In this article we’re going to take a look at three piano comping practice tips. These piano comping practice tips are meant to give you specific exercises to practices that will improve your harmonic understanding and help you learn the chords to a bunch of jazz tunes.
Before we begin consider this: As pianists we need to be ready to accept 2 different roles. The first role is that of accompanist in which we are playing chords in our right hand and roots (or a walking bass line, or chord shells) in our left hand. The second role considers the pianist as a soloist in which we play the melody (or solo/improvisation) in our right hand, and the chords (rootless voicings or chord shells) in our left hand.
Piano Comping Practice Tip #1
For all of these practice tips we’re going to use the chords to the first 8 bars of the jazz standard “Just Friends.”
Here in Tip #1 we’re going to practice simply playing the rootless voicing in the right hand and the single-note root in the left hand. For more information on 4-way close position rootless voicings see our article on rootless voicings.
For the purposes of this practice tip, simply play the left-hand root and right-hand chord at the start of each measure – don’t add any fancy syncopated rhythms. Just simply play the root/chord on beat 1 and hold through each measure.
Play this exercise with your metronome at a moderate tempo (i.e. quarter note = 112). Make sure you’re able to play through the entire form in time, moving from one chord to the next without pauses, hesitations, or mistakes.
Piano Comping Practice Tip #2
In Tip #2 we’re going to do the same thing as above in Tip #1 with a couple little tweaks. First off, we are now going to start using some jazz-influenced rhythmic comping. This means that we are not going to simply play on beat 1 and hold the chord through the measure, but instead we are going to play the chord in a syncopated, rhythmically interesting manner. Secondly, we are going to practice with our metronome in 2 different ways. First, we will play with the metronome clicking on all 4 beats of the measure (i.e. quarter note = 112). Second, we will play with the metronome clicking on beats 2 and 4 (as in the audio file below). In order to do this we will set our metronome to 56 beats per minute and consider each click to represent beat 2 and beat 4 of each measure, as below:
Piano Comping Practice Tip #3
Tips #1 and #2 are examples of what we might play as pianists if we are comping in an accompanying role, such as accompanying a singer or horn player. But in Tip #3 we’ll practice comping with our left hand while our right hand plays through the melody. In this exercise we will play the rootless voicings (same as above) in our left hand. Our right hand will play the melody. Again, practice using the metronome on all 4 beats and and on beats 2 and 4.
You can practice all of these tips simply by opening up to any jazz tune in your fakebook and working through the chords using the exercises presented here.