The Charleston

The Charleston figure is basically a rhythm which is used a lot in Jazz comping. It is fairly simple, and once you play it, you will definitely realize that you have heard it many, many times before. Here is the Charleston rhythm used to play a C Maj 7 chord:

charleston figure

As you can see, the chords fall on beats 1 and “2 1/2″ or better, on beat 1 and the “and of beat 2″. What this means is that, if you are counting your bar like this:

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 (accentuating the up-beats with the “and”),

then the second chord in the bar falls on the “and” after the 2nd beat, in other words, on the up-beat.

The Charleston figure in bars with 2 different chords

There are, of course, times when there are more than one chord in a bar, and in most of the cases, this second chord falls on beat 3. Here is an example of such a case (played one chord per beat, not using the Charleston rhythm):

chord progression

In cases like this one, the chord that falls on beat 3 (in the above example, the Am7 in the first bar and the G7 in the second bar) is anticipated half a beat earlier. Here is the above example played using the Charleston rhythm:

charleston figure

Try using this rhythm to comp over some pieces you already know. It is important to understand, though, that almost no rhythm is ever used consistently throughout the duration of a piece. There are always variations, but creatively using this rhythmic figure where appropriate will make your comping sound very interesting and professional.