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Discussion Starter #1
I'm at the point were I'm good enough to go to jam sessions. I know about 10 tunes by heard that I practice all the time. I try to practice all day prior to the jam if I can.

My performance is really hit and miss. I can have a wonderful experience where people will compliment me and and ask where else they can see me perform- this usually happens on a blues or a tune that I have worked on a lot and have licks and have really worked on the harmony really well. Other times a blues in an odd key will get called or a tune I'm not familiar with and I will play BS and sound really bad...not playing the changes...getting lost in the form...stopping on bridge etc. etc.

My teacher said not to buy the real book and to learn and memorize everything. No one takes the real book to the jams and there are mainly gifted pro musicians at the jams. As a late bloomer, I don't really get intimidated by other pro adult players. I just get up and do my thing. However - I do get nervous about having play with or after some of the many gifted young jazz musicians who are also around- kids as young as 12 or 13 who are already playing at a very high level. It's a strange feeling and I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this. Nothing serious but just something I've felt.

Oh well. I've tried to focus on shedding and not posting so much here - so I'll get back to it.

Cheers.
 

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Knowing 10 tunes just won't cut it in most jam sessions. The advantage of having the Real book or equivalent, such as iReal on your iPhone or iPad sure helps when the leader calls a tune that you don't know.
 

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In the past 5 years or so I've really seen a ton of guys with iPads who pull up tunes when they get called. There's just so many tunes, in different keys, and bottom line is most people aren't full time jazz musicians. I don't think there's anything wrong with reading a sheet down.

- Saxaholic
 

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Your teacher wants you to learn tunes because it has been known for a long time that a large repertoire is one of the keys to great jazz playing. In the specific case you're talking about, a helper book would be a great benefit to you to get through a jam where anything might be called. You can work on the song later and memorize it. I memorize by rote, playing a record over and over, concentrating on up to four bars at a time, until I get the whole thing - but it doesn't get burned in until I play it live a few times. A horn band I was in did a few standards when we had to do a 'dinner' set before the regular show, and one number was a local arrangement of 'In The Mood'. I played the chart a few times then didn't use it anymore. I hate having a music stand and charts on a gig - its bush league.
 

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I agree with the posts above.

Learning tunes by ear is great training and something you should continue working on. However, one of the characteristics of jazz standards is that they frequently modulate from one key to another. So, when someone at a jam calls a tune you haven't played before, unless you are gifted with an amazing ear, your solo is going to suddenly sound terrible when the tune modulates to a new key and you don't go with it!

You should get a Real Book or digital equivalent, even if you only pull it out at jams when someone calls a tune you haven't learned or just sit out if you don't know the tune.
 

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Check out David Baker’s “How to Learn Bebop - Volume 3. Techniques for Learning and Utilizing Bebop Tunes”.

The premise is to hear, learn, and play the changes that are common to many tunes.
 

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How do people with day jobs and other responsibilities have the time to commit 100 standards (and their changes) to memory is beyond me. I wish I had the time...
 

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How do people with day jobs and other responsibilities have the time to commit 100 standards (and their changes) to memory is beyond me. I wish I had the time...
By learning music theory and ear training, both of which help enormously with learning tunes.
 

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By learning music theory and ear training, both of which help enormously with learning tunes.
+1. And especially in soloing over those tunes.

I hesitated to chime in here because I don't generally go to jazz jams and I don't know a ton of jazz tunes. I play much more in the blues/R&B genres, but I do know some jazz tunes and am always working on learning more, mostly because I love jazz and in my band we play enough jazz tunes to be able to play a set or two of jazz instrumentals when the gig calls for it.

Everyone has to find their own way, but I'm in the 'no sheet music' camp when it comes to playing on a gig. Not so much because I think it's distracting for both the audience and me (although I do), but because I know I can play a tune far better after I've memorized it and can play it by ear. I don't feel I know it if I have to read it. Please understand I'm speaking for myself, but I think this does apply for a great many players.

Here's a good strategy for jam sessions: One thing I've noticed at most jam sessions, whether blues, rock, or jazz, is a finite number of tunes come up fairly often, at any given jam. So if you're relatively new to the jam, it might be wise to go a few times and just listen to what tunes are being played, then go home and learn enough of them that you can participate.
 

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I admit that memorizing tunes isn't my strong point, but we all know those guys who THINK they have every tune memorized and end up fishing the whole time with clam after clam. Most people would do good to keep working on memorizing tunes, but realize it can be really limiting to stick to tunes you have memorized, especially when someone calls something more esoteric.
 

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We all use Real Book 6 at our jam.
I have a RB 6 (someone gave it to me) for when I don't have my iPad charged and I hate it. It doesn't have the most normal of tunes- like On Green Dolphin Street.
 

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I have a RB 6 (someone gave it to me) for when I don't have my iPad charged and I hate it. It doesn't have the most normal of tunes- like On Green Dolphin Street.
It's hard to figure some of the choices of tunes in the Real Book. You won't find some really common tunes like "Doxy" or "Moanin," and you will find quite a few songs that I've never heard played by anyone.
 

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How do people with day jobs and other responsibilities have the time to commit 100 standards (and their changes) to memory is beyond me. I wish I had the time...
Standards were easier to learn when they were also pop tunes of their day. The first thing I learned were the standards being played by the club date musicians in NYC. Jazz standards did take a little longer to assimilate. I think that's part of what brought me deeper into the piano.

With all of the play-along tracks available now, guys like the OP should take advantage of learning more and not relying on (a mere) 10 tunes, no matter how well they sound or draw compliments. I agree that ear training is a big part of internalizing the music but reading has its benefits as well. Some people memorize better with a visual image.
 

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I run a weekly open mic and vocal showcase. The beauty of the way I have it set up is that the house trio (b, d, g) will play almost any song in any key that a singer or instrumentalist wants. That really helps people out. people are welcome to bring up ipads, paper etc. too. Keeping the core of pros on stage keeps the thing from getting out of hand if someone starts driving on the wrong side of the road... I let me guitarist manage the stage/music, and I MC / juggle etc.

(The "downside" is that I have a certain vibe or feel that I want to the evening, for the venue. So endless choruses of Footprints or All Blues are not on the menu! Too many jazz open mics I've been to just play those same 20 Real Book 1 tunes that every Berklee cat has shedded a thousand times. So I go the other way with a lighter touch including some trad, lots of latin, musical stuff, hell, I even "sing". I mean jeez, we did Mustang Sally , Just a Little Bit (R n B gem) the other night. )

Check it out! on Facebook @BillTsJazzy !

Some singers hand out sheets for the semi esoteric stuff or odd keys they want. If you find out those kinds of things ahead of time, you'll save yourself some bother or concern on the spot. Basically, if you bring sheet music for the tunes you want for others to look at, you'll probably be safe, if somewhat dinosaur-esque.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Anyone other late bloomers (or pros, lol) feel awkward having to play after gifted kids who are are nearly professional at 14-17 years of age? Its a funny feeling to have to follow kids who are really good on the bandstand. LOL
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I agree with the posts above.

Learning tunes by ear is great training and something you should continue working on. However, one of the characteristics of jazz standards is that they frequently modulate from one key to another. So, when someone at a jam calls a tune you haven't played before, unless you are gifted with an amazing ear, your solo is going to suddenly sound terrible when the tune modulates to a new key and you don't go with it!

You should get a Real Book or digital equivalent, even if you only pull it out at jams when someone calls a tune you haven't learned or just sit out if you don't know the tune.
Yeah- One thing I"m learning is that the pros often don't know the tune either, but are able to hear the changes and then solo sometimes even by their own accounts 'fake it' and not really play the changes but sound good enough that its not clear to even me they didn't know what they where doing. This is a big concept I didn't know about about prior to going to jam sessions- That even the pros don't know the tunes often, but they have developed their ears to the point where they can tell whats happening in harmony- even when super complex / substitutions etc are going on. Its pretty amazing.... But the process is take the tune go home and shed then come back and call it again!
 
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