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  1. #1

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    Ok so this a tired subject as theres hundreds of posts about this online but I can't grasp this listening to standards. I come up from a rock guitar background so I'm used to hearing chords on guitar and fairly easily as it's the forefront of the music. In jazz though, I can't seem to pick out what chord or even what chord quality the rhythm section is playing. I've attempted many ear training methods from learning and singing melodic intervals, singing the chord tones of a specific chord (which I admit I haven't practiced as much as I'd like to so far). I tend to get discouraged when I'm practicing ear training extensively and notice no progress in transcribing chords and changed, I've made a lot of progress in transcribing melodies and solos but not so much chords.
    As an example, I decided to start working on transcribing Summertime, the version by the Chet Baker Quartet so I transcribed the melody without a problem and part of Chet's solo. I just can not figure out the chords. I tried to put the pieces together and it sounds like the bass plays A C G A in bar one and the piano plays a short stab which I believe is F A, but when I searched up the lead sheet, the first chord is an E minor. And the rest of tune I can't figure out a single chord, I know I'm a beginner in transcription and jazz, so any thing to get me out of this rut and really making some progress would be greatly appreciated, my goal is to be able to learn and transcribe standards rather than relying on a real book.


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  3. #2

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    You are doing a lot of things right, especially singing the chord tones. But you need to practice them harder and more consistently. The way I do this on piano or guitar to internalize chord qualities is I play a note and designate it as the root of one of the 4 basic triad and the 5 basic 4-note chord qualites (Maj7, min7, 7, min7b5, and diminished 7). I either go through the cycle of 5/4 or just pick random chords usually by going up/down a tritone. I then pre-hear and sing the remaining notes before playing it. You have to do one at a time before moving on to the next quality. Eventually, you will move on to more colorful chords or extensions such as Maj9, 7b9, and so on. But you need to start basic.

    This might take a while. You will mess up a lot in the beginning so keep a log of your progress.

    As for tunes always listen for the root motion. You can also play and sing the root motion of tunes. Get a lead sheet for this; don't worry about "cheating". Remember you are learning, so it's not cheating. After a while you won't need a lead sheet in most cases. If you do this enough you will hear the changes automatically of any tune even without the presence of the bass player supplying the root. Also, start simple and listen to some blues very carefully.

    I hope this helps you!
    Last edited by smokinguit; 07-08-2017 at 11:28 PM.
    "If I don't practice for a day, I know it... for two days, the critics know it... three days, the public knows it." -- Louis Armstrong

  4. #3
    That's great so I'll really double down on my ear training. I'm definitely going to try out the way you explained, I think one of my problems has always been trying to take things too fast, tackling too many things at a time instead of establishing the basics first.Thank you for the info, I'm going to put this to work asap!

  5. #4

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    Hey there jazzytele, yeah it's a completely mind blowing world isn't it? I remember one of my first jazz theory classes I took while I was in college, my teacher was explaining modulation as an idea. He said to the class "Tell me when you think the key changes." and proceeded to play an amazing series of chords on piano. Hands went up at different times from people throughout the progression. I couldn't hear where he was starting from no less where he wound up, it was all just amazing chords and sounds; it was all incomprehensible magic.
    For me, the ear came along with the fingers. The more I played TUNES, the more I came to relate chord movement and identity as a feeling rather than a group of notes. In other words, when I hear a tune now, I'm not aware of a root movement as a sound first, but as the sound of a place on the scale I know even before the chord is played. I got this from two places and I remember it well.

    The first pieces I came to know really well, I learned by rote. My ear didn't care a bit what was going on, but I really dug being able to play Autumn Leaves and All The Things. But as I learned them, on a subconscious level, I learned the feel of the proper chords. These tunes both use all the diatonic chords in really identifiable ways. So after my newbie ear learned how to play the first 6 bars of ATTYA, eventually it clicked "Oh really? Thats what VI II V I IV sounds like?" It was the familiarity with a tune that taught me what chords sounded like. It took time but that's what made it real for me.

    The other thing that did it for me was the George Van Eps Guitar Method. That's the little book not the big one. In this treasure of a book I was walked up the diatonic scale with triads, and through different voicings I heard chord qualities and identities. It was the first time I'd seen the guitar, the sound, the chords laid out as plainly as on a piano.

    I'm a huge advocate of Ear training now. On and off the instrument, I really believe intervallic identification is the key, but I also know that for me personally, even before I could identify a chord, it was the tunes and the fingerboard (and piano keyboard) that made the music come alive. In that living relationship, that dialogue between chords in a tune my ear could hear, that their identity became apparent.

    That's how it worked for me. It's just one perspective. Today my ear is really good but every day, it's still improving. Welcome to the never ending journey!


  6. #5
    For many people, myself included, hearing chords was the most difficult thing when first introduced to jazz music. Get familiar with the simplest voicings on the guitar, which would be the "guide tone" voicings (only bass and the two middle strings on the guitar - that would be the root, 3rd and 7th of the chords). Play these voicings through the tunes. Generally try to spend more time comping. Also arpeggios help a lot with hearing the chords, and soloing over them also. Learn some more tunes, you 'll start to see the same chord patterns in most of them. It becomes a lot easier after a while. Just keep at it, and remember that if you 've discovered an area that you re really weak at, it 's a great opportunity for improvement. Put goals for 3 months from now

  7. #6
    Its a great way to sharpen ears but can't expect to nail everything 100%. If they have allowed themselves a bit of freedom(which happens quite often), it can become confusing very quickly. Figuring out functions and key changes correctly this way is already a job well done.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzytele View Post
    As an example, I decided to start working on transcribing Summertime, the version by the Chet Baker Quartet so I transcribed the melody without a problem and part of Chet's solo. I just can not figure out the chords. I tried to put the pieces together and it sounds like the bass plays A C G A in bar one and the piano plays a short stab which I believe is F A, but when I searched up the lead sheet, the first chord is an E minor. ...
    Summertime can be harmonized in so many ways I don't think a generic lead sheet would be much help.
    Transcribing chords from recordings is a great exercise, but you might start with tunes recorded with fewer chord subs and less instrumentation. I think it's also easier to start by transcribing chords from guitar performances before trying to do it from piano. Bucky Pizzarelli recordings might be a better place to start.
    Update: I just listened to a Chet Baker version of Summertime, but it's in the key of Dmin. Your lead sheet seems to be in the key of Emin (probably a trumpet chart). I like that version a lot. The pianist is dancing around a lot, so transcribing all the chord voicings would be tricky. I think the bassist is playing that changes pretty straight though, so listen to him first to work out the basic chords.
    Last edited by KirkP; 07-10-2017 at 04:11 PM.

  9. #8
    I checked out some of Pizzarelli's playing and I really dig it, I'll have to sit down and transcribe some of his work today, thank you for the suggestion.
    Yeah I disregarded that Chet was playing a Bb trumpet and that's why I couldn't figure out why the lead sheets were 'wrong' haha.

  10. #9
    Thank you everybody for the replies I really appreciate it! I definitely have to woodshed with some tunes and serious ear training for awhile.

  11. #10

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    I'll pop in my penny's worth.

    I think the ears are developed in combination with playing through stuff. So, play lots of standards and look out for common progressions. Then learn the sound of those progressions.

    That won't help you to learn specific chords etc, but it will teach you the sound of progression which will help you learn tunes. Being able to hear specific voicings (a m11 say, or a 7b9b13 etc) is actually a separate skill.

    I hope that helps...

  12. #11

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    My guess would be the OP is making it harder that needs to be at this point in his journey into more sophisticated music.

    First need to do a lot of listening to Jazz and since working on Summertime listen to it constantly for a couple days. Start singing your own walking bass lines to the recordings. You're probably hearing all the roots of the basic chords and don't realize it. What notes are you emphasizing in your bass line, those are most likely your roots. Now start figuring out the basic triads major or minor for those strong beats. Try playing the melody your transcribed with the triads and see how it sounds and fix where you need to. Now go back and figure out the chord to the seventh. Once you've done this you have the bulk of what you need, learn to hear the basic chords, the full chords with inversion, colors and alteration will come later get used to hearing the basic chords first.

    Also break things into small pieces and work up, roots, triads, sevenths. Also start studying what notes are in the melody when a chord is played. Melodies tend to be chord tones so they will give you hints. The bass line and melody is going to tell you most of what you want.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  13. #12

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    use ear master software and finish every round about chords and you'll be fine

  14. #13
    Whatever app you're using for those chords, if there are keyboard commands for "next" and "repeat" , consider buying 2 usb buttons, assign them for the keys and use your feet to tell the app if you want to repeat or the next. Well, if not doing a mere guessing but wanna find those chords on guitar. It's such a relief to have those buttons on the floor