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Lets talk about learning/ working on jazz standards. everything and anything you do. exercises, tips, and anything else.
 

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Learn:

1. V7-I
2. ii - V7 - I
3. I - vi - ii - V7
4. iii - vi - ii - V7
5. blues progression
6. IV - mIV - iii - vi7
7. I6 - I7 - IV - mIV
8. Rhythm changes

When you have got all these progressions under the fingers then any Standard you play are just derived of these changes. EVERY ONE!
 

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My method has always been to first internalize the melody to be able to play it in any key without the music. That involves thinking in terms of melodic intervals rather than notes.

Next is to know the form of the tune. Many are the same but you need to watch for those that have unusual twists or endings.

The third step is to internalize the harmonic progression and as Haywood alluded to, look for similarities between tunes you know. It is also very important to think in terms of the Roman Numeral spellings of chords so that the progression transfers to all keys.

Wean yourself from the written page containing the notes and changes as soon as you can to begin the know the tune aurally, rather than visually. I cut my jazz chops playing with a piano player who did not allow music on gigs. His philosophy was that if you needed the music you didn't know the tune well enough to play it in public.
 

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Wean yourself from the written page containing the notes and changes as soon as you can to begin the know the tune aurally, rather than visually. I cut my jazz chops playing with a piano player who did not allow music on gigs. His philosophy was that if you needed the music you didn't know the tune well enough to play it in public.
+1000. So, so true!!!
 

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I'm not anywhere near as experienced as the other guys, but I'd say don't even use a written page at all, if possible. You may need help figuring out the chords (I'm still working on that myself), but start learning songs with simple melodies first. Something like Centerpiece or St. Thomas.
 

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I teach students to "think like a bass player" and "walk basslines" through the changes. Starting with quarters (or even half notes) in each bar, and as they get more comfortable adding in anticipations, chromatic approaches, tritone subs, etc.
 

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What works for me when learning a repertoire, is firstly to learn the melody. Now when I learn the melody I do so from a recorded version of the tune from a saxophonist I like, usually Getz, Gordon & Rollins. I learn the way they play the melody, especially true for ballads. Then I learn the changes in my head, by playing through the seventh chords in eigths notes with a metronome. I dont learn them in every key, just the key they are recorded in or the key the ensemble wants to play them in. I never use music/charts at ensemble gigs, thats something my teacher (Jon Barrett) told me was extremely important, and it is. If you internalize the melody and changes, then you become the rythym section also, so when you do play with an ensemble, their job, and yours becomes so much easier. ANd they will love you for it.
 

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I teach students to "think like a bass player" and "walk basslines" through the changes. Starting with quarters (or even half notes) in each bar, and as they get more comfortable adding in anticipations, chromatic approaches, tritone subs, etc.
It's funny you say that because i was thinking about that too. Bass players also think a lot in 2,3,4,1 in stead of 1,2,3,4. I thought i could use that only then twice as fast
 

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If you play piano or guitar, it helps to hear the changes as well.
You don't have to be good at those instruments.
Just enough to explore the harmonic possibilities.

Depending on the melody line, sometimes a b9, #5 or a 13th chord,
for example, will sound great. Other times they are just wrong.
 

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Wean yourself from the written page containing the notes and changes as soon as you can to begin the know the tune aurally, rather than visually. I cut my jazz chops playing with a piano player who did not allow music on gigs. His philosophy was that if you needed the music you didn't know the tune well enough to play it in public.
I'm a complete beginner, and I am learning to play sax as well as learning to read music. I am already finding that I can't play even simple exercises unless they are written down in front of me: which is not how I want to be. I did wonder whether an initial reliance on the music would help me to eventually be able to play pieces without the music, or whether it would leave me unable to play pieces without the music there as a prompt.

So I guess I need to learn sooner rather than later to play the pieces without the music as well. Is there an easy way of doing this? A method that you use - suitable for a beginner?
 

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At the risk of hijacking this thread (I hope this speaks to the OPs question), when learning the changes HGiles suggest:
What should you focus on? I know you would want to be able to arpeggiate the changes. I know walking base lines on the changes and practicing guide tones.
Other suggestion?
 

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...I am already finding that I can't play even simple exercises unless they are written down in front of me: which is not how I want to be. I did wonder whether an initial reliance on the music would help me to eventually be able to play pieces without the music, or whether it would leave me unable to play pieces without the music there as a prompt.

So I guess I need to learn sooner rather than later to play the pieces without the music as well. Is there an easy way of doing this? A method that you use - suitable for a beginner?
This is a wide open question and there is no short answer. I think it is related to the OP question about learning tunes so here are a few ideas I can share that worked for me.

First of all, learning to read music is a very good idea and it certainly doesn't have to interfere with your ability to play by ear. The trick is to do both. Keep working on your reading skills, but also start playing simple phrases (that you've memorized) without the written music, so you can listen to what you are playing. Also, start playing along with recordings even if you can only get a note here and there. You'll be training your ear to some extent.

Learn all 12 major scales and memorize them so you can play them without reading them. Your ear will soon adjust to the intervals and you'll immediately hear when you make a mistake. That is valuable in itself, but learning those 12 major scales will get you playing in a given key, with a clear tonic center. When you play a C major scale and patterns based on that scale, the tonic center or 'home base' is C. Your ear will hear this. Those major scales will form a foundation you can use to learn other scales ("flat the 3rd" and you're playing one type of minor scale), chords, etc. More importantly it will help you to hear and learn melodies.

Learn & memorize some very simple melodies. It's fine to read them at first if you have to, but try to get away from the written page and keep playing the melody until you can do it easily by ear.

Once you really have a given major scale down, start thinking in numbers. Go from the '1' to the '3' (a maj 3rd interval) and listen closely to how that sounds. Then do this will all the intervals. Play and listen to each tone of the scale. Get those tones in your ear/mind. Then when you play a melody, think about what tones you are using. Does the melody start on '1' or on '5' (for example) and where does it go from there. "Happy Birthday" (and "Sumertime") starts on the '5' (fifth tone or the major scale). And so on.

That will get you started. There is much more of course.

p.s. Oh yeah, start singing those scales, intervals, chord arpeggios, melodies, etc. Doesn't matter if you have a good singing voice or not. The object is to get the sound in your mind!
 

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I'm a complete beginner, and I am learning to play sax as well as learning to read music. I am already finding that I can't play even simple exercises unless they are written down in front of me: which is not how I want to be. I did wonder whether an initial reliance on the music would help me to eventually be able to play pieces without the music, or whether it would leave me unable to play pieces without the music there as a prompt.

So I guess I need to learn sooner rather than later to play the pieces without the music as well. Is there an easy way of doing this? A method that you use - suitable for a beginner?
Start trying to play by ear with really easy well known tunes such
as "Happy Birthday", or "When the Saints".
You might surprise yourself.

Bottom line is that to be a complete musician, you need both skills.
To be able to play and memorize tunes, and to be able to read music.
It's bit like being able to speak, but can't read the roadsigns if you
don't learn to read.

Written music is one way for musicians to communicate with each
other.

You need to work at both. It doesn't happen overnight. Don't be
discouraged. Most of us are not whizz kids and have spent many
hours learning to play and read music.
The more you put in, the more you will get out of it.

Maybe I am perculiar, but I find it more difficult to memorize a tune if
I learn it by reading. Of course, I have to read the music to pick up how
a tune goes, if I don't know it, or don't have a suitable recording to
listen to. But I try to get rid of the music as soon as possible.
 

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Learn:

1. V7-I
2. ii - V7 - I
3. I - vi - ii - V7
4. iii - vi - ii - V7
5. blues progression
6. IV - mIV - iii - vi7
7. I6 - I7 - IV - mIV
8. Rhythm changes

When you have got all these progressions under the fingers then any Standard you play are just derived of these changes. EVERY ONE!
Possibly an ignorant question, but what exactly do you mean when you say "mIV"? I would assume it meant minor chords, but you already made those lowercase. I want to get this straight, I've decided to make ear training a big goal of mine this summer and this post seems like a useful guidepost.
 
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