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How do you learn standards?

  • Fake/Real Book

    Votes: 10 14.7%
  • CD etc

    Votes: 12 17.6%
  • Fake/Real Book and CD

    Votes: 40 58.8%
  • Other

    Votes: 6 8.8%
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I went to a Jazz Camp last week where the bassist John Clayton was the director. According to him Fake books are for fakers and he recommends throwing them away and learning the standards from CD.

How do folks here learn them?

I mainly use a fake book. Sometimes I'll listen to a CD if the chords don't sound right. I very rarely take it off a CD.
 

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I'd definitely use a CD version and maybe more than one if poss. I'd just use the Fake Book as a support to understand the harmony better. But it's an important and very useful support. Vocal version as well as instrumental on CD is ideal, in my opinion.
 

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I voted other, but in retrospect, maybe CD should have been my choice. I am basically an "ear" player.

The so-called "standards" I play were written and published before 1934 (+/-). I've heard them for years from various sources (CD's, LP's, 78's, cassettes, radio, and from live performances of current bands).

However, I have acquired a sheetmusic and chord-chart/lead-sheet collection so whenever possible, I try to look at the sheetmusic for authentic chord changes. And yes, I realize that some mistakes were made in the printing.

If I don't have the sheetmusic, I look for a chord-chart or lead-sheet in my collection. Then I'll try to find the original recording from among my collection of records, cassettes, and CD's (www.redhotjazz.com is a great source for early jazz). iTunes and Amazon are a surprisingly good source for standards, too.

As a last resort I'll try to find a modern recording from a band I trust to have done it correctly (that is, play the chords as originally designed). I've found too many errors in the fake books, although I'll admit they give the player a place to start - just don't put too much faith in their accuracy. DAVE
 

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The 6th edition Real book claims to have fixed a lot of the errors... how true is that?

I personally have started learning via the Eb Real Book 1 (6th edition) and downloaded tracks from as close to the original as I can find. I have a student subscription music service (free for college students), so I can often find what I'm looking for for free.
 

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The whole idea behind learning a tune means you don't need a fake book or lead sheet for it whne you ard done, You learn the melody, chord changes, etc, to that level, as well as all the interpretations you can find recorded.

NEVER throw out your fakebooks, though, they can be enormously handy when learning a tune and on gigs.
 

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danarsenault said:
NEVER throw out your fakebooks, though, they can be enormously handy when learning a tune and on gigs.
And the not-so-rare learning a tune at a gig...
 

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I have a collection of bootleg fakebooks on my computer, but it is rare that I use them. I always try to learn the head from the recording and most times I can decipher the changes by ear, but on occasion I do sneak a peak when I am stumped.
 

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Ken said:
I went to a Jazz Camp last week where the bassist John Clayton was the director. According to him Fake books are for fakers and he recommends throwing them away and learning the standards from CD.

How do folks here learn them?

I mainly use a fake book. Sometimes I'll listen to a CD if the chords don't sound right. I very rarely take it off a CD.
Was this the Centrum Workshop? If so, how was it this year. I went last year and had a blast.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yes. It was my first time there. It was a worthwhile experience. I'd recommend anyone to do it at least once.

I wasn't at the talk that John Clayton gave on this but a couple of others were and they were inspired to try this out. He said everyone who did this could email him to let him know how it goes. Someone did that last year and got a reply signed "John Clayton your greatest fan". Anyway I think it's worth trying, although it looks like not many actually do this.
 

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I try to balance the book with the recording and my own ears so that I am not relying too much on anything. Once I have the melody and the changes under my fingers, I put the book away and shed it based off what I hear, focusing primarily on color, phrasing, and taking advantage of the melody. The book is no longer needed once I have the basics covered, because what is to be discovered comes from within.

There are some tunes in the common fake books that I know have incorrect chord changes, or make it more complicated than it really is. When I learn a standard, I want the original chord changes. The possibility in working with the basic progression is endless, and just beacuse the chords are basic does mean that you can take it in your own direction. There are some tunes that sound best with the original chords. I'm working on the Wayne Shorter tune "Iris" at the moment. Nothing needs to be changed; it sounds perfect the way it is. I wouldn't call it a standard, but it is just an example.

No matter what I shed, I make it a study. I like digging into a tune, working with as many ideas as possible so that there is something inventive flowing through the tune at all times. It doesn't matter if it's "Autumn Leaves" or an obscure Monk tune, there is always something new to be found in simply experimenting with what is given and adding to it by making your own statements.
 

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John Clayton and Centrum

I also attended the Centrum camp this year (3rd time), and more on that in a bit.

I did attend the session where John Clayton gave his "fakebook" lecture. OK, I take his point, but remember he is a bassist, and he was mainly speaking to the rhythm section when he made this speech (for which he is well known). His point is that if you work through changes instead of reading them from a fake book, by the time you're done you will remember it. He did encourage horn players to do so also, but implicit in his comments was the acknowledgement that it's harder for horns to work out a complicated melody. However, a few days earlier in one of the master classes, Houston Person encouraged participants to "buy the book" so they learn the tune. So take your pick of philosophies.

The camp was as great as ever, even more so since I got to work with Houston Person! What more can I say. In general, the level of student has improved steadily since the first time I attended. I didn't have time to prepare a new audition CD, so I just resubmitted the same one I used last year. The result was that I got placed into a slightly lower level combo. That experience, the fact that several players were not accepted (but allowed to audit, i.e., they weren't placed into combos), plus my general observation of competence, lead me to the conclusion that competence level was higher. The saxophone faculty were Houston Person, Jeff Clayton, Bill Ramsey and Gary Smulyan. The sax master classes were operated differently. Instead of all the tenors getting together with a tenor faculty for 4 days, this year all of the saxes attended the same master classes, and the faculty rotated. Topics were technique (Clayton), melody (Person), show who knows their II-IV-Is the best (Smulyan), and one by Ramsey (but I can't remember exactly what he talked about, except that he is pretty funny). By far, Jeff Clayton lead the best master class, talking about embouchre, practice routine, aperture, etc. Very well prepared and very worthwhile.

As usual, the experience was great. Working with players of all ages, jamming into the night, taking various theory classes, and getting great performance advice from combo coaches. My coach was Gary Hobbs, a drummer from the Pacific NW. Great guy, and great coach. This year more emphasis was placed on giving vocalists an opportunity to perform, which was great for them. The vocal coaches included Roberta Gambarini.

I highly recommend this camp (I traveled from the east coast to attend, although most participants were from the west coast) for anyone who wants to learn a lot, work shoulder to shoulder with the finest professional musicians in the world (who all bend over backward to help, and make the experience memorable), and be challenged. I wasn't challenged this year (for the first time), but I did feel very comfortable in my combo, and the tunes we did. We even developed an original tune in our combo, which was interesting. Not sure if I will attend next year, it depends on whether I work hard enough to move from the advanced level, to semi-pro. That's gonna take a lot of work, and I'm not going to shoot for it unless I put in enough effort to justify trying for that level.

There was only one downer, not for me, but for the "best" semi-pro combo. These guys were great, and were scheduled to perform in front of the crowd assembling to attend the night's professional concert. Unfortunately, timing snafus (not of their causing) forced these guys to get a delayed start on their set. Then, abrubptly, word came out to start letting the crowd enter the main venue, so that combo had to stop playing. They were 1/3 into the first song of their set, when they had to finish up. I really felt bad for them, since all their hard work (not to mention their tuition) was unrequited. Believe me, I let Centrum and John Clayton know what a lousy deal this was for those guys, and so did a lot of the other participants. But this was a very unusual circumstance, and hopefully will never recur.

One of the interesting things we heard was an all bass faculty (6 basses) ensemble during the faculty concerts. Yes, every night there's a 90 minute faculty concert. Worth at least half of the tuition. We also heard a 30 piece percussion ensemble from Alma College. Unbelievable! And of course, Houston Person was the friday night concert headliner, with Jeff Hamilton and a Japanese B3 player (ala Jimmy Smith).
 

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Personally I was encouraged to (in the case of standards and other related tunes) LEARN THE WORDS and the original melody. Sure, it's great to learn a tune like "Indiana" the way Don Byas did it. But, if you're at a session and there's three guys taking the melody, it can sound pretty lousy if you're all playing different versions. That's just the "showman" reason. THe real reason is that without knowledge of the words, how do you know what the song is REALLY about (sure, 99% of them are about the same thing). Still, there are even little tricks to remembering certain changes and melodies with the lyrics and it will really help make a tune stick. However you do it (book and/or recording) doesn;t really matter as long as you commit it to memory and it's a heck of a lot easier to do that when you know the lyrics.

If you are motivated you can also right lyrics for bop heads (I've never been able to do so without becoming completely ridiculous). Also, learn how to sing the melody (even if you don;t have a good voice, you can still find the pitch) and learn how to vocalize the chords (arpeggiating). This will make things stick and really trains your ears well.
 

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danarsenault said:
The whole idea behind learning a tune means you don't need a fake book or lead sheet for it whne you ard done, You learn the melody, chord changes, etc, to that level, as well as all the interpretations you can find recorded.

NEVER throw out your fakebooks, though, they can be enormously handy when learning a tune and on gigs.
Or having to revisit a tune you haven't played for years, on short notice. I don't know about you guys, but the older I get, the more my memory . . . what was I talking about?:error:
 

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What is Centrum camp? Is there a web site?
 

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Ferret said:
The 6th edition Real book claims to have fixed a lot of the errors... how true is that?
I've still found a few mistakes. For example, in the Eb version of Groovin' High, the change in the first ending is written as Eb- instead of D- which is correct and lines up with the ii-V pattern repeated throughout the piece. It's correct in the 2nd ending and the Bb version though.
 

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Doug Lange said:
What is Centrum camp? Is there a web site?
You can also check out centrumvitamins.ca;)
I'm a candidate for the silver version camp.....
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I just started going to jazzstandards.com and getting their recommended versions of each standard. What do you guys think about that approach? For example, for Body and Soul they recommend several CD's here. I also have a list of recommended versions for vocalists that I got from the Centrum workshop. For Body and Soul they recommend Don Byas from his Paris CD in the late '40s.

One thing I noticed (not surprisingly) is that the chords progressions vary depending on which version you listen to. The fake book is different again. So how do you find the 'original' chords? And playing devil's advocate for a moment, what good would that do when you go to a jam session and everyone is using the fake book version, so you're going to be out of sync anyway.
 

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Ken said:
...And playing devil's advocate for a moment, what good would that do when you go to a jam session and everyone is using the fake book version, so you're going to be out of sync anyway.
This is where it is easy to turn it into a "I'm right, you're wrong" thing. While it can be challenging on the fly, just listen. When playing with a band, you have to find common ground regardless of who learned what, otherwise the ego defeats the music itself. I have played at jams where the pianist was not playing part of some tune the way I expected from a harmonic standpoint. But I had two choices- listen or not listen. Even when you are thrown a surprise, adapt to it and try to sustain musicality.
 
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