Two Handed Comping

Hi Hayden,

I am going through your video on the subject matter.

Your “rule” of taking the notes of a rootless chord and moving the second note of the four notes to the top, is very interesting.

Can this idea be used for all or most chords in all jazz standards ?

Essentially, we’re playing the 3rd. and 7th. in the left hand and then usually the 5th. and 9th. in the right hand !?

Of course, there will be altered chords to consider and then, I guess, we can use the required changes or extensions to suit ?

I am trying to teach a young, very enthusiastic 14 year old the basics of the 12 bar blues and wondered if I should get him to apply this “comping rule” to his learning ?

Best regards,


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Hi John,

Great questions here!

This is the 2 handed comping lesson for others interested:

Now onto your questions:

Yes this is a concept called “Drop 2” and is very useful device to access more sophisticated sounds from rootless voicing.

“Drop 2” can be applied to many different situations, but in the context of rootless voicings, we are taking a ‘closed position voicing’ which means the notes are spaced within an octave.

By dropping the second to top note into our left hand, the notes of the voicing then extend over an octave, and so we then call it an “open position voicing”. It also creates more interesting intervals combination than stacking the notes sequentially such as 3-5-7-9.

The other key benefit is that you can play 2 notes in each hand and have more freedom to add extensions and alterations with your right hand and manoeuvre and manipulate each hand individually.

Yes it can be used for every jazz standard, but predominantly in a comping setting.

Without a bass player present, it’s important to establish the base of the harmony, which is the root. These voicings omit the root because it is being covered by the bass player.

For solo piano performance, playing all rootless voicing with 3-7 in the left, and 5-9 in the right would sound ‘thin’ without the root of the harmony.

Yes exactly!

Over all dominant chords experiment with altering the 9 up or down a half step to the #9 or b9. You can also add both in quick concession which creates a nice effect and adds rhythmic interest.

Also experiment with the or the #5/b13, and combining this with the b9 or #9.

There are lots of possibilities which will give you many different colours and textures.

The b9 sound is a beautiful and subtle sound… experiment with that one first.

Wonderful! It’s great to pass on skills and it must be fun working with a young and enthusiastic student.

If you are playing with a jazz band then yes drop 2 can be effective

I personally like to to play R-3-7 in my left hand, and then stack 4ths of top. So for example a voicing for F7 could be:

Left Hand: Eb - A - D which is b7-3-13
Right hand: G - G - F which is 9-5-Root (this creates a stack of 4ths from the 3(A) upwards which is really nice in my opinion)

Then you can play that same right hand stack (G-C-F) over left hand voicings for F7, Bb7, and C-7.

Experiment with that stuff too!

If you are playing blues in a solo piano context:

Left hand shuffle patterns are common when playing solo blues. I will ask Steve - our Blues teacher - to cover this as we haven’t included it on the website. It isn’t a style that I play or perform but I know Steve is fluent with it.

Walking bass is also very common, Tuomo gives a nice masterclass here on Walking Basslines Over Blues:

I hope this helps John and I will update this thread with relevant lessons as they are created.

Cheers! :sunglasses: