Learning standards...

Discussion in 'Jazz, Acoustic, Classical & Fingerstyle' started by distressed_romeo, Mar 11, 2007.

  1. distressed_romeo

    distressed_romeo F'king ............ Forum MVP

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    OK, no matter how hard I try, I can't get into this...

    I love listening to and studying jazz, but when it comes to learning the standard repetoire, I just can't get into it. I'll read through the melody a couple of times, then the chords, and then play a chord melody thing and a solo, but the tunes never really stick with me, and I always have more fun playing the chords and putting my own melody on top (getting heavily into practicing solo guitar at the moment).

    I know a lot of guys (Mike Stern for instance) like to use the charts from standards, but write their own heads over them, and that's definitely what I prefer doing, but I keep thinking that I ought to just bottle down and learn these tunes in case I ever go to a jam and someone calls one of them...

    Thoughts?
     
  2. DDDorian

    DDDorian Mantis Toboggan, M.D Super Moderator

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    I'm much the same way. Playing over changes is straightforward enough, and harmonising melodies with chords can be done with practice, but standards baffle me and I really don't know why. I can stumble my way through "Autumn Leaves" and a few other typical ones but generally I have no feel for them whatsoever, especially ones specifically arranged for guitar.

    I like to think that I can usually hear my way through the changes of most standards and just fake it when I solo without anyone knowing that I don't recognise the tune, heh. Mostly I just make up chord harmonies for melodies from songs I'm listening to at the time and pass them off as standards, there are so many that no-one's the wiser.
     
  3. distressed_romeo

    distressed_romeo F'king ............ Forum MVP

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    Funny you mention 'Autumn Leaves', as I was just playing that one tonight...

    I wonder if it would help to actually listen to recordings of some of these tunes by guitarists I already like, instead of my constant diet of fusion...

    Incidentally, I have exactly the same problem learning classical pieces on either guitar or piano...
     
  4. Ibanez_Dave

    Ibanez_Dave Contributor

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    I find that with standards, I have to listen to a good vocal arrangement of the tune first. When I know the lyrics & vocal melody, it's a lot easier for me to comprehend playing guitar over the changes. I listen to the local NPR jazz radio station and get a pretty good selection of all the common standards so I'm familiar with them. I like stuff like Fly Me To The Moon, Days of Wine & Roses, things like that. Another thing is I have my parent's huge record collection, and it's got all these Tony Bennett & Frank Sinatra records that have a lot of classic standards. But in the end, nothing beats playing your own stuff over those progressions.
     
  5. distressed_romeo

    distressed_romeo F'king ............ Forum MVP

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    Agreed! There's nothing better than a good set of change to rip/emote over (delete as appropriate)!
     
  6. Mikey D

    Mikey D SS.org Regular

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    The best way to learn a standard is aurally, rather than reading it. It will stick with you longer. When I learn a new head I listen to the melody I learn to sing it all the way through. THEN learn to play it. Most standard melodys are fairly easy as they were originally popular songs.

    Once I have the head learnt I learn the chords, but in numeral form ie ii-v-i-biii-bviii-i instead of actual chords in case i need to transpose the standard.

    For tunes you are having trouble with, play through just he bass notes, then just he 3rds, then 7ths. You will then start to see the root movement and how the guide tones flow through the piece (or lack of flow sometimes).
     
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  7. distressed_romeo

    distressed_romeo F'king ............ Forum MVP

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    Great advice! Trying this with 'Autumn Leaves'. I've got a version with Frank Sinatra singing it on in the background on at the moment ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhB8H1YnRF0 for the curious), and it's already helped me get a feel for the melody. I'll give it another go tonight and post back with thoughts...
     
  8. Mikey D

    Mikey D SS.org Regular

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    Uber-bassist Ray Brown's tip was to not only learn the melody, but the words also. Supposedly he could sing hundreds of standards and no doubt play the shit out of them.
     
  9. distressed_romeo

    distressed_romeo F'king ............ Forum MVP

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    Also a useful tip...

    It's funny how many aspects of my playing learning 'Autumn Leaves' has improved... Learning standards is definitely a great way to sharpen all aspects of your chops while still practicing real music.
     
  10. Tymon

    Tymon SS.org Regular

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    Same here, tried to get into this a few times but it never really clicks. I enjoy it much more to create cool harmonies myself and figure out how to improvise over them, or practice on some chords from cool fusion tunes.

    Then again, this is probably because I suck hahaha.
     
  11. Mikey D

    Mikey D SS.org Regular

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    Playing standards well is a lifetimes work and a very enjoyable one at that.
     
  12. SnowfaLL

    SnowfaLL SS.org Regular

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    I gotta learn a standard for an audition in 2 weeks.. and I dont know where to start =[ I was thinking like My Favorite things or All blues, and I know them like the main parts, the thing that makes me scared is the improvising part of them.. For an audition, do they want to see like just the main part of the song? or improvised crap over it? and I wonder how long is acceptable for improvising over it.. Hopefully not like 15 minutes like most renditions of jazz standards lol
     
  13. distressed_romeo

    distressed_romeo F'king ............ Forum MVP

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    Just one or two passes through the changes should be fine. Try breaking the chord down into smaller sequences, like viewing them as a series of V-Is, II-V-Is or whatever in different keys, and it should become more manageable.
     

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