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I would like to have some discussion on the exact process jazz players go through when learning a tune that they plan to improvise a solo with a combo.
In other words, first you learn the tune, how do you work to learn the chord structure? Just the chord structure and melody alone is not enough to create a great improv solo. So then what do you do? What is your disciplined approach to learning a tune and then creating a solo?
What are the specific steps between learning the tune and finally performing it?

I appreciate and enjoy this forum, and thanks in advance for your response.

old10m
 

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Generally I learn from recordings first, paying attention to everything, but especially phrasing. I usually try to get a vocalist's rendition as well. Afterwards, if I might go to the music if there's something tripping me up or I can't quite get all the right voicings from the recording. Usually I'll end up making my own sheet directly from the recording as well. I try to use recordings first that are the original changes, then I'll deal with different changes. Then I try to learn all the words. Experiment with substitutions, transcribe solos, analyze the tune, play it.
 

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I listen to recordings and find the music for the specific tune. I then comit the melody to memory and then the chord changes. With the chords Iusually analyze them and find all of the progressions, ii-V7-I etc, and arpegiate the chords in time. I ususlly try to get to where I can hear the harmony as a arpegiate through the tune. The best thing I have found for sheding the changes, after comiting them to memory, is to try to improvise on the changes a capella. If you can hear the changes during unaccompanied improvisation then you really have the changes dowm. Of coures things like Aebersold play-a-longs and band in a box can be very helpful. Transcribing solos on the tune in question is also very helpful. For me a combination of these things and lots of repition usually does the job.

Chris
 

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Usualy a couple of times through a tune on the piano does it for me. Chords in the left hand melody in the right.

There is a long process that I go through for tunes that I want to know better but unfortunatley I don't usualy have the practice time needed to go through that process on every tune I know.

It involves a lot of listening and transcribing and practicing the tune from every possible angle.
 

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memorize head
memorize changes (arppegios on horn)
Practice new approaches to chord tones (including extensions)
Write a solo.

Repeat in all keys.

Other tools:
Listen to many versions of the tune. Learn lyrics (where applicable).
 

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I'd like to get a piano or keyboard

and do the chord in left, melody on right thing eventually... maybe soon, even. But for now, I learn tunes by learning the melody. Usually in order to get a real feel for the melody, I need to listen to someone who knows the tune play it, either on CD, or in person. I've been learning a lot of tunes lately at a particular jam session I go to because they play the same tunes a lot. So I listen to them play the song, and then do the same thing. Doing critical listening is easier on a CD/mp3 though, since you can rewind and play it as many times as you want. So for hard tunes, I try and do that.
 

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how I learn a tune:

1) listen to recordings
2) learn the head
3) arpeggios and digital patterns over changes
4) apply any ii V I licks (if there are any)
5) apply any extra harmonic knowledge
 

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All good answers. It's a funny thing for me, though. Until I actually play the tune with a live band at least a couple of times, I don't really know it. So I'd add that to the lists above. Find a group of musicians you can play the tune with.
 

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Enter the changes in Band In A Box and find a suitable style. Play melody repeatedly over the resulting backgound, adding solos as you get more comfortable with the tune.

Also a good way to play transcriptions w/o slowing down for the difficult parts.
 

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Playing the tune is several keys, or in all, is also an excellent way of getting it inside you. Transposing like this will also help your playing overall.
 

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1) Know the key, and key centers in the tune
2) Know the form
3) Know the melody
4) As your learning the melody, think about the chords (standard changes) and do little improvs at the ends of melodic phrases
5) Eventually you'll be able to improv over the entire tune if you learn the changes well enough
6) Listen to a definitive recording.
7) Explore harmonic extensions, alterations, substitutions (tone colors)
8) Explore melodic motives that take the music 'outside'

... There is nothing worse then learning a tune from the 'record' only to learn that your recording had reharmonized changes and is different than the way your jam mates play it.

Also, don't even bother with 7 and 8 if you don't have the previous stuff down cold.
 

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Chris Mickel said:
I listen to recordings and find the music for the specific tune. I then comit the melody to memory and then the chord changes. With the chords Iusually analyze them and find all of the progressions, ii-V7-I etc, and arpegiate the chords in time. I ususlly try to get to where I can hear the harmony as a arpegiate through the tune. The best thing I have found for sheding the changes, after commiting them to memory, is to try to improvise on the changes a capella. If you can hear the changes during unaccompanied improvisation then you really have the changes dowm. Of coures things like Aebersold play-a-longs and band in a box can be very helpful. Transcribing solos on the tune in question is also very helpful. For me a combination of these things and lots of repition usually does the job.

Chris

I'm with Chris . Use a drum track only and play the tune over and over alone with just the rhythm, melody many times and embellish each chorus , then move to making the changes on your horn within the FORM, the metronome or drum track keeps you honest and you should HEAR the melody and HARMONY coming out of your horn in TIME . Keep it simple and slow at first working the melody.

I've spent years and years doing this on the same core set of tunes , learning new tunes gets easier "As Time Goes By". A nice tune , learn it :)
 
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