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Longest you spent learning a piece?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Tom Lane, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    I've been working on some tough-for-me tunes recently. Some of them I've been working on for 15 to 30 minutes a day for more than 2 months and it made me wonder if I'm just really slow or if I'm in good company. So, what's the most amount of time you've spent on really learning a tune? By learning, I mean, memorizing it, playing the melody brilliantly, soloing competently, internalizing the changes. When you're done, you KNOW the tune, inside and outside, slow, fast, different keys, etc.
  2. A life time .. For some pieces... Minutes for others...

  3. bassb66


    Nov 11, 2013
    I saw an old interview with Jaco Pastorius recently - he said it took him ten years to learn "Donna Lee." Don't give up. It takes what it takes.
  4. Good company here... it really does take what it takes
  5. lowEndRick


    Apr 8, 2006
  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    My definition of "having it" is being able to walk away from the piece for months, come back and be able to play it from recall with no or little mistakes. If you stopped playing it for a month and forgot everything, you definite don't have it. Or if you play it with someone else and regardless of how many clams they make, you still keep it together.

    I definitely think some pieces need time to marinate. Confirmation took me like one or two years to get the hang of it. Part of the time was just walking away from it and trying to approach it again later on. I just didn't have my chops together to feel compfortable trying to attempt it after the first try. Contiguous time spent was probably about a month or two. But that's just getting to the point of being able to play it competently with some fashion of control. I've spent just a little time dissecting it phrase by phrase.

    Moose the Mooche still giving me trouble after year so far. Which probably means I need to slow it down and play it very very carefully.

    Other pieces like Barbados seem to come relatively quickly (a few weeks). I think Ornithology (probably my best Bird head) took me about 6 months and have spent some time dissecting it and transposing it to different keys. Some people aren't into transposing stuff like that but I found a lot of value in it.

    Still I expect these pieces to be no different than a prominent piano work - it takes years to truly master. I'd be more confident in saying "I have it down" in another ten years from playing the melodies mindfully each day.

    It's likely that FED PUKESPRAY is the most thorough. I don't have the patience and discipline to do it the way he does.
  7. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Thanks guys. It's good to know that I'm not the only one. I do seem to be making progress, but it's always slower than I'd like
  8. sonicblue62

    sonicblue62 Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2009
    Twin Falls, Idaho
    "Freedom Jazz Dance" is a doozy. I need to work on a lot more jazz melodies; I learned so much by figuring that one out.
  9. Ed P

    Ed P

    Aug 4, 2007
    I've been working on some pieces for at least 15 years or more.
  10. I've spent minutes learning and over 30 years. There is no right or wrong answer.
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Of course there's a wrong answer. You usually can't master anything under an hour, or even a day. I suppose you'd be incredibly gifted if you did.

    It's not an overnight thing.