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How many jazz standards do you need in your head to Cut It?


alby

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How many jazz standards do you need in your head to Cut It?
If you're in a hard rock, heavy metal, pung, grunge etc.-style band, 0. Just knowing ONE willplaceyou in danger of overplaying your part...

 

If you're in a pop/cover band: Just the ones your 'artists' cover - if you do Linda Rhonstat, you'll need a couple dozen, Dr. John about 16, etc.

 

If you play restaurants: a couple hundred is not at all out of line. A thousand is better, keeping in mind 30-40% will be Rhythm changes and 10-15% will be blues, that's 500 bridges, but only 200 'A' sections....

 

For jam sessions: a couple dozen will be enough if you get to call the tune, otherwise, know 50-100 well enough to play over.

 

In the end, if you're going to play standards, you need to know as many as you can get your hands on. If you're not, then justenough to get through a request for "something from the 30's or 40's"

 

Dasher

It's all about the music. Really. I just keep telling myself that...

The Soundsmith

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Originally posted by alby:

Just went to a jam session the other day, and a song got called that I didn't know.

 

Whats the magic number 50?

 

Regard

alby

What was the song?

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Bingo. The Real Books are a great tool to have available. Most standards are in those books, and many others have 'stock' harmonic patterns (like "Rhythm Changes", which will work for fully half of Charlie Parker's repertoire). This is where reading is fundamental; the "lead sheet" format of the RealBook makes it quite simple to see the chord names and play 'em. If the session is bass, sax, piano, and drums, it's difficult for a pianist to lay out.

 

Originally posted by lrossmusic:

I used to always bring my Real Books (Vol.1&2) along to the jam sessions. In some cases I could just read along but other times it was best to just lay out when the tune was totally unfamiliar.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Posted by Coyote If the session is bass, sax, piano, and drums, it's difficult for a pianist to lay out.
What I meant was let someone else play who knew the tune if no one wanted to play something else.

Usually we would pick something everyone agreed on though.

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Originally posted by lrossmusic:

I used to always bring my Real Books (Vol.1&2) along to the jam sessions. In some cases I could just read along but other times it was best to just lay out when the tune was totally unfamiliar.

I should, but I wanna look like cool. Only singers bring charts! I cant remember the song that they called. It was one of the standard ballad's. I know about 15 songs to "production" quality, that I can play by memory. To maintain 50 at production quality is going to be a lot of work for a non full time musician.
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A very good question. When I was playing jazz more or less full-time, I used to be able to play maybe 70 jazz standards without looking at a chart. Nowadays, it's much, much less, simply because of lack of continuous practice. Jazz gigs are scarce, so there are fewer occasions to exercise this common practice.

On the other hand, today I find myself being able to harmonize better, to transpose better, to better adapt to the situation by playing different voicings and substitutions, and I have a better ability to perceive the style and music enviroment and to adapt to it.

 

As I understand it, today the pianist who wants to know a million songs in all keys has less chance to develop his craft, except for a few selected 'elite' artists. In my own jazz projects, I like to perform original material, or to personalize the standards to an high degree. Of course, you can't throw those personalized arrangements to your musicians in a jam session situation - you write them down, so they become a little more like your own tunes, in a way. :) I believe this is kind of expected from today's jazzers.

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I should, but I wanna look like cool. Only singers bring charts!
For a jam session, yeah, but if it's an actual paid gig, like at a restaurant, go ahead and bring music. Hey, in that situation you won't look cool anyway, you won't even be noticed unless you break out some Cecil Taylor licks and cause somebody to choke on their pasta.
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I think if you're into jazz, you just keep learning new tunes for your whole life. There's so many good tunes out there...
:):thu:

 

If you were re-incarnated several times you probably still wouldn't have enough time to cover the total jazz repertiore. Also learning a tune doesn't mean that it will stay at your finger tips if you are not playing it regularly, so you find yourswlf revolving back around to old tunes and re-learning them.

I have a friend who is near 70 and who I am sure walks around with thousands of tunes in his head. It's hard to call something he doesn't know yet when I visit him he is always learning something new.

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Originally posted by dementia13:

I should, but I wanna look like cool. Only singers bring charts!
For a jam session, yeah, but if it's an actual paid gig, like at a restaurant, go ahead and bring music. Hey, in that situation you won't look cool anyway, you won't even be noticed unless you break out some Cecil Taylor licks and cause somebody to choke on their pasta.
I used to do a restaurant gig. Wasn't too bad. Got paid ok, and got a meal. The funniest time was when the lid of this shitty grand piano they had came off its hinges and slammed shut while I was playing. You would think that the owners of the Restaurant would have sold their his and her's Merc's and got me a decent piano.

 

Regards

alby

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As far as learning lots of tunes goes, I think the only way ultimately that works includes remembering the intervals between adjacent chords. Thats one reason its important to play the bass + chords in every key: it forces you to abandon the letter names and think in terms of intervals. The letter names are really irrelevant, all that matters is the type of chord and the movement.

 

To drive the point home, it helps to rewrite the chart as intervals rather than as letter names. So for example, the first four bars of All of Me would look like this (vanilla changes):

 

I | 3(7) | 4(7) | 4min(7) |

 

Translated this means, the first chord is the tonic major, the second is a major third up and is a dominant, the next is a fourth up and is a dominant, and the next is a fourth up and is a minor seventh (this is not the same as the roman numeral system which is indirect because the numerals are always relative to the tonic, rather than the previous chord).

 

Thinking in terms of the intervals captures what you really need to know. After youve done this for awhile it improves your ear too, because you start to associate the sound of changes with the intervals. Eventually you should be at the point where just being familiar with the tune is enough, because you can visualize the intervals as youre hearing the record, and the key then becomes irrelevant.

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Interesting Stoo. I don't know. I do this kind of, sometimes. But I think in terms of the roman numeral system. If you're just thinking of intervals based on the previous interval you're kind of out of the loop in terms of where is the tonic, aren't you? If you have the tonic in mind it kind of keeps your playing relative to it, so you have a longer overview target in focus. Of course this hasn't kept me from forgetting from time to time and ending in the wrong key anyway!

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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I prefer to think of chord changes in terms of their function.

 

With All of Me in C .. C, E7, A7 etc.,

 

I first think I or C major and then V of VI. VI being A major and its 'V' being E7.

 

Actually, I rarely memorize all the changes to a tune, I just remember the important ones. If the bridge of a tune (in C major, for example) goes to iii (E minor), I remember to set up iii by thinking ii7 V7 of iii or F#m7-5 B7 Em.

 

I personally find it easier to think in terms of chord/harmonic function. In this way, I have less chords to 'remember'.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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The other thing about jazz standards, is that I find that for me, as I get older, I connect with certain tunes in a special way. There might be some tune that I was aware of years ago, but it didn't really do anything for me, but now I find that I'm connecting with it a new way. So for me, that becomes a "new tune". The tune might be 20 years old, or 90 years old, but it's new for me, and I find a way of connecting to it that makes the whole thing fresh and interesting for me.
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Henry, you can write down the key modulations no problem, just like in the roman numeral analysis, if you want to explicitly assert a particular interpretation. The two methods aren't much different really in that regard.

 

For me the bottom line is that one needs to recognize an interval immediately, regardless of the harmonic context. So if someone goes from I to III7 for example, you need to visualize that interval on the fly without waiting several bars to see that the III7 is "really" the V of V of the minor key a major second up from the tonic (like the second chord of All of Me). Writing out the intervals explicitly helps (me at least) to solidify that ability.

 

But I agree in general there's more than one way of freeing yourself from the letter names of the chords, and the different ways emphasize different aspects of the music. Sometimes an unfamiliar way shines a light on new possibilities . . . .

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There seems to be a great resurgence in interest in the standards, aka "The Great American Songbook" thanks to Rod Stewart, Steve Tyrell, Diana Krall, etc. There was a time I wouldn't touch the stuff because I have to admit that I have a personal dislike for big-band Sinatra-music. But that's changed since I started doing contemporary "smooth jazz" versions of the standards... I found that I really love the lush chord changes of Hoagy Carmichael (especially), Cole Porter, Gershwin, etc. Now I do all restaraunt gigs and I'm not only enjoying it but my chops seem to be improving steadily. My fav fake book is "Just Standards Real Book" by Warner Brothers, because it has easy-to-read full-page renditions and features more useful tunes and less fluff than some.
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My mom is visiting for a couple weeks, and all those songs from the 40s are her generation, and she loves em all . . . I have to play a bunch every day for her and she can sing along with probably over a 100. Every time I start to play one she sighs and says "Oh, I just LOVE that song ! " We were just talking this morning about how so many songs nowadays are the same four lines repeated 85 times over unimaginative changes, whereas in the good old days when Hoagy was da man . . . .

 

It's interesting that people of her generation also love a particular young guy right now, by the name of Josh Groban. Whatever else you say about him, the fact remains that he has a fabulous voice and technical ability. It's great that somebody who has devoted so much time into perfecting his musical ability is actually insanely popular. Especially since he's not so popular among the biggest demographics.

 

Sorry, drifting OT.

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I agree with Irossmusic:

 

 

I used to always bring my Real Books (Vol.1&2) along to the jam sessions. In some cases I could just read along but other times it was best to just lay out when the tune was totally unfamiliar.

 

If you're going to a jazz session, the Real Books are invaluable. Another suggestion would be the long process of "ear training"...start listening to lots of different recordings, sit down at the keys and try to play back what you hear. Part of the bass line, a lead...something that you recognize in there to get you started, and then recreate the arrangement bit by bit as you get more comfortable hearing the pitches. After doing this with a lot of songs, you will find that certain devices sound familiar when you are jamming, and you could add parts simply without actually knowing the song

Composer/Performer at Roger Hooper Music

Product Trainer at CASIO

www.rogerhooper.com

 

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Originally posted by stoo schultz:

My mom is visiting for a couple weeks, and all those songs from the 40s are her generation, and she loves em all . . . I have to play a bunch every day for her and she can sing along with probably over a 100. Every time I start to play one she sighs and says "Oh, I just LOVE that song ! " We were just talking this morning about how so many songs nowadays are the same four lines repeated 85 times over unimaginative changes, whereas in the good old days when Hoagy was da man . . . .

 

It's interesting that people of her generation also love a particular young guy right now, by the name of Josh Groban. Whatever else you say about him, the fact remains that he has a fabulous voice and technical ability. It's great that somebody who has devoted so much time into perfecting his musical ability is actually insanely popular. Especially since he's not so popular among the biggest demographics.

 

Sorry, drifting OT.

Hoagy Carmichael is still one of my favorites. When I was 16 or so, I was working with guys in their 40's and I was forced to learn all of those 'old' tunes. Most of those older musicians are now dead, but I managed to track down a drummer a few years ago who made me learn those tunes and I thanked him. He has since passed on to that big rehearsal room in the sky.

 

Does anyone remember the old Steve Allen Show where Steve would read the lyrics of tunes.

 

My personal favorite (in that vein) is Ain't No Sunshine ... and I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know .....

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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The Real Book is invaluable but also can be harmful, past the early stages on a lot of that music. A lot of the changes are just plain wrong. I know. I lot of changes are a matter of interpretation, but The Real Book (RB) has standardized questionable, at best, changes for tunes. Or even KEYS. G major/E minor MIGHT BE the original key of Autumn Leaves, but I don't know anyone besides a singer or RB musician who plays it in that key. Desifinado has about 4 bars excised from it. Everyone I know plays Green Dolphin Street in Eb not C.

 

By the way Stoo, that's great with your Mom. What helped me was growing up with an aunt who played all those tunes by ear on the piano. Everyday she'd come by or we'd go to her house to visit and we'd all sit around the piano as she'd play and sing Body and Soul, All The Things, etc.. Then they'd try to stump each other. "You know this tune . . .?" It was actually a great way of getting familiar with this music while not playing it. By the tiime it came for me to learn them much of the homework was already done. I at least knew how they went. Some of the changes were questionable, no -- wrong though!

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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Henry wrote: The Real Book is invaluable but also can be harmful, past the early stages on a lot of that music. A lot of the changes are just plain wrong.
True. Still it beats a blank at a jam session. The best thing of course is to get a good recording and edit the Real Book.
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