Watch the Part 3 Comping Jazz Standards online guitar lesson by TrueFire from Play Jazz Guitar 8: Advanced Rhythm Principles

Part 3 Comping Jazz Standards - (A) Overview is a video guitar lesson presented by Fareed Haque and is sourced from Jazz Comping Survival Guide.


How do we learn tunes? Learning tunes is essential. Usually folks learn tunes by memorizing the chords first from a fake book, and promptly forget the same tunes. Fake books are not for learning tunes they are a quick reference guide. Using fake books instead of your ear is the best way for your ear not to develop like anything if you don't use it you lose it, right? So don't use your ears, and they don't develop so don't come to me with "I'm tone deaf that's why I use the book" No, you use books and that's why you've become tone deaf use your ear and it will improve and eventually become a tool you can rely on. By the way, it has been rumored that I have set aflame certain students' Fake Books if they insisted on using them too much. That's not entirely accurate. The books just don't burn that well, and so once the fire had eaten through "It had to be you", "It might as well be spring", "I should care", "In a mellow tone", I had to take the books out of the restaurant we were playing at and keep re-lighting that sucker on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant until the MF was dead! Not surprisingly my student Greg's ears improved remarkably, almost immediately (I may have put his ears next on the ‘to burn' list) so it was definitely worth the $20 I paid him to buy and subsequently incinerate his fake book. We don't learn tunes from books! Learn 'em like this: Get the singers' version - Tony Bennet, Frank, Ella, Sarah, Carmen. Learn the words. Once you can sing it along with the recording then: Try to pick out the melody on your guitar. If you get stuck on some notes keep listening over and over. If you are really stuck - then and only then go to your ‘reference(!)' fake book to fill in any gaps. Then listen to the bass line and try to figure out some of the chords. Once you have a set of chords, try to analyze them using the principles of chord substitution. And reduce them to a simple basic chord progression. It's a good idea to always create a simple chord melody ‘version' of the tune using bass note + guide tones + melody so you can hear chords and melody and so you can play the tune by yourself, with duo trio or whatever setting you find yourself in.

Next step - transpose these tunes to keep them fresh and to really learn the melody transposing forces your ears to guide your hands to the notes in a new key - so it trains your ears automatically.