hey everyone,

just wanted to know what approaches or methods (if any) that some of you players use when learning tunes.......

my plan this summer is to simply learn tunes.....a lot of tunes

but i'd like know what you cats do.
- how do you make sure that you know the tune inside and out
- how much time do you spend on it? 2 days? week? 2 weeks???......

any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated.....
There are 15 comments, leave a comment.
the first summer i decided to learn tunes i learned two tunes a week.  most of them i still know, but then again, i was learning as many of the jam session standards that i could at that time.

when i learn a tune i make sure i have the melody down perfect.  as it was written.  after i can play it in a few keys perfectly, i'll stretch things out and make it my own.

i asked george cables how he learned tunes.  he said he would play a tune with the sheet music a few times, then turn the music over and work his way through it.  after i heard that, i started doing it that way and it's a great way to learn tunes.  really makes you think about them.

if i can't remember it after a while, i'll play through it once more to figure out the rough spots.  using this method i can learn a new tune, a standard kind of tune, in no time at all.

then you have to play them.  every morning while you're learning new tunes, play every new tune you've learned at least one time through and make sure you don't have any mistakes. if you do go back and figure it out so that you really know the melody and chords.
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Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
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as long as it takes (which in some cases can be an afternoon, and in others a decade).
7 said:
in general i've never learned any song that either:

1. i was getting paid to learn, or

but you know you'll be playing in a fancy hotel somewhere, and some smart ass like myself will ask you to play "ask me now". knowing you're a big monk fan...

i'm just being funny, i get your point, but nevertheless, it seems like building a repertoire could only be a good thing, no?
absolutely.  ya can't play gigs if ya don't have tunes.  are you gonna love all of em?  probably not.  will you hate some of em?  probably.  ya just have to decide if you're going to make a living at it or just play for fun.

a job is a job.  after a while gigging can be just like any other factory job.  so try to strike a balance if you can.  learn tunes you love for yourself.  learn tunes other people love to make money- heh heh...now if you can make a living playing tunes you love you will have truly "made it"
my trio has a wedding coming up in july that has a song request list as long as your arm:

the way you look tonight
the very thought of you
fly me to the moon
any sting songs- our absolute favorite song is "shape of my heart"
any sade songs
come away with me - norah jones
let's stay together - al green
louis armstrong - wonderful world
september morn
have i told you lately...

most of these tunes i can put together in an afternoon, write up a chart for the bassist and i'm done. it's still work that i'm getting paid for and i don't mind because they're mostly pretty easy fluff.

for instance satchmo's "wonderful world" is nothing more than "twinkle, twinkle little star" reharmonized.

as far as sade songs is concerned i don't see any other choices than the obvious "smooth operator" or "sweetest taboo".

i think seal only had one hit "kiss from a rose" which is just a little english folk song.

sting's "shape of my heart" is  pretty much just a guitar walk down.

but will any of these become permanent repertoire pieces? very probably not.
so 7, do read charts on those gigs?
it's been said here before, but the recordings are the text books in jazz.  the process for me is to listen umpteen million times to the rhythm harmony and melody.  the second step is transcription in my head as i play it slowly.  the third step is practicing until i am so versed in how it was played that i have to break out and form my own version.  probably not the most effecient way, but it works for me.
7 - seal sang another song called 'crazy' which was a hit, here in england anyway.

sting has released some interesting stuff. last time i heard he was on a medieval tip, recording with lute players and the like.

there is one sting album i used to have called 'the soul cages', which explores the theme of the closure of the big shipbuilding yards in the north of england/scotland, social repercussions etc.

it seems like a nice song, but kind of hard to reproduce without a gang of synth sounds.
i mean, it depends on what gigs you play.

i have a trio, and we play a lot of different repertoire, from originals to modern tunes by less common composers like david berkman, dave holland, and herbie nichols.

however, the bulk of my money comes working from a sideman in random groups, ie not regular weekly groups. and to work as that, you have to have a big repertoire of tunes.

i would like for someday most of my gigs to be with regular groups and repertoire of my own choosing, but where i'm at now, i'm playing gigs as a sideman and i have to be able to play all the standards they call.

i know a couple hundred of the common standards, and most of the other professionals on here do as well. you just have to know the tunes that others call, or you won't get called back.

as 7 says, the more tunes you know, the more you see how they're all just minor variations on each other. the more tunes you know, the more tunes you know. i know that sounds ridiculous and stupid, but you actually will know more tunes than you actually know because somebody can just be like: "it's the same a's as have you met miss jones, and a honeysuckle rose bridge." and then, bam, that's gonna stick, and you can play it.

as others have echoed, learn the melody really well, and be able to play it in a number of keys. the more tunes you transpose, the easier and more second-nature it will become.

you could spend months or years getting into the heart of a certain tune; it's why professionals still continue to play standards their entire lifetimes. however, getting an basic knowledge of a tune so that you can memorize it, and play it on a gig can take less than an hour. the more you do it, the faster it gets.

review is most important. i've forgotten but beautiful after a week about 4 times just because i didn't review it enough. last time, it stuck because i drilled it daily.

when you're first starting to build up your list of tunes, it's important to learn as many "standards" as possible.  there are a lot of guys out there who expect you to know them on gigs and won't like it if you're flipping through your fake book to find the chart. i know, i've been there (flipping through the book, that is).

it's really not hard to learn the basic tunes, as 7 said, after a while you start to see all the parts that they share with one another and then the stage where you're saying, "well, the bridge has chords like all the things you are..."  

(which tune is that, by the way?  :)
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
i'll remember april?
7p   englisman in ny or roxanna are fun to play and reharmonize  
sorry for you having to play  the way you look tonite

even worse, i have to sing it too!
oops i mistook the way you look tonight for  lady in red
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