Jazz Comping 2 – Extending the Chord Voicing Vocabulary

In the previous installment in this series we defined and applied chord voicings with the roots on the fifth as well as sixth strings. We will achieve an even higher degree of flexibility by defining and practicing the same major scale harmonic layout in the following system:
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Here, we also have the four essential shapes (in the order left to right: Maj7, Min7, Dom7, Min7b5):

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Cadence: II-V-I

Let’s add this knowledge to the cadence progression, II-V-I major key, from the previous column installment, by mixing up the three systems. Recall that the first voicing system has the chord’s root on the 6th string exclusively. The second voicing system has the root note on the 5th string and the third system, as illustrated above, the root is on the 4th string. Mixing the three systems will be really easy, if you have played through these applications in conjunction with the first column on Jazz Comping:

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Here are the voicing combinations for this key:

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There are obviously more possibilities in combining voicings from the three systems. Experiment by figuring out all the variations that you can think of.

Review the song Autumn Leaves and apply voicings from the third system discussed in this column. Approach this in the same way the cadences above were treated; for example, try to play all the changes of the song staying between frets III and VI.

Cadence: I-VI-II-V

In the example below, you can see the first eight bars of “Rhythm Changes” – a song form we encounter in jazz frequently; the sign Repeatmeans to repeat the chords from the previous two bars:

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The main building block here is a I-VI-II-V, essentially our now familiar II-V-I (Cm7, F7, Bbmaj7) with one extra chord added: the VI (G7). The diatonic seventh chord built on this root, G, is a minor seventh (examples a. through c.). But, as already mentioned, this often gets played as a dominant seventh chord (d. through f.):

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Once again, we can use a dominant seventh chord for step VI:

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Remember: There are plenty more possible variations of pairing up the three systems. I recommend searching for all of them, in as many keys as possible.

Below you’ll find the complete “Oleo” (S. Rollins). It is a song based on this typical form in jazz. You’ll notice that voicing diagrams for the song’s chords and progressions are illustrated just once, though a chord or progression may occur repeatedly in the song. Also, the voicings in this version all fall into one small region on the neck, which is made possible through the three voicing systems covered so far.

Download “Oleo”

In the next installment we will introduce extensions and alternate ways of voicing these basic chord types. That will bring about an even jazzier, and sometimes more modern, sound.