    I'm also not sure where I said I wanted to sound like a piano player? Even if I wanted to - why would you feel the need to tell me go play the piano instead of the guitar? Pasquale Grasso certainly did try to emulate piano on the guitar and a lot of people dig his playing, right? Also, telling someone who's played the guitar 20+ years what a guitar sounds like seems a bit strange to me. If anyone thinks the guitar suits a certain way of playing/aesthetic more than another, they can totally think within these limits, if they like. But why would you wanna push that on anyone else and not encourage them to think differently and push the boundaries, if that's what their into?

    Thanks to everyone who constructively contributed to the topic - appreciate it! I'll definitely think about what you said. The other stuff really took the fun out for me tbo though.

    Peace

  25. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg View Post
    Generally Pianist have ten fingers and that's how many notes they play.... Guitars have a much thinner and percussive sound, much better for latin music.... and of course.... if you can play blues and pentatonics... your already more useful. Not really, play the piano if that's what you want to sound like.

    But just as there are good and bad guitarist.... the same with pianist.
    I know it appears to be putting Philidor's nose out of joint, but I think there is a lot of wisdom to this.

    HOWEVER - if that mindset was followed dogmatically, we'd still all be playing straight 4's and Jim Hall would never have started replacing the pianist in a quartet, basically showing the way for EVERY jazz guitarist since (except the revivalists)

    I think - learn from piano, but don't try to be one. Jim Hall is a good example in that he used the natural chordal and strumming vocab of the instrument. He didn't actually try to be a piano. TBH, I hear Pasquale and I am super impressed, but it's not the direction I want to go in my own playing. (And not just because I CAN'T lol.)

    Bottom line - if the bandleader wants a piano, they'll book piano. If they want guitar they want the guitar to sound like a guitar.

    Anyway, I think 3rd and 7ths and shell voicings are just great on the guitar. The great Dave Cliff taught me that first lesson, and it's what I teach.

  26. #25
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    I'll add as an addedum that - no not all pianists play 10 notes - and you must know that Reg lol. Maybe devotees of the Keith Jarrett school, and there are those lush Bill Evans voicings, but there are many pianists who use a more stripped down palette.

    Peter Bernstein told me he learned his voicings listening to Monk, and they are, to my mind, very guitaristic voicings, sometimes very obvious ones with maybe a note muted - like an A13 without the C#.

    5 x 5 x 7 x

    He often plays just shell 7ths too:

    5 x 5 x x x
    4 x 4 x x x
    3 x 3 x x x

    Which Bud Powell also does (and Barry Harris) and I'm starting to get into those a little. Surprisingly effective.

    PB is in my pantheon of jazz players who really get the most out of the guitar.

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    I don't like you telling me about Monk chords on guitar. I'm out.

  28. #27
    A few thoughts about this:

    1. Start simple. Rome wasn't built in a day.

    2. Pay attention to range considerations. Too low can be too muddy, too high can be, well, too high. So why not start with strings 4/3 and 3/2? Then move on if so motivated. Get the ROI from your shed time.

    3. The other problem described in the OP was simply one of many scenarios for the challenge of fret board memorization. There are lots of schemes for approaching that problem (The Advancing Guitarist, others, make up your own, etc.). A few ideas follow. The final two may be more direct and time saving in the short run:


    • Drill "any note" identification on any/all strings (random roots or sheet music).
    • Drill root memorization on the 6th and 5th strings (using random chord symbols or sheet music chord symbols) Chord 5ths too.
    • Without the guitar - vocally recite 3rds for random chords or lead sheet chords. Do the same for 7ths.
    • Drill 3rds to random chords/sheet music on the 3rd and 2nd strings. Do the same for 7ths.
    • Memorize 3/7 shapes (double stops) for all chord qualities, on strings 4/3 and 3/2.
    • Sticking with one chord quality at time, play a random chords drill on strings 4/3, then 3/2. Apply to all chord qualities.

    Shouldn't take too long for those last two, perhaps a few weeks per string set. Maintain the drill. Then maybe you'll be a little closer to having your guide tone Kevlar.
    Last edited by Jazzstdnt; 11-05-2018 at 10:41 AM.

  29. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    PB is in my pantheon of jazz players who really get the most out of the guitar.
    Yes!

    By the way, PB is great at playing more than just the changes--making little melodies, adding approach chords, backcycling, etc. I think that's the next step for me to explore in my comping, as opposed to just plonking out the shapes that correspond to the "correct" changes.

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    Don't get bulletproof, stay vulnerable! It's music!))))

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