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Learning jazz standards?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Valentina P, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. Valentina P

    Valentina P

    Oct 3, 2018
    I’ve been playing bass since I was around 12-13 and I can physically play my bass okay, though my technique is far from perfect (but that’s something I’ve really made strides in recently). I can read tabs/staff alright. The issue that I’m having is that, especially when it comes to jazz songs, it’s hard to tell what exactly I should play. I’ve tried using tabs/sheet music combined with listening to recordings, but I have trouble finding just one version of any jazz standard to play (though I don’t feel good about just copying one version and playing it with no feel anyway). I do know I have to get better at harmony and learn chords to help with improvisation during songs. I don’t have too hard a time improvising when I sing, because I already know which notes fit into the music. I just have a hard time doing all this on the bass. Does anyone have any tips/resources on approaching learning jazz standards in general?
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Can you play through a chart using all of the correct chord tones for each chord? That's a start.
    red_rhino and MrLenny1 like this.
  3. Ed Fuqua has a great post here (linked below) on learning standards. It's pretty intense, but it's probably one of the best ways I've seen to really know a song. And it gets easier once you do it for awhile... Like several years...

    REALLY Learning a tune
    Valentina P and IamGroot like this.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Unless there is a specific bass line (So What, All Blues), there is no "right" way to play these tunes. It's a matter of being comfortable with chord changes and leading tones to get from chord to chord. Look and listen for patterns (ii-V, etc.).
  5. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    This is where you need to start. What's likely the next chord? Dm7b5 - G7#9 - ???
    Can you spell those chords?
  6. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    A deceptive cadence.:roflmao:
  7. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Find a good teacher. A few lessons can really turns thing around.
  8. I cant recommend Aebersold play along books enough. They come with a CD to jam with, and the book dives deep into the theory. Below is one example, but he has many flavors available:

    Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz & Improvise Sheet Music By Jamey Aebersold - Sheet Music Plus{campaign_id}_&popup=false&popup=false&utm_source=google&ac=1&country_code=USA&sc_intid=5140109&scid=scplp5140109

    One exercise i find helpful is go through the chart, play only the root. Then 1-3. Then 1-3-5. Then 1-3-5-7.

    BUT in real songs that leads to a bit of a jumpy, disjointed line. Mature jazz lines are made up of mostly whole and half steps, with the occasional third jump.

    So learning chords is super important, but its up to you how you want to link those chord tones together.

    Chords (half notes): Am Dm G7 C
    1-3 line(Q notes): A C, D F, G B, C
    Whole/half line: A G, F E, D Db, C

    But thats just one example.

    Theres a lot to learn. Years worth. Just like singing ,once you get a bite into the theory, youll start to trust yourself and what sounds "right." Good luck!
    Valentina P likes this.
  9. donotfret


    Jun 11, 2018
    If this is the case, the problem you should focus on in my opinion is bass technique, not how to learn standards. Transcribing bass lines will teach you how to play what you hear.

    As for learning jazz standards, the site I really like is www.learnjazzstandards.com. In particular the list of beginner's standards and the list of standards that will make learning other standards easier are very useful to get started.

    There is also a school of thought that the most important chord progressions by far are the twelve-bar blues and rhythm changes. This blog post explains why.
    BeRad, Valentina P and alanloomis1980 like this.
  10. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Anthony wellington has a good demonstration of what is needed to get you there.
    ryco, Valentina P and ErikP.Bass like this.
  11. I know!! I Know!! (waves both hands in air).
    saabfender likes this.
  12. Valentina P

    Valentina P

    Oct 3, 2018
    Great tips and resources from everyone so far! I can’t respond to everybody, but I am reading all the replies. I do have some questions bas(s)ed on these replies, but I’ll have those answered when I get there so as to not overcomplicate. First I’ll try to focus on my grasp on the essentials.
    donotfret likes this.
  13. Ekulati

    Ekulati Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2016
    Richmond, VA
    Right, bottom line is you HAVE to be able to spell chords, all 3 or 4 (or more) notes, not just root-5 or root-3-5. Then you have to learn the harmonic functions of the three main chord types.

    One thing I did very early in learning jazz is I figured out I could always "walk the third" and thus both define the quality of a chord and also lead logically into the next one. So for any major type chord, I'd simply play 1-2-3-1 or 1-2-3-2 depending. For a minor (or dim) chord I'd play 1-2-b3-1 etc. Assuming a tune in 4/4 that gets you either a full bar or a half bar of "walk" before you change to the next chord. After that, you vary it by approaching the next chord from a leading tone, above or below (but being careful not to violate the triad quality of the chord you're coming FROM, e.g. if you're on Dm7, you wouldn't want to approach the G root with an F#. That blows the minor feel of the Dm7. Unless of course you know you WANT to do that.)

    Learn some theory, play some, invent some, rinse and repeat...
    IamGroot and Valentina P like this.
  14. Valentina P

    Valentina P

    Oct 3, 2018
    I was able to get through All Of Me in C major (probably as simple as you can get) just using the root of the chords straight through, and even though it sounded a little jumpy sometimes (probably why I need to work on chord progressions/transitions later on) I feel like I have a better foundation to elaborate on. Not sure if that solved the problem, but it definitely helped.
    mambo4 and IamGroot like this.
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Exactly why the first thing you should do with any new jazz tune is learn it with only root notes.
    Valentina P likes this.
  16. Since you are already a skilled singer, perhaps try to sing your bass lines first (over rh piano chord if possible) and then play them on bass.

    This is imo extremely high value exercise.

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