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Discussion Starter #1
I know, learn it in both keys. I learned it in B flat and will learn it in F but...
Monk usually has it in B flat (that's how it shows in the Thelonious Monk Fakebook, for example) but the Real Book has it in F. My question, is what keys do you folks find people USUALLY playing in.
 

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Personally, since I'm usually playing tenor, I like it best in F. Just FEELS better to me.

That said, I know it in both keys...hint hint
 

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That tune and Autumn Leaves have two common keys and I think whichever book a person happens to have on them at a particular time will be the wrong key...it’s a jazz gods thing I think. 🤣
Seriously though. It’s a simple head and it’s the blues you should be able to play it in 12 Keys. Working melodies through all the keys is a nice way to help memorize them too :)
 

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Miles played it in F.
 

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If you've LEARNED the tune, you should be able to play it in any key. I know that sounds a bit snarky, but it's true. For a tune like this, you should be able to play it in all 12 keys.

If you can't do that, then you need to work on it. Pick a key a day, or a week, and learn to play it in that key. Once you have your mind wrapped around that, move on to Cherokee... (just kidding.... sorta... I once went to a jam session where the leader called Cherokee in B...)
 

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I'm really a wimp when it comes to learning tunes in all keys. I know I should do it more, but there's always something else I'd rather use my limited practice time for. But I did memorize "Straight" in both F and Bb, because those are the keys you usually hear called. And, knowing those keys, I could fumble my way through if somebody insisted on playing it in D or something. If somebody calls for "Straight, No Chaser" in Gb, I'm clearly in the wrong place anyway and should just calmly and politely put my horn back in the case.
 

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I played it in both keys.

Other forum members are telling you that you should be able to play it in both keys, but I don't think that anyone is suggesting that you should be able to whip the tune out in the unfamiliar key stone cold. Practice it in both keys. It will help your musicianship.

Playing in all twelve keys? That's a good goal, but if you examine the range of keys favored by famous musicians, you'll find that many stuck to 3-4 keys.

This is not to say that one shouldn't strive to master his instrument. You should. Many of my gigs were freelance. I'd get a call at 6:00 pm for a gig at 10:00 pm not knowing the playlist (much less the keys). It was truly a Darwinian experience: adapt or die.
 

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If it's in Bb, play it on alto, you'll be in G. If it's in F, play it on tenor, you're still in G. I've usually played it in F, usually on alto, so in D.
 

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My question, is what keys do you folks find people USUALLY playing in.
To answer your question, most small jazz groups I've played with over the years have done it in Bb.

Of course it sounds best in 7/4 time, modulating keys every chorus, and with maximum chord substitutions.
 

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I'm really a wimp when it comes to learning tunes in all keys. I know I should do it more, but there's always something else I'd rather use my limited practice time for. But I did memorize "Straight" in both F and Bb, because those are the keys you usually hear called. And, knowing those keys, I could fumble my way through if somebody insisted on playing it in D or something. If somebody calls for "Straight, No Chaser" in Gb, I'm clearly in the wrong place anyway and should just calmly and politely put my horn back in the case.
No one’s going to call Straight, No Chaser in Gb, That’s not what working melodies and licks through all the keys is about. I never got it, until I did. Now I wish I’d taken the advice of everyone who told me to do it. My ears blew up almost right away, and I started being able to pick lines on the fly way easier than ever before. It’s worth it. Now that I’m starting to feel more and more comfortable with my playing, I wish I knew all those tunes I completely half-assed over the years.
 

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I would say that for a 12 bar blues with a fairly basic head arrangement like "Straight No Chaser" it's not a big stretch to play it in all keys. Certainly is good practice and you definitely want to be able to solo in all keys on a 12 bar blues. Having said that, it's not necessarily essential to know the head in every single key, but at least knowing it in both Bb and F is a good idea since it evidently gets played in those keys.

I'm glad this topic came up. I haven't played that tune in a long time, so am going to go and work through it in Bb & F.

One thing, though. On about certain tunes the melody line may not work so well in certain keys on the sax, either due to issues with changing octaves, how it lays on the fingers, or even how it sounds. So there is often a reason a tune is played in a certain key, aside from convenience.

+1 to what swperry1 posted above!
 

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I would say that for a 12 bar blues with a fairly basic head arrangement like "Straight No Chaser" it's not a big stretch to play it in all keys. Certainly is good practice and you definitely want to be able to solo in all keys on a 12 bar blues. Having said that, it's not necessarily essential to know the head in every single key, but at least knowing it in both Bb and F is a good idea since it evidently gets played in those keys.

I'm glad this topic came up. I haven't played that tune in a long time, so am going to go and work through it in Bb & F.

One thing, though. On about certain tunes the melody line may not work so well in certain keys on the sax, either due to issues with changing octaves, how it lays on the fingers, or even how it sounds. So there is often a reason a tune is played in a certain key, aside from convenience.

+1 to what swperry1 posted above!
Yes, “Horn Keys” are common in jazz. Go to the blues jam and you better be able to play in E, A, G, and B...not super friendly horn keys for a lot of advancing jazz players, but they lay nicely on guitar and bass. It’s hilarious how often even decent jazz players go to blues jams and sound like complete crap because they either overplay in ways that don’t fit, or they can’t jam in guitar keys.

Ooh, Singers...Singers call tunes in crazy keys. Playing some really challenging tunes in a wedding band right now getting up to snuff for summer season and I’m definitely doubling down on the importance of being fluent in all keys even on common tunes. We have three different singers and a couple tunes change keys depending on the vocalist. Nice to have the benefit of knowing in advance though, really sucks when you’re on a gig and they just take off in the wrong key :)
 

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+1 to JL AND swperry1. I've played it in Bb on both tenor and alto (maybe hundreds of times), and in F a few times (most recently as a "big band head")

I think this discussion boils down to our goals as musicians. My goal is to UNDERSTAND a tune that I play. My mental picture of "Straight, No Chaser" is something like this:

5, 1, 2, #2, 3
5, 1, 2, #2, 3, 4, b3
... etc.

I don't think in numbers, but it's the best way to communicate in this medium - I think in terms of the key and the notes in the key, not the specific notes, but rather how they relate to the key.

Since this is a simple (yet very sophisticated!) tune, at a medium tempo, given that I have a solid mental picture of the tune, and that I know all my scales <Very Big Grin>, I can play that tune in any key.

swperry1's point is very well taken. The first time I did this kind of thing (playing a tune in a different key), I had to think hard. Now, it's pretty easy. In fact, it's a good way for me to decide whether I really know a tune...
 

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Yes, “Horn Keys” are common in jazz. Go to the blues jam and you better be able to play in E, A, G, and B...
+1. However, I wasn't talking about 'horn keys' when I said certain melodies 'fit' certain keys on the sax. For example, playing some of the Charlie Parker heads (and solos) on tenor in the original key can be challenging because they were written for the alto. And also some melodies just sound better in a certain key. I have no idea why, since the same melody should sound the same in all keys, but in some cases although it's clearly the same melody it will just sound better in one key than in another. Again, I can't explain it.

I dislike the term 'horn keys.' It's kind of misleading because obviously a sax can be played in all 12 keys. The only difficult keys are the ones you don't play in often. Since I play a lot of blues, I'm used to those keys you listed. Not to mention the fact plenty of blues tunes are played in F, Bb, Ab, etc. The better blues players & guitarists have no problem playing in the so-called horn keys. And of course there jazz tunes written in the 'guitar keys'... I totally agree a lot of jazz players tend to overplay in ways that don't fit the blues genre when they show up at a blues jam. I don't think that was the case with the 'old school' jazz players though. They ALL cut their teeth on the blues and knew how to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I can play it in either, but my strong preference is for F, and that is the key it was written it - Monk's key. It seems to lay better under my fingers. Also, in the RB key the end of phrases are held, but in the Monk fake book they are played staccato. "B flat is commonly called for Straight No Chaser because it's in the Real Book in B flat (its in F in RB volume 6) and that is the key Mile's played it in. If I am going to play Monk, I want to play Monk's version. For example, the RB version of the bridge on Well You Needn't as printed in the RB is Mile's version, and it differs from Monk's. I get mixed up with those two bridges, and mostly play Monk's. It seems like in jam sessions, both tunes are usually played in the RB key. Even Green Dolphin Street is played in Mile's key, not in E flat. I'm mainly just wondering to expect in a jam session if these tunes are called.
 

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It seems that an hour spent with YouTuba would yield a lot of answers about "what key". This is a tune that's been recorded A LOT.
 
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