1.4 comping with a simple melody

In the last few lessons you have learned the chords to Tune Up by Miles Davis, so lets put it all together and comp the chords under this great melody.

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comping with a simple melody

Now you know the chords to Tune Up by Miles Davis, and are getting familiar with playing the three 2-5-1 progressions - how can we make these chords sound hip? 


The first step is to anticipate the beat - aim for 'the and of beat 4', or (4 +) as it's often written. Try playing through Tune Up with the backing video, but this time anticipate some of the chords on beat (4+). This will help with giving your chords forward momentum and really start to swing!

       Emin7                         A7                                DMaj7                        DMaj7

           1       2       3       4    +      1……

chord definition

now that we have got started, lets look at some basic, but essential chord definition

major triads

A chord is simply more than one note played at the same time. When dealing with chords in Jazz and popular music, we start with forming the chords from every second note in a scale. Below we have formed a ‘major triad’ using the root, third, and fifth notes from the C maj and D maj scales - a good knowledge of scales is very helpful and rather essential when dealing with Jazz terminology

Try forming the 12 major triads, one from each key. Start with E maj next - remember its the root, 3rd, and 5th from the major scale

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major and minor

Triads can either be major (happy sounding) or minor (sad sounding) the difference is when the third note of the major scale is lowered (or flattened) by a semi tone (or half step). In C maj the 3rd is lowered and the ‘E’ becomes an ‘Eb’

Try forming the 12 minor triads, one from each key - remember its the root, a flattened 3rd, and the 5th from the major scale

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We have learned how to play the three note triads from each key in both major and minor forms. Triads can also be played with the notes in any order called an inversion. In playing inversions the pianist can play chords witout moving their fingers too far - they also add colour and texture to your comping

Try forming the 12 major the 12 major triads in the inversions. Root position, 1st inversion, and 2nd inversion - then do the same again for the minor triads and their inversions

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7th chords

A 7th chord is when we add the 7th note of the scale to the triad

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7th chords differences

There are three main qualities of chords - major 7, dominant 7, and minor 7. We do not usually write the word ‘dominant’ when referring to this chord, we just say C7 or D7 etc. How are they different?The major 7 contains notes from the major scale in there natural state (un-altered) and has a very ‘lush’ and somewhat happy sound. The dominant 7 contains the same notes as the major 7 but the 7th has been flattened and has a bluesy sound. The minor 7 has the same notes as the major 7 but the 3rd and 7th have been flattened making a somewhat sad sound

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7th chords

Here is a bit of practice for you. Try playing the the 7th chords in each key - first make your way through the majors, then the dominants, and then the minors. The goal is to build some familiarity for the chords under your fingers, and to learn some good old fashioned theory - YIKES - there are 37 7th chords! 

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Just like the triads the 7th chords can be played in their inversions. Try these inversions in C maj and F maj an listen to the different textures - work to play the 7th chords in their dominant and minor inversions

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chord practice

As you can see, there is plenty of work with chords and their qualities. Major, dominant, and minor and then there are all the inversions! A great way to practice these is to incorporate them into your daily playing routine - you could start each session by running through the chords and their inversions. Try one key at a time playing the three qualities and their inversions - right, then left, and then both hands together

Be patient as this can take many years, but what’s the rush!