A Guide to Lead Sheet Chords when Comping

by | Basic Theory, Jazz Standards

Recently I noticed that most lessons on comping for guitar focus primarily on the “rhythmic” aspect. While this is important, I believe that the harmonic implications are just as important, yet often neglected when discussing this subject. So I decided to do a lesson on several chord related aspects we must be aware of when comping from a lead sheet. Interested? If so, please read on…

Have you ever wondered why some lead sheets for a given standard have different chord symbol spellings? One might have a plain C in the second measure, while another one might have a Cmaj7, yet another one, a C followed by a triangle or even an Em/C!  And how about the ones that have every upper extension after the C…like Cmaj9(#11/13)? What are we as guitarists really expected to play? After all, we only have 6 strings and 4 fingers to play these chords.

In this video lesson I answer the above questions and more.  In doing so, I go into detail to help you make sense of the assorted spellings for different chord family symbols you are bound to encounter in various lead sheets. I also help you determine what extensions to play when they aren’t included. Furthermore I touch on the concept of voice leading which is crucial when comping. This is followed by a demonstration of how I would interpret the changes from a lead sheet to a popular standard as I comp.


  1. David Godfrey

    Excellent and very relevant information. No fluff…love it.

    • Richie Zellon

      Thanks David!

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