Jazz Guitar Toolbox 2.3

Jazz Guitar Toolbox 2.3 - Basic Comping Rhythms

jazz comping jazz fundamentals jazz guitar toolbox May 21, 2021

Hello again, welcome back to Jazz Guitar Toolbox, a series that offers all the essential tools a jazz guitarist needs!
In this lesson, we’ll discuss one of (if not THE most) important aspects of not only jazz but music in general. That is: RHYTHM

Most of the examples will refer back to chords and progressions found in previous videos of this “Toolbox” series, so I recommend you check those out first if you haven’t done so:

Grab your guitar and let's get started!


Download your "Jazz Guitar Toolbox 2.3 - Basic Comping Rhythms" PDF!
Join our Community here.


Straight vs Swung

If you have listened to jazz (which… I bet you have haha) you might have noticed that a lot of the time what we call the “time feel” is treated a bit different than say, in funk, pop, or even than in the so-called “latin jazz”. Well, this is mainly due to how jazz musicians have been thinking about time since the 1920s.

(Express jazz history lesson: Louis Armstrong was actually one of the musicians that pioneered this new time feel called swing. So, if you like Louis, here’s yet another reason to admire him even more)

In short, swing transforms what would otherwise be a straight rhythm:
Now, imagine how messy it would look if we were to write everything in a jazz standard using triplets. That’s why this shift is IMPLIED whenever we see “Swing” above the staff (or whenever a bandmate calls it out before starting a tune).


Basic Swung Comping Rhythms 

Now that we have this time feel difference out of the way, let’s talk about some basic rhythms we can use on swing-based tunes.


What is commonly known as the Charleston rhythm can be considered the basis of swing comping rhythms. The name comes from a popular dance from the 1920s, and it is simply a dotted quarter note followed by an eighth note. This rhythm might be simple but is extremely effective because it creates syncopation and anticipation, which in turn creates great forward motion.


So now, let’s apply this rhythm to some progressions we know. By the way, I’ll be using the progressions we talked about in a previously released Toolbox video called “2.2  -  Essential Jazz Progressions”, so I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already.



Now that we are more familiar with this rhythm, let’s apply it to when we have 2 chords per bar. We’ll do basically the same thing, but now we will play the 2nd chord of the bar during the eighth note following the dotted quarter note. This “anticipates” the chord, which creates really cool forward motion.

For this, let’s use a simple I vi ii V progression in C, and we’ll add an extra I chord at the end to resolve everything. 

This should give you a good sense of what this rhythm is, so now I recommend that you apply it to all the progressions we went over in the “Essential Jazz Progressions” Toolbox video (and any progression you are familiar with), and of course, practice them in different keys!

If you want some extra work on this subject, check out our video “Charlestons Rhythms Swing Exercises”. It has a wealth of ideas and exercises to practice using this basic rhythm.


Basic Straight Eighths Comping Rhythms

Now let’s look at some basic comping rhythms that use straight eighths (as opposed to swung eighths like the Charleston).
What people normally call “Latin Jazz” has many different flavours, but we will use Brazilian Bossa Nova, as the basis for the following straight eighths rhythms.

Similar to the Charleston, these rhythms are used to create forward motion, so syncopation is a key factor. The first rhythm I want to show you is usually used with progressions that have 1 chord per bar. So, let’s take a look at it.
The next and final rhythm I want to show you is very simple, yet, very effective. Like the previews one, it makes use of anticipations to build momentum, and it’s is simply three-quarter notes played on the downbeats, followed by three-quarter notes played on the upbeats.


I also recommend you to try these rhythms out over any progression you know (or even over a standard!) and just have fun with them!

That's it for today's lesson! Comment below if you liked the lesson and any questions you might have :)


For intermediate guitarists ready to "crack the code" in jazz


Up Next: Browse More Free Lessons On the Blog ...

How to Improvise on Jazz Blues for Guitar

Five Chord Melody Tips and Stuff for Jazz Guitarists of ALL levels

Why We Need To Re-Think Jazz Performance

5 Tips for Avoiding Back Pain While Playing Your Guitar

The Chromatic Scale

Jazz Guitar Bios - Master List