Jazz Drumming Comping: The Spicy Art of Accents, Timing, and Fills

Apr 19 / Von Baron
Imagine you're sitting at a Jazz club, sipping on a martini and nodding your head to the smooth rhythms of the music. Suddenly, the drummer starts going wild with his comping and you can't help but wonder if he's having a seizure or if his drum sticks are possessed.

Don't worry, he's not convulsing - he's just using his mad skills in Jazz drumming comping. The word "comping" is short for "accompanying."  It's how drummers support the music rhythmically while playing grooves.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show - just don't forget to tip the drummer, or he might start comping on you!


Unlike any other style of drumming, Jazz gives drummers freedom! We don't have to play the same boring drum beat from start to finish of a song with the occasional drum fill. 
Instead we can use all of our limbs to play rhythmic phrases and modified drum grooves to fit the music going on around us. It's not only liberating, it's so much fun to play!

The Art of Accents

Accents are the bread and butter of Jazz drumming comping. Accents in comping are like the spices that make a dish taste amazing. But just like with spices, you have to be careful not to overdo it.

Playing too many accents can make the music sound cluttered and confusing. So, it's important to choose your accents carefully and use them sparingly. 

It's All In the Timing

Timing is everything in Jazz drumming comping. You need to read the other musicians and anticipate their musical moves.

It's like trying to catch a ball that's being thrown to you before it even leaves the other person's hand. But don't worry, with practice and playing with other musicians, this will become second nature.

Filling In the Blanks

Drum fills are like the icing on the cake of Jazz drumming comping. They're the little flourishes you play between parts of your grooves.

Two great Jazz drummers that use drum fills a ton in their comping are Elvin Jones and Jeff "Tain" Watts.  Check out their playing on the following albums and you hear what I mean:

  1. Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil (Elvin Jones)
  2. Wynton Marsalis - Standard Time Vol. 1 - (Jeff Watts)

Drum fills make the music more interesting and exciting. But just like with icing, you have to be careful not to overdo it. If you play too many drum fills, the music can become too busy and just sound like a bunch of noise.

The Power of Pauses

Sometimes the most powerful thing you can play is nothing at all. Space in your comping can create tension and anticipation, making the next note or accent more impactful.

It's like the pause before the punchline of a joke. The pause makes the punchline even funnier and space will make you Jazz drums comping more musical.

Get Creative

Jazz drumming comping is an art form, and just like with any art, there's room for creativity and experimentation. The creativity is always related to the music that's going on around you. 

Don't be afraid to try new things or take risks if you think it'll make the music sound better. You never know what amazing rhythms and accents you might come up with.

A huge part of the creativity component is having strong drum set independence.  This means being able to play with all of your limbs in creative and ways without your coordination holding you back. 

To get to a higher level of drum set independence, check out my Jazz Drumming Patterns Course.  Only 8 exercises but by the time you finish the course, you'll be a new drummer!
Want to take your Jazz drumming comping skills from amateur hour to headliner status? Enroll in my Jazz Drumming Patterns Course today! 

Mistakes Happen

In Jazz, mistakes are just opportunities to improvise. If you hit the wrong accent or play a fill at the wrong time, don't panic. Just keep playing and try to weave your mistake into your comping.

I always say, "It's not Jazz if you don't fall on your face at least once on the gig." Who knows, you might come up with something even better than what you originally intended.

The Bottom Line

Jazz drumming comping is an essential element of Jazz music. You need to listen carefully the the music around your and blend your comping with the other musicians' playing.

Being a part of that musical conversation is so much fun and there's a lot your can do creatively when your drumming totally connected to and supporting the music. 

So, don't be afraid to dive in and try it out. Who knows, you might just discover something you didn't know you could play!


Jazz drumming comping at its best is insanely creative, musical and super fun to play.  It's kind of an art unto itself and something every drummer needs to learn to play Jazz. 

Use accents, timing, drum fills and space to make your Jazz drumming comping both blend with the music and stand out. 

Jazz drums comping is an incredible opportunity to interact musically with the other musicians in ways that you won't get to do in any other style of drumming. 

So, if you're interested in Jazz drumming comping, dive in. Join my Jazz Drumming Patterns Course today and become confident in this essential Jazz drumming skill. Keep swinging my friend!
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