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#2338831 - 10/18/14 03:27 PM Freddie Green guitar comping.
PaulH Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/09/07
Posts: 18
Loc: Kent
I'm referring to the guitar comping style of 4 crotchets per bar, beats 1 and 3 soft and sustained, beats 2 and 4 louder and short. Not necessarily as good as Freddie Green did it, but a useful approximation.

Two questions;

1) what's the best way to simulate this on a keyboard, i.e can we get a reasonably good sound using the common guitar sounds on most keyboards?
2) Do other pianists/musicians find it hard to find guitarists who will play this style?

For me this style of guitar comping is the heart of, or most important part of much of the bigband/danceband music and most of the jazz, swing, dance, popular music from the last century, excluding latin and rock - get a guitarist doing that choo-chit-choo-chit and you hardly need the rest of the rhythm section, it provides that infectious beat that really makes it swing, is irresistible and so easy to play to or dance to. A lot of musicians, particularly drummers say it's the bass they need to listen to, but I think it's the guitarist the whole band should be listening to IF he's 'Freddie Green' comping and consequently is the most important musician: providing the beat and transforming the sound. I've played in lots of amateur bigbands and those with guitars usually end up sounding more like a rock band because they don't 'Freddie Green comp'. I've played in many smaller jazz bands, playing the usual 'standards', but the guitarists don't do this type of comping. Even when the guitarists know all the standards, many by heart, appear to be listening to lots of recordings they still don't do this kind of comping.

Whether it's a more 'busy' Basie piano solo like the start of One O'clock jump or the thinner style like Basies bigband All of Me I really struggle in bigbands to play what Basie does, but get home, setup the sequencer, find a vaguely suitable guitar sound, record the chords with a choo-chit-choo-chit style, add a simple two beats bass line, a simple swing cymbal or hihat and the transcribed Basie piano part works fine, or do the same with the jazz standards and I can lay back and take it easy or go for it with no problem. Why is it so hard to find guitarists that will do this comping? I hear the argument it might be boring for them, but as a pianist I love it when I can do something similar on the piano - provide a simple repetitive comping that makes it swing and everyone wants to play or dance to, and as I said above I think done reasonably well the guitarist becomes the most important musician in the band.

I think this guitar comping style is so important I want to try and simulate it on the keyboard. Using the piano sound doesn't seem to work nearly as well as a guitar. None of the usual guitar sounds on keyboards seem to sound quite right for this. Have other keyboardists/pianists been through the same process and could recommend a way to achieve a better comping guitar sound, or tips on playing style. Perhaps there is a basic guitar sound to choose, then use some EQ, etc, or mix in another sound? I'm no guitarist, but my understanding is it is playing the simple chords without extensions, depending on circumstances only 3 notes or only 1, but an important part might be that all the strings are struck but only 1 to 3 of them sounded, i.e. we hear the strumming of the other strings but not the full note, so the answer might be to mix in a percussive/strumming but not tuned guitar type sound with a guitar sound? I'm using a Receptor sound module, maybe there's a suitable guitar VST? But I want to play it live, not use some automatic comping system.

Piano & Music Accessories
#2338859 - 10/18/14 05:25 PM Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: PaulH]
Nahum Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 84
Loc: Israel
Listen to left hand Errol Garner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB3VfxfBlnY

#2338968 - Yesterday at 05:17 AM Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: PaulH]
PaulH Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/09/07
Posts: 18
Loc: Kent
Thanks Nahum, that's a good link. Yes I do a lot of that sort of left hand comping on the piano. To my mind that sort of comping sounds better on guitar so I want to try and do it with a suitable guitar sound on the keyboard. I think the right guitar sound cuts through better without muddying the sound or having to be too loud.

#2338985 - Yesterday at 06:38 AM Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: PaulH]
custard apple Online   blank
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2303
Loc: Sydney
Hi PaulH
I've been practising this on the piano.
To achieve the soft magical guitar sound, I've found it helpful to depress the left pedal about a third down, and pump the right pedal continuously.

#2339003 - Yesterday at 08:10 AM Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: PaulH]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 686
Loc: Leicester, UK

Really nice insight about the pedal and about shaping sound! To build on that here's part of a Dave McKenna transcription


His approach to "strumming" is discussed and you can see in the LH part exactly what's he's doing with chords.

PaulH ... I hear you about wanting to do it with a guitar sound and that so far your results have been better w/a guitar sound. BUT. It might be worth learning how to do it on a piano or with a piano sound on your keyboard. That means experimenting and trial and error is the key. As Dave McKenna and Nahum's Erroll Garner example show the piano sound itself lends itself to the style. It just that to make it work the subtle stuff has to be caught .. which is what CusA has spoken to ...

But when all's said and done if you like the guitar sound better well your solution is probably the best choice for you .... (and because you're doing it on a keyboard and guitar sound is part of that it makes perfect sense to see how far you can take it ... and it does depend too if you're looking to play in this style within a band or as a solo pianist.)

Edited by Mark Polishook (Yesterday at 08:12 AM)

#2339239 - Yesterday at 06:58 PM Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: PaulH]
PaulH Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/09/07
Posts: 18
Loc: Kent
Thanks everyone, I think it's turning into a very interesting discussion. I wish I had a real piano, I miss the real piano very much! Including all those half pedalling effects and want to experiment with the suggestions above. I think dps still have a long way to go despite the advances with VST's. Sadly these days it's virtually impossible to do band rehearsals or gigs on a real piano and I don't have room at home for a real piano as well as the keyboards.

I'm doing a lot of WWII/40's dances with the bigband where I've been trying hard to find (or attempt to arrange myself if a I can't find) authentic arrangements/transcriptions for all the dancers favourite numbers (which I think the keen 40's dancers, or listeners like about what we do), listening to that bigband music has made me realise the power of the 'Freddie Green' comping guitar. I've been concentrating on the bigband for quite a few years now but want to start getting back to smaller lineups or possibly solo which I'd partly given up due to the lack of real pianos at venues.

I see the guitar effect as another potentially very useful tool whether for a bigband, small ensemble or piano plus a.n.other. By chopping and changing on gigs with small lineup between piano only or any combination of piano/guitar/Hammond/ vibes/electric piano I think can offer a big variety of sound to keep the evening interesting and varied for listeners/dancers. And I think guitar left hand, piano right hand should create the illusion of a bigger band or add another dimension to the sound.

#2339296 - Yesterday at 09:32 PM Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: PaulH]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 686
Loc: Leicester, UK

I missed the part of your sig where I see you're in Kent. Which means visit Hurstwood Farms Piano in Seven Oaks if you can. It's a wonderful–actually AMAZING–piano shop and it's where I found my piano.

.... just keep at your explorations and your way will appear. And something you've mentioned that's important is just general awareness of feel and groove and swing. Because end of day THAT's why the technique exists in the first place. Meanwhile you've begun a great thread for others interested in the topic in general ...

#2339324 - Today at 12:01 AM Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: PaulH]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1528
Garner uses arm rotation with a forward lift off acceleration, no pedal. This technique produces a better longer rounded staccato sound (more guitar like). The simple hammer stoke technique that pianist sounds clipped, meaning the hammer technique produces a somewhat unpleasant overly short staccato.

#2339367 - 42 minutes 22 seconds ago Re: Freddie Green guitar comping. [Re: rintincop]
custard apple Online   blank
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/09
Posts: 2303
Loc: Sydney
Hi everyone
I agree this thread is really interesting.

Hi Mark
Thanks for the great link. I so wish I had a recording of Rose Room so that I could play along with Dave McKenna. Now that would be a very nice feeling.

Hi ritincop
Originally Posted By: rintincop
The simple hammer stoke technique that pianist sounds clipped, meaning the hammer technique produces a somewhat unpleasant overly short staccato.

Do you mean that a piano note when struck inherently decays in sound ?

This reminds me of an Alessio Bax (Italian pianist) quotation from a PianoStreet interview:
" The piano is the most versatile and wonderful of instruments. At the end of the day, though, it is merely a very complex piece of machinery.
As a pianist, one needs to develop a big repertoire of 'tricks' that will make it sound like other instruments – or the human voice – in order to create the illusion of a real legato (which is something that the piano, a percussive instrument, is physically unable to do) or to create the illusion of a crescendo on a note once it’s been already struck. Those are just few examples. There are many factors involved in this process. Voicing is one of the most important ones, but also timing, pedaling, and of course, sound production.
It all starts in the imagination of the pianist, but then one needs to develop the tools to consciously make it all happen at the right time."

The first step as I see it, is to imagine the guitar feel/sound in one's head.


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