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On Memorising Jazz Melodies

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Jubey Monster, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. Jubey Monster

    Jubey Monster

    Nov 10, 2008
    Hey Guys,

    So I'm just curious to see how you approach this topic. A great interest of mine recently has been in developing the ability to play whatever lines or melodies or chord changes in all twelve keys. While the bass is a great instrument for utilising patterns, I feel that in order to really know a jazz melody or the like you should understand its construction and relation to the chords very intimately (this coupled with good technique would allow you to "break free" of playing the melody in fixed shapes every time).

    Now, the task at hand: How to do this effectively? One could learn the melody by scale degrees, however given the commonly shifting key centres of jazz this poses certain issues. One could also learn the actual note names, however over twelve keys it seems like there might be a better way. Opinions?
  2. In my opinion, the best way to solve this problem would be some serious ear training. One of the many benefits of ear training is that it gets you a very fundamental skill: the ability to play on your instrument anything you hear in your head.

    Here's my approach: when I have to learn a new melody, I'll just memorize it by listening to it (if there's a recording available), or reading it (if there's no recording) until I can sing it precisely. After that, the skill I mentioned allows me to play that melody from memory, in any key. Of course, depending on the tune, there are often technical hurdles to overcome, so I still have to shed it.

    Here's a great thread: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f73/really-learning-tune-304843/
  3. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
  4. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
  5. Well, he writes about the chord line idea on page 8. Maybe he wanted to keep the book clean and short? We'd have to ask the man himself, I guess.
  6. Jubey Monster

    Jubey Monster

    Nov 10, 2008
    Cheers guys, I think I'd come across that thread before, but the singing thing is definitely something I've been giving a lot of attention in recent weeks.
  7. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    Learn them intervallically.

    E.g., the opening phrase of "Scrapple From The Apple" would be:

    - up 1/2 step
    - up three 1/2 steps (minor third)
    - down 1/2 step
    - down whole step
    - down whole step
    - down three 1/2 steps (minor third)
    - up whole step
    - up eight 1/2 steps (minor sixth)

    [at least I think it is; it's been ages since I've played it, and I don't have an instrument handy to check!]

    Once you know the sequence of spaces between the notes, not knowing the names of the notes won't affect your ability to play that melody regardless of what key it's in.

    But yeah, learn to sing it. And then learn to play what you sing.
  8. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I think the fastest way to learn the melody is by playing it slowly on your instrument which could be your voice, a bass, a piano, etc. Repetition eventually locks it into your memory especially if you like the melody or it connects with you in a particular way.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Sorry, just found this. First, thanks for the nice words, ryco.

    But yeah, in talking with Chuck, the idea of "melody" was thought to be a little outside the scope of the book as an "introductory" text for walking bass. But that's kind of the next step in comping - hearing the line you're playing as melodic accompaniment rather than harmonic accompaniment.

    I was doing some duo playing for a couple of years with a great pianist, Jon Easton. I asked him once about how to deal with the situation I was facing - his ear was a LOT more advanced than mine and there was a LOT of stuff that he was doing that I just couldn't hear. His take was that as long as I was (simultaneously) hearing the melody clearly AND my line clearly AND he was doing the same thing, then what we were playing would work together. Because we were improvising to the SAME material.

    But that's a lot to get into for an introductory text.

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