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Lesson Series

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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 2 - Part 7: Rhythmic Comping

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 18 **

Hi everyone. This issue I'm returning to the sticky subject of playing rhythm guitar, and 'comping' a bit of a Jazz Blues idea. I have said it before, but I don't mind saying it again, unless you can play rhythm guitar to a good to high standard, then it's absolutely pointless learning how to sweep pick, tap, speed pick alternate picked lines and generally shred up and down the fretboard at an impressive speed. Why? Well because if you want to be a pro player, then 95 per cent of the time you will be required to play great rhythm and groove that is stylistically correct in tone, feel and direction.

Most players out there that have been playing for any length of time, can knock out a fairly adequate solo. There are 15 year old kids on YouTube that can shred their copied licks at breakneck speed! What they all seem to ignore is rhythm, feel, tone, soul and groove. All the most important elements to being a guitarist that stands out amongst the ever-growing crowd and elements that will get you noticed and hopefully paid to play. Obviously, being able to improvise or compose a fantastic guitar solo is very important, but you can't have one without the other, and in my travels, I have noticed a lot of players have a huge hole in their playing when it comes rhythm.

So with that in mind, this issue I'm exploring comping a little groove, which then develops into a 1 chord per beat groove. If you can play it without stress or struggle, and make it sit and sound vibey, then great, you are obviously someone in control of the instrument, and well on the way to respected guitar god status. The chances are that you probably can't, which means you probably need to take your hairband off you guitar neck , cut down on the sweep picking and think about what we are looking at here. I know, because many years ago I was in the position of thinking I was pretty good, until I found myself playing in an orchestra pit with a theatre swing Jazz band, with chord charts in front of me telling me to play very grown up chords that moved on every beat of the bar! Suddenly I felt like a beginner and realised that sweeping, tapping and shredding was the easiest thing in the world. I struggled through it initially, but with every show my reading and rhythm chops got better and better. It was a six week gig, and by the end I was all over it. But that's not the point. There are players out there that can be all over one chord per beat from the word go.

So please take a look at our little comp here and see where you are on being able to execute it proficiently. It's a good exercise in chord voicings, time, groove, feel and tone. It starts fairly easy with a little A7 comp, but gets a little more complicated as the piece moves on. I am also using my 'thumb over the neck' technique, which opens up some great chord voicings and tricks that can be used in all styles of playing. Those of you with very small hands will struggle, but my hands are not massive. It's a very cool technique that can make stock chords sound great, because of the way you can voice chords, and add harmonic extensions with fingers that would normally be doing something. Hendrix was one of the first to be seen doing this. In fact, Hendrix was the first in many aspects of the guitar! Also, we do have some nice extended chords here, so Tom Quayle would be proud of us!

Have fun with it, and remember...... Rhythm, tone and feel is everything when it comes to real guitar playing.

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