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remembering standards chord prog..

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by mav, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. mav


    Jun 10, 2003
    i have another ?? :meh:
    i play with this great guitarist who for some reason can play just about any jazz standard without a chart, its unbelievable hes a walking jazz jukebox.
    ive asked him how and he told me it all just 2 5 1's or 6 2 5 1's
    so ive been spending the past year playing very slowly
    6 2 5 1 and singing it to myself to internalize it, and its slowly working but last night at a party someone got up and wanted to sing MY WAY and he played the whole tune, i couldnt believe it ive been playing with him for 3 years and weve very played it and he just pulls it out of the hat.
    how can i develop this great skill?
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    My earliest training in this was from my dad. I would ride with him up to Detroit from Toledo on weekends (couple of hours each way) for gigs. He would put on the AM station playing the old big band stuff and Sinatra and Bob Goulet (sp?) kinda stuff. He'd say, "Ok, we're in the key of G. What are the changes?"
    You can do this to yourself, while in elevators, etc.

    Years of experience in doing this helps a lot as well. No short cut there.
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    The real key to it is ear training focusing on intervals. I can't imagine that he actually has memorized most every standard tune around. He probably just hears intervals really well.

    In addition to the intervals, you need to train your ears to recognize the chord forms. Once you are there, you can pretty much play anything that your hands will allow you to play.

    I don't do much jazz, with which this process is admittedly tougher, but the idea is the same with any music. I've been doing this for years on BG.

    If I have never played a tune but heard it, once in the key, I can usually get the intervals the first time through. I just pedal around the roots to keep from unzipping my fly. By the second time through I can usually get the forms (unless they are particularly oddball) and I am in the groove. It doesn't really matter if it's pop, jazz, AC, R&B or whatever. The idea is the same.

    The key is to not try to overplay and allow the lines to come to you as you get comfortable. A simple line played well rhythmically and and within the form is always acceptable. The flashy stuff will come.
  4. The key is not only knowing the sound of II-V, but understanding it in relation to the tune. Some tunes are actually really simple if you ignore the V's for a moment and look at the general harmonic progression where the II-V represents a single chord. this usually simplifies the tune into a pretty linear, melodic thing. Then stick the II-V's back in. Then look for ways to mess with it...

    Oh and then there's the melody ;-)
  5. Mike Goodbar

    Mike Goodbar Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    I occasionally play with a pianist who is another "walking jukebox." He can't read a note of music -- not even chord symbols -- but he just has this marvellous ear that has been cultivated by learning tunes by ear year after year. (I find it interesting that, for some reason, most of the pianists I've encounter who play strictly by ear tend to gravitate toward the flat keys: A-flat and D-flat in particular).

    Of course, there are no books on his gigs, so its always a great lesson in ear training. My trick (other than to keep my eye on his left pinky) is to think of the Roman numerals rather than the actual chords in the particular key you're playing. That way, you can play the tune in ANY key once you're learned it . After a while, certain progessions become instinctive.
  6. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    If you're watching the left hand, you just gotta hope the guy doesn't start going for those rootless voicings... then you can be screwed in some instances if you don't know the tune that well.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I've met Jazz pros who have memorised every standard tune around - several of those who act as tutors for the Jazz Summerschool I attend, can do this and will play for hours together with no music on what seems like thousands of standards.

    I spent a week with a great guy called Pete Churchill, who sings and plays piano - he teaches full-time on the Leeds Jazz course - but he just seemed to know so many tunes it was unbelievable and I said this to him and asked him what his secret was - he said "Never write anything down" - keep it all in your head and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

    I must admit that I can't imagine ever being like this - but then I can't imagine what it's like to have memorised every one of Shakespeare's plays and every play you have appeared in for 40 years - as many English actors have done!! :meh:

    I reckon some people have just got "extra storage capacity" amongst their genes!! ;)
  8. :meh: - Pete may have a point - I have difficulty remembering things but not if I've never seen the lead sheet in the first place or have been forced to ditch it (ie: with a crow bar at gun point). When playing with an indie rock band it doesn't exist anyway and I seem to have no trouble but things are simpler. My teacher keeps saying how liberating it is - not if you have to think about it it isn't! I remember Dave Cliff (guitar on Jamey's UK courses amongst other things) giving excellent and eloquent reasons for learning all tunes in all keys. There is only so much time in my day and it all seems overwehlming :crying:. BTW I can't afford JA's courses either. So as for "fake books making fake musicians" as I've been told I'm settling for being a fraud in the short term at least.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Dave Cliff teaches on the Glamorgan Summerschool I attend as well.
    The Aebersold ones are very expensive aren't they!!?? So - I have been to Glamorgan for the last 5 years or so and it's been about £250 a week including accommodation - whereas the last time I saw a price for the Aebersold one it was £695 without accommodation!! :eek:

    Also - I have met people who have been on both and prefer Glamorgan, which is mostly just playing in various band situations - whereas they say the Aebersold has a lot of sitting around in classrooms writing stuff!! :meh:
  10. mav


    Jun 10, 2003
    ive just talked to my guitarist friend about how he managed to play MY WAY. with no chart. he told me
    1. he compared the tune to a realy simple tune i cant remember which it was, somthing like MY BONNIE
    2. he said somthing about thinking in 1 and 4 chords
    3. he simply followed the melody
    he told me he had never acualy played the tune so it was nothing to do with memory after all.
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    If you know the tune then reading is silly. If someone throws a lead sheet in front of you, try to get yours eyes off the page as soon as you can. If you can't get your eyes off the page, you haven't internalized the tune. I haven't even gotten to knowing the melody at this point.

    If you know your harmony, you can break tunes into larger, remember-able parts. For instance:

    Autumn Leaves
    form AAB

    A section
    II V I major
    II V I relative minor

    B section
    II V I minor
    II V I IV relative major
    II V I relative minor
    the 'I' turns into: III VI II V in lydian key of IV (Usually with the descending chromatic tritone sub trick)
    II V I minor again.

    Now you know the changes to this tune and can put into any key that you know.
  12. I agree with you Ray - oddly you've picked a tune I do know and can play in more than one key (I think of it as AABC or as AA upside down A as the order of the four bar blocks is reversed and a last 8 which I see as 251 in the relative minor chromatically desending to 4 as a 7th chord then 5 1 and 1 in rel minor to end if no turnaround - this isn't important - just nitpickingly different). However, somebody stick the leadsheet in front of me and I'll stare at it transfixed like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Yeah man - time to chuck the paper away. It just feels like giving up the fags though - took me about 20 attempts and needed a massive asthma attack for me to suceed. I played Blue Bossa I think without music the other night and moved the stand away - 'don't you feel exposed?' said the drummer - damn right - no directions to comfort me when I get lost. As a frequent audience member I always think a pro small band just doesn't know its stuff if their are music stands on stage. I supose I have my own answer - resolve not to look like an mamatuer any more!

    For all the Brits about, everyone tells me Glamorgan as sugested by Bruce is good - I'll have to do it!
  13. Danksalot


    Apr 9, 2003
    Dallas, Texas, USA
    Endorsing Artist: SIT Strings
    Two Things:

    1) My old bass teacher knew about 600-800 songs without music, and in any key. Think of it this way. I know my friend Jenny. I talk with her all the time. I don't have to introduce myself every time I talk to her because I've spent the time getting to know her. If I were in Russia and the surroundings were completely different and I saw Jenny, I would be able to talk to her just like when I'm here in town. I know Autumn Leaves. I don't have to remind myself of the chords every time because I've spent the time getting to know the song. If I see/hear the song in a different key, it's like being in Russia, I'm still talking to Jenny. No biggie. The time consuming thing is getting to know THAT many songs this well.

    2) I was supposed to learn a whole CD of songs for band practice the other day. There were four songs that I had not even had the chance to listen to, and I had never heard before. I didn't say anything, and nobody noticed because I payed really good attention and did a great fake-job. This is not ideal on a gig, but if the band leader wants to play a song that you don't know, sometimes it's a necessary skill to have.

    Sometimes you know them, sometimes you don't. Either way if you can sound like you know them, you'll do just fine.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I convinced Howard K - he's coming this year!!

    It's not far off the M4 and so it's easy to get to via motorways!! ;)
  15. I know hundreds of tunes...My ears are good...but the main reason I do know so many is that at 62, I've lived them all! :meh:
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    It's not uncommon these days to have to learn songs on the bandstand by just listening - on several of gigs I do regularly, the bandleader will simply start playing. If I don't know the song, I'll let him have a full chorus solo so I can absorb the changes before jumping in. Most often, I know a part of the a song and can't remember a small section or the bridge, in which case it's no big deal once the "reminder" is given. As far as keys, they could go anywhere, and I believe that if you really know the tune, it doesn't much matter aside from the fact that I find Ab and Db harder to intonate well in than the other 10. Like Mr. WARMBATON sez, being more comfortable with more tunes seems to be one of the perks of getting older. And since there aren't too damn many of these, I try to fully appreciate this one. :)
  17. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I agree with everything that's been said here by our experienced musical vets -- internalizing, roman numerals, knowing the melody, being old, yada yada...

    I think Bruce was onto something when he said something like "it's in their genes". I definitely think there are brain differences that account for some of this variation in ability to remember tunes, though.

    Taking it away from chords and music per se, in my non-jazz world I know some guys who are walking libraries of lyrics. Hundreds of tunes, drop of a hat, maybe a missed line or two, maybe an extra bar or two vamping at the beginning of the third verse. They aren't using any ear training or theory but there's something about them that lets that information soak in.

    Some of these tunes I've played with them a thousand times, and I can tell you maybe two lines of lyrics. Yet, I've internalized the musical part such that you could wake me out of a whiskey-dead stupor and I could play a kick-ass version of the tune.

    As I said, I think all of the above musical advice and thinking is true. I just think that for some folks this ability comes easier than for others. In your musical career you're going to meet some of these folks with the mega-neurons. Admire their talent, celebrate it and back it up. Put in your practice and playing time, do your best to consciously get rid of the paper, and don't beat yourself up over it. Besides classical, if there's any genre of music where it's half-way respectable to have a music stand on stage, it's jazz.

    But really: reading just ain't the same as playing.
  18. It's also a little easier for a bass player to cop changes because you're constantly dealing with passing tones. Many times, when I'm not sure of a tune i'll actually surprise myself by walking myself right into a bridge or some mysterious part of a tune i'm not sure of.
    Chris, you're right on the money about age. Another surprising perk that i've found is as much as I don't go for working with MOST singers, I find that, for me, it's easy to learn tunes because of hearing the lyrics. Problem with many singers is they don't take too long to trash out a tune with scatting and forgetting the lyrics.....Sorry, i'll stop.
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    True - with a bad singer, it seems to be all about "me....ME....ME!!!" rather than the overall music (kinda like with a bad sax player :) ). But with a good singer, especially one who really appreciates the band, you can get into a deeper understanding of many standards because you also end up setting the musical tone for the meaning of the words. And I agree that learning the words from a vocal version is a great way to help in learning tunes in general. There's just something about the added value of the lyrics which can help a melody stick - and I find that if I know the melody well, the changes are usually already there implied by it (at least the basic ones and large tonal movements).

    I'd heartily recommend that anyone trying to learn tunes pick up some great vocal versions and see if that helps. It always helps me...
  20. Chris, Chris, Durryl, Durryl...I qouted your entire post so I could reassure myself that you're OK....What with the Pile of Warbled Tones and the super large fonts, it seems you're on the emotional edge... but since your post makes so much sense, I won't worry.
    I grew up musically on the heels of the great singers.....Sinatra, Torme, Sarah, Carmen, Ella, on and on, and these mothers provided plenty grist for my lyric mill...(i can't believe i said that!) And again like Donosaurus' mention of Ben Webster, I have been in that situation of remembering parts of tunes harmonically because I knew the lyrics!

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