Lesson | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | ? ? |

  1. Simple Bass Notes
  2. Boogie Woogie
  3. Open Position Voicings
  4. Walking Bass
  5. Closed position Chord voicings
    1. Skeleton Chords
    2. Jazz Chord voicings
    3. Chords Voicings Rulers
  6. Practice material


Comping Patterns
1C - 1G - 2C - 2F - 3C - 3G - 4C - 5C - 6C - 7C - 8C - 9C - 10C
11F - 12C - 13G - 14C - 15F - 16C - 17F - 18G - 19C

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BL Comp 1 - Simple Bass Notes

Comping Patterns : 1C - 1G - 2C - 2F - 3C - 3G

Audio Demos : CP 1 - 3

When a keyboard player plays an improvised accompaniment supporting a vocalist or soloist(s) it is called 'comping'.

When the pianist is part of a rhythm section (with bass and drums) his/her comping usually consists of open position chords (chord tones spread over more than one octave, usually played with both hands). The chords are played in rhythmic patterns that complement the bass and drums.

When providing a sole accompaniment the pianist is responsible for the bass line, rhythm and harmony.

  • Simple but effective comping can be produced by simulating a bass with the left hand, while playing rhythm patterns of chords in the right hand.

  • The left hand bass line usually includes the chord root on beat 1 of each bar.
    Other tones, especially the 5th of the chord, may occur on other beats.

  • The right hand chords sound best when the voicing straddles middle C.

The Blues Comping Patterns 1, 2 and 3 are simple patterns for sole accompaniment.

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BL Comp 2 - Boogie Woogie

Comping Patterns : 4C - 5C - 6C - 7C - 8C - 9C

Left Hand : Boogie Bass Patterns   (Click on any pattern to hear its Audio)

Audio Demos : CP 4 - 9

Boogie bass patterns are very useful for keyboard comping.
Simply combine a boogie pattern in the left hand with a rhythm pattern of chords in the right hand.

Comping Pattern 8 is a typical style used by Fats Domino. But less busy patterns can be just as effective.

Playing a disciplined repetitive rhythm pattern produces appropriate comping for many tunes. It is also good practice and expands your vocabulary of rhythmic motifs and phrases.
Eventually you should become more flexible, especially with the right hand.
Repeat a pattern for 4 or 8 bars, then introduce a new idea.

Good comping sounds like a melody. It becomes a rhythmic counter-melody to the melody line of the soloist. Comping Pattern 7 is a simple example of this.

The blues is an important musical form in Rock and Roll music.
In Rock and Roll the blues is played in two different rhythm styles

  1. Shuffle style, using swing quavers as in Jazz

  2. Straight Eighths, where all quavers are equal half beats

Some Boogie patterns are suitable for the Straight Eighths style. Comping Pattern 9 is a good example.


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BL Comp 3 - Open Position Chord Voicings

Comping Patterns : 10C - 11F - 12C - 13G - 14C - 15F

Audio Demos : CP 10 - 15

When one or two chord tones are lifted out of a closed position chord, and played an octave higher (or lower), the chord becomes an open position chord voicing. Open position chord voicings are generally played with two hands.
Two sets of open chord voicings are used for the Comping Patterns 10 to 15.

In Comping Patterns 10 to 13 the I chord is played with chord tones 1 and 7 in the left hand, and chord tones 3 and 5 in the right hand.
The IV and V chords are extended to include the 9th (e.g.the G for F9 and the A for G9). Chord tones 1 and 3 are played in the left hand, and chord tones 7 and 9 in the right hand.
This provides smooth transitions from chord to chord.


Play the two notes in the right hand (3 5, or 7 9) always with the thumb and index finger. This leaves three fingers conveniently available for additional chord tones or melody notes.

In Comping Patterns 14 and 15 the chord tones 3 and 7 are played in the left hand, and chord tones 1 and 5 in the right hand.


The three most commonly used types of 7th chords are the major 7th chord, the dominant 7th chord and the minor 7th chord.
These three chord qualities all have the chord root and the 5th in common (black notes above). The distinction between the three chords lies in their different 3rd and 7th chord tones.


The 3rd and 7th are therefore the essential chord tones.

When playing chords always include these two notes in your voicing. Other tones can be added, especially to dominant chords, to create colour and musical tension.

In dominant chords you may add any note you wish, even flats or sharps, but avoid the 4th (F for the C7 chord) or the major 7th (B natural for the C7 chord).

Also check out the Chord voicings ruler

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BL Comp 4 - Walking Bass

Comping Patterns : 16C - 17F - 18G - 19C

Audio Demos : CP 16 - 18

Walking bass lines are played with the left hand.
They simulate the hard driving and swinging walking bass lines used by Jazz bass players.

Walking bass consists of a steady flow of crotchets (quarter notes) on all downbeats. The occasional quaver or quaver triplet can be included.

There are two approaches.

  1. The walking bass consists of chord tones only.
    In the blues use the major 6th (C6) or dominant 7th (C7) chord tones.

  2. The walking bass consists of chord tones, scale tones and passing tones.
    In the blues the scale lines usually outline the Mixolydian modes.
    Comping patterns 16 - 18 show this approach.

For approach 2 use the following rules as a guide.

  • On beat 1 : play the chord root. If the same chord continues for another bar, play any chord tone on beat 1.

  • On beat 2 & 3 : play chord tones, scale tones or a passing tone.

  • On beat 4 : play a semitone or whole tone above or below the next chord root.

When two chords occur in the same bar, repeat the two roots (e.g. / Am7 D7 /, play : A A D D ).
Play walking bass lines within a 2 octave range from G below middle C downwards. Let the line fall and rise smoothly.
The occasional large skip can be very effective.

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BL Comp 5 : Closed position Chord voicings

Closed position chord voicings are chord voicings of which all component chord tones fall within the span of one octave. For example : C E G Bb   or   F A C E.

Closed position chords are usually played with one hand, either in the left hand while playing with your right the melody or improvisation, or in the right hand while playing base notes or a boogie pattern in the left.

  • Play left hand chords so that the lowest chord tone always falls within the range from Middle C to A a 10th lower, shown on the Diagram below in green.
  • Position right hand chords so that they straddle Middle C.

These pitch ranges ensure the best and appropriate sounds, not too muddy, not too tinny, and out of the way of the melody line. The Keyboard Chord Voicings page contains effective single handed chord voicings for the Blues in the keys of G, C, F and Bb.

Alternate chord voicings
For smooth transitions from chord to chord use alternating chord voicings between adjacent chords on the Circle of Fifths.
Here are the four closed position chord voicings for C7, F7 and G7 :

Chord Voicings C7 F7 G7
Root position = 1 3 5 b7 C E G Bb F A C Eb G B D F
1st inversion = 3 5 b7 1 E G Bb C A C Eb F B D F G
2nd inversion = 5 b7 1 3 G Bb C E C Eb F A D F G B
3rd inversion = b7 1 3 5 Bb C E G Eb F A C F G B D

For smooth transitions from one chord to the next alternate :
  • Root position for I7 with 2nd inversions for IV7 and V7 (or vice versa), or

  • 1st inversion for I7 with 3rd inversions for IV7 and V7 (or vice versa).

For the Blues in C for example you can combine these voicings :

Audio 4.5
or these :

Audio 4.6

When you start to learn a song it is a good idea to play the left hand chords in steady crotchets (one chord on each beat). This helps you to play the right hand melody correctly.
Once you have that under control you can vary the left hand rhythm. Use it for emphasis or to create a simple rhythmic counter melody to the right hand. Leave space where the right hand is busy, be more active where the right hand plays a long note or where there is a rest.

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BL Comp 5a - Skeleton Chords

Leaving out one or two of the four chord tones produces a lighter chord voicing ('skeleton chord').
This is in particular useful for electronic keyboards, which do not do justice to the complete four note chords.

The three most common chords in Blues and Jazz are the Major 7th chord, the Dominant 7th chord and the Minor 7th chord. In each key these three chords always have their root note (C for C chords) and 5th (G for C chords) in common. Their defining chord tones are their 3rds and 7ths. These are their essential chord tone.

Audio 4.7

You can therefore omit the root or the 5th of the chord (these notes are covered by the bass in a small ensemble anyway).
Always include the chord's 3rd and 7th in your chord voicing, for they define the quality of the chord.

  • M3 + M7 produce the major 7th chord quality

  • M3 + m7 produce the dominant 7th chord quality

  • m3 + m7 produce the minor 7th chord quality
For the Blues in C for example you can use these 3-note chord voicings.

Audio 4.8

Or use the purest skeleton chords. These sound really good.

Audio 4.9

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BL Comp 5b : Jazz Chord voicings

Popular Jazz voicings use higher chord extensions, especially 9th chords with the root note left out and the 5th replaced by the 6th of 13th (= 6th one octave up).
Mainly 1st and 3rd inversions are used : voicings built on the chord's 3rd (often called "A voicings"), alternating with voicings built on the chord's 7th ("B voicings").

For example :
C9 = C E G Bb D   becomes   E A Bb D   or   Bb D E A
C9 = C E G Bb D   becomes   3 6  b7  9   or   b7  9  3  6

F9 = F A C Eb G   becomes   Eb G A D   or   A D Eb G
F9 = F A C Eb G   becomes   b7  9  3  6   or   3 6  b7  9

G9 = G B D F A     becomes   F A B E   or   B E F A
G9 = G B D F A     becomes   b7 9 3 6   or   3 6 b7 9

A lighter 3-note version of these voicings leave out either the 6th or 9th.
For example :
C9 = C E G Bb D   becomes   E Bb D   or   Bb E A
C9 = C E G Bb D   becomes   3 b7  9   or   b7  3  6

F9 = F A C Eb G   becomes   Eb A D   or   A Eb G
F9 = F A C Eb G   becomes   b7  3  6   or   3 b7  9

G9 = G B D F A     becomes   F B E   or   B F A
G9 = G B D F A     becomes   b7 3 6   or   3 b7 9

Note that the 3rd and 7th are always included in these Jazz voicings.
When maintaining a chord over several beats you can alternate between 6th and 5th or between 9th and root for some variation. For example :

E Bb D - E Bb C - E Bb D -   or   Bb E A - Bb E G - Bb E A -

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BL Comp 5c : Chords Voicings Rulers

Chord voicins rulers for dominant chords are included to make it easy for you to find the various voicings in each key.
Note that the two complementary Voicings rulers are next to one another. So that when you use a voicing for your I chord on the left ruler, the complementing IV and V chord voicings are determined by the ruler to its right (or vice versa).


Cut out the Note Names ruler at the top of the page and laminate it or paste it onto a wooden or metal ruler. Keep the rest opf the page intact and laminate it too. Align the root of the chord on the Note name ruler against the 1 (or R)on any one of the Voicings rulers to find the required chord voicing.

Example :


To find the Jazz "A voicing" for the F chord align F on the Note Names ruler with R on the Voicings ruler. Then read of the chord voicing : A D Eb G (or its 3-note version : A Eb G.

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BL Comp 6 : Practice Material

Comping Patterns
1C - 1G - 2C - 2F - 3C - 3G - 4C - 5C - 6C - 7C - 8C - 9C

10C - 11F - 12C - 13G - 14C - 15F - 16C - 17F - 18G - 19C

Boogie Patterns - Chord Voicings - Chord Voicings Rulers

Key Basic Blues Embellished Blues
Blues in G slow fast slow fast
Blues in C slow fast slow fast
Blues in F slow fast slow fast
Blues in Bb slow fast slow fast

More Play-along Tracks

Copyright © 2011 Michael Furstner (Jazclass). All rights reserved.