LearnJazzPiano.com archives: Tune Sources
gandydancer44 -- 01/06/2007, 03:33:05 -- #32206
Mark Levine states in his Jazz Piano Book: "The very best way to learn tunes is to transcribe them off of records yourself and as ability allows, to make this your primary source." As a relative newcomer(my first post) how one would go about this wondrous process?

wdennissorrell -- 01/06/2007, 09:38:39 -- #32206
Listen, listen, listen. Completely immerse yourself in that tune.
Peace out.

jaledin -- 01/06/2007, 09:55:18 -- #32206
To give you an idea, over the past week I learned a few new (to me) tunes ("Deep in a Dream," "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "Dexterity") off the records.  Sonny Clark for "Deep in a Dream" and Barry Harris for the other two.

I like to transcribe the head *exactly as played* by a certain artist, and learn the tunes that way.  If needed, I can then go back and listen to how other people played the heads and try to make a master leadsheet.  For example, "Dexterity" is obviously a Bird tune, so it's also essential to see how it was originally played, and if there are any difficulties in translating to the piano, how other pianists got around those difficulties.  

Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell are two great non-pianist sources I've turned to in the past for tunes -- clean tones, relatively simple voicings, very much straight-ahead in their embellishments of the melodies.  

One major advantage in this method is that you tend to not forget the tunes as easily.  You can also vouch for their accuracy (relative to the performance you're transcribing), unlike just reading out of the Omnibook or Real Book, or somewhere else that can't be trusted 100%.  You'll also pick up voicings, rhythmic hits, intros, and things like that, even if you don't necessarily write those down.

As for the *how*, well that's already been answered above -- it's just listening.  Half-speed, full-speed, again and again, however makes sense to you.  You'll get it right eventually, no matter how you like to work, even if it takes you a long, long time in the beginning.  Have patience, and if you write down your transcriptions, try to write neatly in pencil -- the better organized your staff paper, the easier things will be for you as you need to make corrections.  Draw the bar lines ahead of time.  Steer clear of ethereal ballads if this is your first tune -- the rubato and such can be quite tricky to write down accurately.  For fun, you could pick a tune which has lots of errors (compared to the original recording) in the Real Book ("Sippin' at Bells," e.g.) and try to make corrections -- maybe that's a gentle way to get into it.  Or a tune with multiple versions, like "Well You Needn't"?

gandydancer44 -- 01/25/2007, 21:19:29 -- #32206
A somewhat tardy thanks much for the comments and suggestions on transcribing tunes. I'm
gaining a bit of confidence and seeing some progress. Really beginning to appreciate what
LJP can mean to aspiring musicians.

Scot -- 01/26/2007, 10:21:12 -- #32206
Man, learning tunes off the recordings is such a great way to learn tunes and become a monster musician.

Just about all the great jazz musicians learn tunes that way. Mediocre ones like myself tend to learn them out of books... but when I take the time to learn tunes off recordings, not only does my playing grow, but my ear grows and everything related to my musical experience just goes up a notch.

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