Not all guitarists have big hands. Larger chords can scare guitarists who lack extreme digit length. That doesn’t mean all small fingered guitarists should quit guitar though. In fact, I know quite a few guitarists who have tiny hands and can still play some of the most difficult pieces.
To make larger chords such as the ever intimidating seventh chord more manageable there is a technique called comping.
Comping is simply playing the third and the seventh of a chord, leaving out the fifth and root. These two notes suddenly go from secondary to the root to primary notes, as they are the notes focused on when playing a comped chord.
Before we begin discussing comped chords in further detail, it is important that you understand a few things. First off, it is important that you understand how to build a seventh chord. To break a rule, you must first understand it. A seventh chord is built of one of three specific musical intervals.
For the basic chords we will be discussing today, we will only be using Major and minor seventh chords. A Major chord is a major seventh from the root note (eleven half steps) and a minor seventh chord is a minor seventh from the root (ten half steps), and as long as you understand how to build these two basic forms of seventh chords then you can go on.
If you don’t fully understand how seventh chords are formed, refer back to our lesson here. This lesson will give you all the information needed to construct the basic seventh chords we will be using today.
Secondly, you need to understand musical keys. If you don’t yet know your keys it is important that you take the time to learn. All chords are built using keys, and comped chords are no exception. If you find yourself having trouble with keys go back and review your keys to make sure you understand them fully.
If you fully understand seventh chord construction and musical keys, it is time to learn how to comp chords. As with all lessons, we will learn using C Major and a minor as they are the only musical keys which contain absolutely no sharps or flats.
The first chord we will comp is a C Major root position seventh chord built on the tonic. A C Major seventh chord consists of the notes C, E, G and B.
To comp this chord we would simply play E and B.
Sounds easy right? That’s because it is; chord comping is one of the easiest techniques in blues and jazz.
Next let’s comp an a minor root position seventh chord built on the tonic. A root position a minor seventh chord is built of the notes A, C, E and G.
To play a comped version of the chord we would simple play the notes C and G.
This concept may sound too easy and too good to be true, and that is because comping was developed to be easy. It was created so that musicians wouldn’t have to jump all over their instruments. And better than anything else, it works!
Now that you know how to comp chords, try comping some of your favorite guitar chords. Not only will they become much easier to play, but you will also be able to play progressions much easier as well. Have fun!