Must-Know Blues Comping

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In this article we’re going to take a look at some blues comping voicings that the pro piano players know and use. Consider the 12-bar blues, which we know is based primarily on three chords – the I, IV, and V chords. In the 12-bar blues form, these three chords are almost always dominant chords. If we plug this chord progression into the key of C, the resulting three chords are C7, F7, and G7. While you might know how to play these three dominant chords, it’s important to know how to comp through theses chords with some commonly used blues comping voicings. These voicings and ideas will bring your blues playing into the more advanced level and get you closer to sounding like the pros.

The Chords You Probably Already Know For Blues Comping

If we’re playing through the 12-bar blues form in the key of C, we will need to play through the C7, F7, and G7 chords. You probably know how to play these chords in root position and various inversions as seen below.

Must Know Blues Comping 1

Knowing these chords and inversions is indeed the first step. But the pros rarely use these voicings for very long. Instead they quickly turn to other blues comping voicings which allow them various options for chords and rhythms.

The Blues Comping Voicings You Must Know

The pros don’t simply use one chord shape or its various inversions. Instead, they know how to comp through chord changes. What does it mean to “comp through” chord changes? It means that you know how to find various shapes within a particular chord and use those shapes as ways to rhythmically and harmonically express (or play) a chord change.

And some of the most effective and commonly used blues comping voicings are triads. If we’re playing through a C7 chord in a blues form in the key of C, we need to know that the C7 chord is based on a C mixolydian scale.

Must Know Blues Comping 3

From this scale, we can extract a few very powerful triads.

Must Know Blues Comping 4

Now you can use these various triad shapes – all of which come directly from the C mixolydian scale (and therefore C7) – to comp through a C7 chord. Instead of simply playing a static C7 chord or any of its inversions, consider comping through a C7 chord using the various triads to create harmonic motion. For example:

Must Know Blues Comping 5

These triads are excellent blues comping voicings to use in all kinds of playing – blues, funk, rock, and jazz. You can apply these same triadic voicings to all the chords in the 12-bar blues form simply by transposing them through the I, IV, and V chords (in the key of C, the C7, F7, and G7 chords.

Practice these chords in a variety of contexts and bring your playing to that professional level!

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Welcome Paul Buono

Paul Buono has returned to the JazzEdge family as an instructor.  His professional piano/keyboard experience includes national and international touring, university professor, musical director, pit

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  1. thank willy
    so simple but effective – I would like to know more about impro using the different scales over the same chord – some of the scales have a definite flavour that help describe the style of soundthat one can play.
    Cheers and please keep them coming.

  2. Willie, Thanks for being the shepard that shares his time and talent: says the Bleeting sheep!

  3. Willie,Mr.Spann would be proud of you,these tips are very insightful and helpful for all players…..cheers yours in music……el-c