Jazz Comping 5 – Quartal Shapes

In the first two installments in this series on comping, we defined and practiced the major scales by stacking thirds on every one of the seven diatonic steps, resulting in diatonic seventh chords. In this last unit, we will use fourths in the same manner to arrive at a very modern sounding approach to comping and chord melody playing.

Let’s see what happens when we stack two fourths on top of every step in the key of F-major/ D-minor using the fourth string for the lowest notes:

Example 1

Notice how this shape Shapeappears on five of the seven steps! This repetition makes such a sequence really easy to play. Let’s do the same with the lowest note on the G-string; look for a similar occurrence:

Example 2

On this last example, it sounds great to play the fourth or fifth string as a pedal tone against the quartal shapes. We obtain the sound of D-Aeolian or accordingly A-Phrygian. Try that sound and also the 6th string for the pedal to get a taste for E-Locrian. All these church modes are parallel modes in F-major.

Then, figure out this quartal system for different keys. You’ll see that the structure and sequence of the three different quartal basic shapes is always the same. Experiment in those different keys with more open string pedal tones for varying effects.

It is also interesting to stack three fourths on top of every scale tone:

Example 3

We will soon apply these shapes for a chord melody on the song “Beautiful Love.” But let’s first look at the scale application from a different angle:

Example 4

Mixing of Standard Voicings and Quartal Shapes

Example 5

Using the position above for a II-V-I in F-major, quartal shapes can be inserted to make this progression a bit more modern sounding and hip. Check out the following:

Example 6

To conclude this series on jazz comping we will look at a chord melody arrangement using this approach with quartal shapes. This familiar song (from Jazz Comping 1) features the first eight bars as finished. I added the remainder of the form unfinished for you to practice on. Print out this page and get busy with the guitar and a pencil. Experiment with mixing up quartal shapes and standard jazz voicings and sometimes just stating the melody with maybe the bass note underneath.