Jazz Comping

haredrums

Silver Member
Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to share a new post I put up about my approach to learning how to comp:

http://haredrums.blogspot.com/2012/04/fundamentals-of-jazz-drumming-part-two.html

I am also curious to find what you guys found to be the most effective ways to learn (and teach) how to comp? I have found my approach of limiting options and focusing on comping "in the cracks" to be really successful, but I am always curious to get your feedback! Thanks in advance.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I really like that, Hare. Limiting the options is good. I wish this stuff was around when I was starting out. I just listened to records and did the same thing you described: Wondered "why did he play that?" Eventually, you find your own way doing that, I guess. I like the focus on playing in the cracks between the soloist. That's a nice way to lay it out for a student.

On a related note, I picked something up from a Peter Erskine clip recently that I thought was interesting. I think it's more geared towards an experienced player advancing and getting out of the rut we can get stuck in where we repeat the same comping phrases over and over. It involved a "comping game" between the left hand and right foot.

You may have already seen this, but if not, the game starts out with right hand playing spang-a-lang and the left foot playing 2 and 4. Those cannot vary. The next rule is that the left hand can play one note on the snare but it can't play another until the bass drum plays a note. Then, the bass drum can't play again until the snare plays a note. He suggests using something like a 12-bar blues form and comping without breaking the rules. If you break the rule, you start over. Later, he introduces new rules, like each limb must play two notes. I found it really effective.
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
Great lesson, I have also seen Peter's comping game and it's really cool as well, it's in the same concept of limiting yourself.

The way I learned (and currently learning) is I would use John Riley's books, Art of Bop Drumming has fantastic comping exercises that take you from basic 8th note comping with the snare to complex triplet comping between snare and bass. I've used those exercises to develop my vocabulary and my teacher oversees the process and is on the lookout for the feel and dynamic control and stuff like that. Gotta say that the exercises started making much more sense when I actually started listening to the music, guys like Philly Joe, Frankie Dulop, Jimmy Cobb and especially Max Roach helped me to understand the language much better. I actually transcribed Jimmy's comping during Mile's solo in Freddie Freeloader, helped a lot. Now I'm starting the same process but with Beyond Bop and man is it a pain in the butt jajaja
 

haredrums

Silver Member
I really like that, Hare. Limiting the options is good. I wish this stuff was around when I was starting out. I just listened to records and did the same thing you described: Wondered "why did he play that?" Eventually, you find your own way doing that, I guess. I like the focus on playing in the cracks between the soloist. That's a nice way to lay it out for a student.

On a related note, I picked something up from a Peter Erskine clip recently that I thought was interesting. I think it's more geared towards an experienced player advancing and getting out of the rut we can get stuck in where we repeat the same comping phrases over and over. It involved a "comping game" between the left hand and right foot.

You may have already seen this, but if not, the game starts out with right hand playing spang-a-lang and the left foot playing 2 and 4. Those cannot vary. The next rule is that the left hand can play one note on the snare but it can't play another until the bass drum plays a note. Then, the bass drum can't play again until the snare plays a note. He suggests using something like a 12-bar blues form and comping without breaking the rules. If you break the rule, you start over. Later, he introduces new rules, like each limb must play two notes. I found it really effective.
Yeah,

I knew I couldn't be the only person who was mystified by comping at first. Honestly, there are still times when I am mystified listen to a master drummer comping. Some drummers seem to have an almost magical ability to anticipate where a soloist is going!

I also think Erskine's game idea is another really interesting approach to getting new comping ideas. Thanks for bringing it up.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
I enjoyed that. Thanks for posting.

John
Thanks for the feedback guys, I am really glad you guys liked the video.

Numberless, I agree that the Riley books are the best thing out there in terms of written comping exercises. His examples are smart and really musically applicable. I also agree that none of that stuff really makes sense until you start hearing it in the music.

The reason I wanted to do these videos was that I wanted to emphasize the importance of hearing/immersing yourself in the music as opposed to trying to learn it out of a book. That is not to say that I don't think that books are useful (as you know I have been working really hard on a book of my own), rather that everything needs to be put into context to really come to life. A lot of my students have only ever approached learning jazz as exercises from a book, so I am trying to get away from books as much as possible in order to expose them to the music. Without the music, none of the books would exist!

In any case, thanks for the feedback, it is always greatly appreciated.
 

Liebe zeit

Silver Member
Great videos, Mr Hare. You'll have me turning into a jazz drummer!

There is a local jazz jam in the city I'm moving to, and I reckoned that ought to be the kind of thing I was capable of before too long
 

iamjohn

Senior Member
Thanks for the feedback guys, I am really glad you guys liked the video.

Numberless, I agree that the Riley books are the best thing out there in terms of written comping exercises. His examples are smart and really musically applicable. I also agree that none of that stuff really makes sense until you start hearing it in the music.

The reason I wanted to do these videos was that I wanted to emphasize the importance of hearing/immersing yourself in the music as opposed to trying to learn it out of a book. That is not to say that I don't think that books are useful (as you know I have been working really hard on a book of my own), rather that everything needs to be put into context to really come to life. A lot of my students have only ever approached learning jazz as exercises from a book, so I am trying to get away from books as much as possible in order to expose them to the music. Without the music, none of the books would exist!

In any case, thanks for the feedback, it is always greatly appreciated.
I'm reading The Big Gig by Zoro. In it he talks about listening to music vs. reading music. He makes the point that a child learns to speak by listening to adults and mimicking what he/she is hearing. Later the child learns to read but intensive listening comes first.
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
great lesson as always Andrew

thank you for that

you always make me wish I had more opportunities to play jazz other than in my practice room and teaching studio

the majority of my gigs are rock, R&B, funk and pop.....I need to get out and play more jazz

my soul is yearning for it
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
So, the spang-a-lang . . . it's 1-let, 2--, 3-let, 4-- (ie, playing the numbers and the lets on 1 and 3)?

other way around

1 2+ 3 4+ in swung 8th notes only playing the ands of 2 and 4

so think...lang spang a lang spang a - 1 2+ 3 4+

the first lang being 1
 

burn-4

Senior Member
wow this is EXACTLY what I have been looking for!
In fact I almost feel like I'm cheating now because I understand what you're playing rather than thinking it's just random hits haha.

So glad you posted this it is great! so simple yet something I would never have thought of myself

Aside from kind of blue, what would you recommend as listening material for someone who is 'new' to jazz?

Thanks once again, great concise and methodical lesson!
 

Numberless

Platinum Member
Art Blakey's Moanin was the album that really got me hooked. Also everything with Clifford Brown and Max Roach playing together is pure gold (Check out Study in Brown). John Coltrane's Live at Birdland and My Favorite Things really got me hooked too but the playing in those albums (by Elvin Jones) is on a whole other level, half the time I don't really understand what Elvin is playing, I just know it sounds frigging great.
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Art Blakey's Moanin was the album that really got me hooked. Also everything with Clifford Brown and Max Roach playing together is pure gold (Check out Study in Brown). John Coltrane's Live at Birdland and My Favorite Things really got me hooked too but the playing in those albums (by Elvin Jones) is on a whole other level, half the time I don't really understand what Elvin is playing, I just know it sounds frigging great.
Hey Burn-4

I agree with both of Numberless's recommendations. I would say don't spend too much time trying to emulate Elvin's playing when you are first starting, it is just too much to absorb (I am not saying don't listen of course!). In addition I would recommend spending a lot of time with Miles's classic sextet/quintet, particularly the prestige albums, "Milestones", and "Round About Midnight".

I wouldn't worry about expanding too much beyond that at this point in terms of this particular exercise. At this point it is much more important for you to start getting used to the vocabulary of particular musicians on particular songs than to listen to as many songs as possible. Play along until you start to be able to hear and anticipate everything the soloists are going to do. You can even sing along if it helps you internalize the solos.

In general my feeling is that it is better to know a limited number of things really well as opposed to a large number of things more vaguely. The reason is that when you are actually playing music, the only things that will actually be useful are the things you know really well.

I am so glad you dug the exercise, and thanks for the feedback. Good luck!
 

haredrums

Silver Member
great lesson as always Andrew

thank you for that

you always make me wish I had more opportunities to play jazz other than in my practice room and teaching studio

the majority of my gigs are rock, R&B, funk and pop.....I need to get out and play more jazz

my soul is yearning for it
Thank you so much!

I hear you man, if I don't get to play I start getting really antsy. I hope you can find an outlet soon!
 
A

Anthony Amodeo

Guest
Hare,I believe that you cannot teach someone how to comp, it's something a player needs to learn by themselves by listening and just contemplating what they hear and what is going on.

There are of course exercises to teach you what things can be played, but not what to play.

he is simply giving an exercise that will help develop the thought process

and you absolutely can teach someone to comp

you help them develop a vocabulary....show them examples of how this vocabulary has been used and encourage them to use it in an equally tasteful way
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
wow this is EXACTLY what I have been looking for!
In fact I almost feel like I'm cheating now because I understand what you're playing rather than thinking it's just random hits haha.

So glad you posted this it is great! so simple yet something I would never have thought of myself
+1

That was fantastic, Andrew. Your lessons are the best I've seen. You're covering things that players really need to know but are hardly ever mentioned - like the strong focus more on how to play the lines than what to play.

I don't plan to be a bop drummer, but at times I need to cover a basic similar feel and your lessons are a huge help - so thank you!

I want to avoid my instinctive meat-head rock approach ... spang-a-lang for a while and then throw in some loud (supposedly dynamic) accents at the end of each 4 to release tension. Every second ride cymbal demo guy will launch into one of these lumpy pseudo jazz things. It sounds lame.

The limiting approach was super helpful too. Also the point about paying more attention to the ride. Like most old rockers branching out it's a mental switch from rocking between kick and snare to skating along on the ride. Having the bass drum felt rather than heard is a big one. Are bass drum accents and bombs next on the list?
 

Liebe zeit

Silver Member
other way around

1 2+ 3 4+ in swung 8th notes only playing the ands of 2 and 4

so think...lang spang a lang spang a - 1 2+ 3 4+

the first lang being 1
Thanks. I also looked it up and found notation for it. I had been assuming it was blues shuffle cut up a bit, which it kind of is but not how I expected.
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Yeah, good lesson!

One minor thing I thought while watching it: I think we should avoid having as much
movement in the left leg as you showed in the video :). Many drummers do it I know,
myself included, and many greats too, but I think it actually doesn't help being accurate
and - more importantly - being balanced and relaxed at all.
 

burn-4

Senior Member
Hey Burn-4

I agree with both of Numberless's recommendations. I would say don't spend too much time trying to emulate Elvin's playing when you are first starting, it is just too much to absorb (I am not saying don't listen of course!). In addition I would recommend spending a lot of time with Miles's classic sextet/quintet, particularly the prestige albums, "Milestones", and "Round About Midnight".

I wouldn't worry about expanding too much beyond that at this point in terms of this particular exercise. At this point it is much more important for you to start getting used to the vocabulary of particular musicians on particular songs than to listen to as many songs as possible. Play along until you start to be able to hear and anticipate everything the soloists are going to do. You can even sing along if it helps you internalize the solos.

In general my feeling is that it is better to know a limited number of things really well as opposed to a large number of things more vaguely. The reason is that when you are actually playing music, the only things that will actually be useful are the things you know really well.

I am so glad you dug the exercise, and thanks for the feedback. Good luck!
Thanks for those, will check them out :)
 
Top