Knowing hundreds of standards?

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  1. jorgemg1984
    Member

    Another VERY important thing- learn the right changes! Transcribe from good versions - Ella Fitzgerald, Miles, Coltrane, Jarrett, Kurt, Bernstein... guys that usually play a lot of standards and know them! Dont learn tunes from the Real Book, you will be in trouble when playing with serious cats - 90% of the standards are played with different changes from the ones in those books.

    Oh and another important way of learning tunes is not using sheet music and getting the habit of playing from memory... You will get the form much more internalized and the habit of following the bass... you get lost more in the begging but after some time it really pays up! And you interact much more and your solos can anticipate what is going to happen instead of just reacting...

    In sum: transcribe the changes from a good record; learn the melody by ear; memorize it!

    As a side note I tried to go to a jam session recently and there were maybe 5 or 6 guys on stage, all reading from the real book... I didn't even stayed long enough to know what tune it was because I so pissed - that's exactly how not to learn standards and how those are people are all lying to themselves by going to jams and read a poorly transcribed song from a book. Of course the playing really sucked for the two minutes I was there...

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  2. Avoid Miles' versions---they are often wrong. Two examples off the top of my head ---"When lights are low" and "well you needn't". one of the few benefits of being a jazz musician in florida is that I've had the experience of playing with some good, retired jazz musicians---like John Laporta,Bob Haggard (who wrote "What's New) Dick Hyman(semi-retired because he still does a lot) Buster Cooper and John Lamb (both former Ellington)and a bunch of others and they would always gripe about Miles' changes and about the wrong changes that younger people play. You should start learning the tune from the original piano music or a recorded version of the composer playing it if you can and then compare it to other versions to see what they did.

  3. jorgemg1984
    Member

    really? miles ears were so legendary... :/ but i guess stella`s wrong chords come from his arrangement. I think Peter Bernstein used to go to the NY Library to get the original standards sheet music and arrange it from there.

  4. monk
    Member

    Hey laruenickelson, thanks for the reply :)

    I would think that the very basic knowing of a tune is to be able to perform it solo with intro - make the changes clear - ending .. then as time goes by, make it more refined and sophisticated and true to oneself and connect more and more emotionally

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  5. silverwater
    Member

    Well I guess I'm going to have to take your guys' words for it that people can know that many tunes. That's pretty incredible.

    It's not so much the learning part that impresses me, (anyone can learn a couple tunes per week for 50 years) it's the retention part that boggles my mind. I'm not 30 yet and I estimate the amount of jazz tunes I've leaned to be around 1,000...but how many of those could I play perfectly right now, chords/melody/soloing, without taking a quick peek at a chart? 10%, at MOST. All those tunes by Wayne, Joe, Woody, Herbie...those tunes are freakin' hard. Yeah you can memorize Beyond All Limits and One Finger Snap and Virgo...but to play stuff like that at a gig from memory after not playing it for a couple years, hell even a couple months, is impressive. I even spaced it on Confirmation at a gig last week, and I used to play that song all the time.

    Well I suppose the bright side is I've managed to identify another weakness that needs attention. I don't think memorizing 5,000 tunes is a realistic goal for myself (or most people), but at least I know there's room for improvement.

  6. Well everyone forgets stuff--Jack told me he had to relearn Lush Life 3 times. And now he would be 75 or 80 so I'm sure he has lapses in his memory. Also--the standards he knew were mostly easier than the stuff by Wayne and Herbie and those guys. I think the thing that helps me the most is playing the tunes on a regular basis---even just at home .

  7. guitarmo
    Member

    If you are forgetting tunes often, did you every really know them??

  8. silverwater
    Member

    Yes, I did.

  9. TruthHertz
    Member

    The quote I hear all the time is "learn it. Then forget it." I'm always learning them, really knowing them, then forgetting them, really forgetting them. I figure it's like people are always telling me "Don't keep pictures in your camera, you're going to want to take a great picture and then you'll be out of memory." My tune brain is like that.

    Seriously though, each time I learn a tune, I learn it by changes, by ear, by feel, by eye (the page), by kinesthetic relationship with the instrument, but the ear thing is by far the most important. Tunes I remember from my childhood I remember note for note. Those lessons on piano I read from the page, not really. Has anyone addressed just how important good ear training is in learning a tune? That's where your music memory gets its filing cabinet. Train your ear, each time you learn a tune, it not only makes the filing cabinet bigger, but it fine tunes the filing system. It makes your retention better, you see commonality more clearly. It moves you towards the "universal tune" you develop in your mind. That's the value of learning lots of tunes, in my opinion.
    David

  10. Joxo
    Member

    ok, knowing several 1000 songs is all good. Knowing a lot of theory , all about jazz history , recordings, classic solos to.

    In my experence all that knowledge is not always displayed in the playing. Thats whats matters to me. Information is nice but focus on making music based on what u got and add stuff to expand your musicality, not to win the jazzquiz ....

    Learn tunes u like. Learn tunes that can help you progress as a player. And sure, learn tunes to be able to play with others. Forget about the amount of songs and the fear of not knowing. Focus on music. /J

  11. Din
    Member

    Learn music that makes you happy to play, it's easy.

  12. moontrane
    Member

    if you make it all into ear training it gets pretty hard to forget stuff

  13. silverwater
    Member

    Yeah Joxo & Din...I agree with you both. If you don't really like a tune you're going to have a hard time memorizing it. I'm sure I can still play every part on Stairway to Heaven or Comfortably Numb even though I haven't attempted to in a decade.

    TruthHertz, Moontrane: I get using your ear to help you remember tunes...I don't really have a method for doing this, but if you do I'd like to hear it.

    In fact it would be cool to hear how some people actually go about learning tunes. My method is just: Play it with the book, then play it without the book.

  14. washabaugh
    Member

    What are people's opinions on Ralph Patt's "Vanilla Book" in term of accuracy?

    http://www.ralphpatt.com/VBook.html

    I use this, wikiphonia, and the real book to try to seem what a tune has going on. Any other resources that people find helpful???

  15. jorgemg1984
    Member

    Nothing replace your ears...

  16. TruthHertz
    Member

    By the way, there's an Aebersold volume that outlines the primary DNA structure of standard tunes and constructs some good permutations. I think it's called How To Learn Standards or something like that. It directly addresses the fact that tunes are pieces of a finite number of familiar structures put together in different ways.
    Somebody should do a study for short story writers of how many sentences they know. Maybe the sheer number would discourage new writers from ever starting because the number is so high.
    I used to learn a new tune whenever I felt I needed to. I'd hear something on a CD, I'd figure out the key, the form, where the turnarounds were, what kinds they were, what happens in the bridge, and just listen and really enjoy the tune. After I got the melody so I couldn't get it out of my head, this is a tune I felt I needed, right? I'd play it by ear.
    Now I'll admit that more modern tunes aren't nearly as easy as the old standards. A tune of Binney's or a Kurt or Mark Turner head is really helpful to have a chart to but after a little while it is made up of familiar things.

    All that was fine and enough for me... until this thread. Now I feel my tune weenie is just too small. I need to learn more tunes! Get my tune count up! So I decided to learn kids tunes, they're standards everyone knows. It's an easy way to get your tune count up! I just learned Pop Goes The Weasel. I've got it in 9 keys so far, so in 3 days I've got my count up 9. Hey, this is not bad after all. Next is Mary Had a Little Lamb. I think that's gonna be easy as long as I can find the tab for it. I just bought John Cage's 4'33 but it's in standard notation. I'm going to have to find a recording of that, cheat a little and learn that one a measure at a time. Then learn that in all 12 keys. Anyone know a guitar recording of that piece? I can learn that tune just for comping.
    I'm gonna have a scary number of tunes by the end of the year.
    David

  17. Neither
    Member

    LOL !
    Frank Zappa recorded 4'33'', but I'm not sure he played guitar on it (in A Chance Operation: The John Cage Tribute, on the Koch label), maybe he was only singing...
    Anyway, If you want to transcribe 4'33'' for guitar, there is a recording (poor quality) on youtube :

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  18. TruthHertz
    Member

    Thank you Neither. VERY helpful! Just between you and me though, I always thought of this in andante, and he's obviously taking this at least allegro if not presto (just look at how many passengers are zipping along with him) and he MUST have added extra measures at the end to compensate for this. Last I looked, this was NOT an improvisational piece. And if you time it, it's actually a tiny bit over 4'33. Now if I might add 4'35 to my list of "tunes I know" then ka-ching! I just learned another tune. Heeeeeeeyyyy, that means I can know an infinite set of derivative pieces. I just found out how I could learn 5,000 pieces. No sweat.
    I'm the MAN!!
    David

  19. moontrane
    Member

    you turn it into ear training by listening to it a bunch of times and singing along, trying to the best of your ability to figure it all out in your head before you get to your instrument. By that time the key won't really matter so much. Eventually you get to the point where hearing something is like seeing something, your mind will observe sound before it quantifies it with a label, i.e feeling that a note is a sharp eleven instead of calling it as such. In short your ear becomes faster than your mind and sensation becomes more important than identification. Also if you ever want to know hundreds of standards you'll have to throw out the book or at least only keep the table of contents. Learning tunes off of a page gets rid of the aural and most important step to learning a song. Instead of hearing and playing, you are playing than hearing which at least for me ruins the tune for me.

    The best way to get started with this is to take a few standards (my one and only love, autumn leaves etc) and listen to them over and over until you have the words and melody memorized and then try to get the chords. Listen to the bass line and try to pick out what the chord qualities are and how they relate to the melody. In the beginning this will be frustrating and slow but by about the fifty count you'll be quick enough at it to not need the book.

    Aside from the notable harmonically fancy standards like you stepped out of a dream or a green dolphin street type tune the rest are very very simple (i guess i'll have to change my plan, pennies from heaven). I think that anyone can do this with patience and dedication.

    Always try to learn the regional repertoire, that's what will really get you. aside from that its enough just to take joy in melody and learn the tunes you like.

  20. Anny Mouse
    Member

    Great advice Moontrane. Best yet. That's really the only way.

    The problem some players face with this is they'd rather learn from the book real quick because in reality they don't actually love listening to standards... unless they're being played by their favorite player...and then it's really more about hearing (ie. Kurt) play Inner Urge, than actually loving the tune Inner Urge. Then they run the risk of playing the tune like (insert name here) plays it, rather than having a reference of 10+ people who play it to draw from.

  21. moontrane
    Member

    you've got to love the songs and respect that they need to be known. so much of the younger generation is entirely without a desire to learn the most basic currency of jazz, its disheartening. There's something especially deep in the old songs, a certain melodic identity that only comes out of songs from that era. That being said these days its certainly just as important to know as many standards as you do bop heads, Wayne shorter tunes, Stevie wonder etc. A working professional is not going to play stablemates at a wedding, you know? Not everyone wants to learn all the tunes but people who don't really know jazz very well are going to want to hear tunes like take five or girl from ipanema.

    I think i have spoken my piece to the extent that it can be, i hope that what i said was helpful.

    Don't be jive! Learn tunes and learn them well.


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