David Bloom(2)

There seems to be an assumption among many guitarists that comping chords and playing melodies are two entirely unrelated processes. Some players take great solos but approach the task of comping almost as a chore, playing uninspired sequences of disconnected block chords that, while they may correctly reflect the tune’s changes, don’t offer a hint of lyricism or melody. It’s not because these players are lazy, necessarily. They’re probably just unaware of how melodic and fun comping can be. (To hear the glories of great comping, spin some Wes Montgomery.)

My aim with my book Melodic Chords for Guitar: Vol. I is to hold students accountable for weaving good melodies into their chord progressions, which makes comping patterns come alive. This is done by making sure you’re really saying something melodically with the highest voice in the progression (the melody generated by the successive high notes of the chord sequence), because that’s the part listeners’ ears naturally latch onto.
A good introduction to melodic comping is this group of C minor II-V-Is (from Melodic Chords), which is based on the tendency in great melodies for large interval skips (those of a third or greater) to resolve by a melodic turn of a major or minor second in the opposite direction. This melodic movement— which you’ll spy within each three-note melodic phrase in the highest voice in each II-V-I progression below—creates a pleasing sense of resolution.
—As Told to Jude Gold

Guitarist/composer David Bloom is the founder and director of Chicago’s Bloom School of Jazz, which has been in operation since 1975. Learn more online at bloomschoolofjazz.com.