Rythmn Patterns for duo/trio

Question by Pierre
(Angers, FRANCE)

Hi/bonjour Marc,

First, thanks a lot for your amazing work and great help! This site is very informative and well made.

I’ve been playing guitar for quite many years and jazz for just a few. Playing with an other guitarist as a duo, I often have the feeling that my comping/accompanying patterns are poor and repetitive. If I try to do something more complex (using more subs/pedals/inversions/reharmonization), I’m afraid of confusing the soloist…

Would you give us some clues about accompanying in a duo or trio formation (no bass player)?
I know the question is a bit too open, but I’d like to know your feeling.

Thanks again,


Hello Pierre,

I know it’s been a long while since you asked your question, but I really wanted to provide a thorough answer (with video and all!)

Alors, voilà : c’est fait!

In order to create more interesting comping in small jazz ensembles, I think it’s necessary to consider the rhythmic aspects first.

Here, I just published a video and PDF containing five key jazz rhythms for you to practice…

If you become agile with the rhythms and placement (even displacement) everything should be fine with your accompaniments.


More Suggestions

Of course, creating interest in comping while remaining “appropriate” for the situation is not just about rhythms. Here are other points to keep in mind.

  • Study Harmony
    Learn new chord shapes and memorize progressions daily. Be aware of voice leading (especially the upper note) and imitate the jazz legends. The more you know…
  • Know the Tune
    Usually, memorizing the tune at hand is helpful. I find I always comp better when I’ve been playing a certain song for a long time. It seems like the chords “play themselves” (plus I have more brain processing power to listen…)
  • Listening
    While comping always listen to everything that’s happening around. Keep in mind your chordal playing is part of the “big picture” of sound coming from the ensemble.
  • Interaction
    Simply listen and go with the flow of the soloist (or the other player when in duo). Hopefully, your comping will sound close to a conversation. When it’s perfectly balanced, you should feel as is your music is merely reacting to others!
  • (Hard) Play in different keys
    I find I always comp better when I worked on the tune in 5 keys or so. It seems like my ears and brain process the chord progression in a “functional” way (instead of moving from shape to shape on the guitar…)

I sincerely hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions (post a comment here) and I’ll try and be quicker on answering this time. (-;

A bientôt,

Marc-Andre Seguin

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