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  1. #1

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    Hi everyone,

    Can you recommend me some easy jazz guitar songs that are suitable for beginners?

    I teach guitar but my knowledge of jazz tunes - well could be better - I have a guy coming to me at the minute and he is learning arpeggios, scales, comping etc.. but to break things up I was thinking an actual tune would add to what he already is learning.

    I obviously know Autumn Leaves and Take Five - but was looking up some others?

    Anyone any ideas? any Wes Montgomery tunes that have "easish" chords?

    Thanks in advance,


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    i think a lot of standards that fit into that "ballad to midtempo" range are good for starters. It seems just about every song has one or two little "tricks" to it--things that make them unique and provide a bit of challenge.

    here's some tunes i learned early in my jazz-u-cation that i still gig today. that's lasting power, eh?

    here's that rainy day
    how high the moon
    so what

    and stuff of this sort

    and funny, i don't think there's much easy about "take five"--those wide skips in the melody during the B section and soloing well in "5" can be a hard

  4. #3

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    Maybe some of the jazz blues stuff like All Blues - it gives your student a chance to learn improvising over non-resolving dominant chords, and if they jam with friends or at an event it's bound to get called sooner or later.

    Also, you could do a blues with a ii-V-I turnaround and cover two of the most used jazz progressions (the blues format and the ii-V-I).

    Hope this helps.

    Buy, if you don't mind me asking...if you don't play jazz much, why do you feel comfortable teaching it?

  5. #4

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    yes, make sure you learn a jazz blues in C, Bb, and F for starters.

  6. #5

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    In addition to Autumn Leaves, All of Me is a great starter along with Tune Up and Solar.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrybe

    Buy, if you don't mind me asking...if you don't play jazz much, why do you feel comfortable teaching it?

    I had a feeling someone would ask that. I love jazz and to be honest have been only been getting into this past 3 years - I mostly teach rock as thats what makes up the majority of my lessons. I come from a more rock orientated background - Hendrix, Led Zeppelin etc...

    The guy I am referring to here is at the very, very basics of learning he loves jazz and thats his drive for learning guitar - so we are only covering the basics of scales and arpeggios at the minute - he's not even onto any advanced chords or anything I have him doing m7ths 7ths etc.. and very basic stuff - (the Take Five we did was 2 chords only! - which gives you an idea) - hence this is why its more difficult I think to get a few easier tunes - as most have chord substituions etc...or probabaly chords he hasnt seen yet.
    Maybe some more simple blues progressions might be a better idea. I thought a tune would be a change from scales and arp's etc....


  8. #7

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    Vol. 54 in the Jamey Abersold has some good easy tunes in it. Songs like Watermelon Man, Footprints, Summertime, and other songs that are either jazz-blues or just really easy changes.

  9. #8

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    Satin Doll is an excellent tune to learn. It has a very strong melody that follows the changes nicely, so it's easy to remember the song. It also lends itself very well to melody embellishment when soloing. The changes are very commonly used jazz changes so what you learn in Satin Doll, you will see over and over again in other jazz standards. Oh, and maybe most important - it swings big time.

  10. #9
    Thanks both of you for that as well - I have a Jamey Aebersold book somwewhere on Odd Time Signatures come to think of it?

    Will check Vol 54 out - anything to give him something to get stuck into to! and myself1 LOL



  11. #10

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    Going back to the teaching the blues idea, there is a very good lesson here on this topic:

    Jazz Blues Chord Progressions - Shapes & Comping Examples

    Dirk starts with the basic 12 bar form using just I IV V dominants, and shows each evolution thru jazz until you get to Charlie Parker changes, which is seen typically as the height of jazz blues changes.

    It is a great place to start and see how jazz progressions, like a virus, took hold of the blues.

  12. #11

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    I Feel like I wasted a lot of time with standards such as Stella by Starlight, All The Things You Are, On Green Dolphin Street, etc...

    Now that I'm getting a little guidance I've found that I should have started with Bags Groove, Blue Monk, Blue Bossa, Work Song, etc...

    Perhaps all newbies should start with easier tunes, Jazz/Blues, simple Bossa's, etc...

    Following this line of thinking, would anyone like to add a list of real "starting" tunes for jazz players???


  13. #12

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    There Is No Greater Love
    Autumn Leaves
    All Of Me
    Satin Doll
    Mean To Me

    ...just to name a few

  14. #13

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    Herbie's Watermelon Man. Medium tempo, three chords: F7 Bb7 C7.

  15. #14

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    Tune Up
    Autumn Leaves
    All of Me
    Song For My Father
    Watermelon Man

  16. #15

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    good ones already mentioned, and:

    sweet georgia brown
    so what/impressions (modal)
    milestones (new, modal-ish)
    so danço samba (great jobim tune, easy changes, great fun to play)
    cantaloupe island
    maiden voyage
    killer joe
    sister sadie
    the preacher
    song for my father

    and i got rhythm...get your feet wet

  17. #16

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    Interesting lists here. I would totally agree with Autumn Leaves as the original is in a well known guitarist's key. I know Satin Doll is meant to be in this catergory but I found the harmony of it challenging for quite some time.

    I'd add that learning GDS and ATTYA isn't a waste. A lot of the same progressions keep coming up. I'd keep learning them, but slow the tempos down on the stuff you are struggling with.

  18. #17
    TommyD Guest
    The best song to begin with, IMO, is "What Is This Thing Called Love". It has only a few solid chords, and they repeat themselves. It also has a nice, easy bridge. You simply can't beat Cole Porter for bouncy, easy-to-learn tunes! It's a great tune to comp on and a great tune to play single-line melody or improvise on.
    The first few times through, forget the flat-5 chords and just play the dominants, one chord to a bar (or until the phrase ends and/or the chord changes. Try to play nice, chunky, repeating chords in your comping.)
    In the beginning, try using only the notes of the chords to solo on. You'll never play a wrong note. Try playing 2 notes per four beats (half notes), then 4 notes per bar (quarter notes!) Then branch out from there, to eighth notes. You really don't have to play any faster than eighth notes to develop a cogent, wonderful solo. (ref. Coleman Hawkins Body and Soul). It's called the "vertical approach" to soloing, and when I learned, nobody learned soloing any other way.
    Well, before this becomes a book. . . . .

  19. #18

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    Set yourself up with some II-V-I backing tracks in all 12 keys.

    Work on making lines for those for about a year (kind of joking) then go to the Real Book and you can play most anything.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by brian329
    Set yourself up with some II-V-I backing tracks in all 12 keys.

    Work on making lines for those for about a year (kind of joking) then go to the Real Book and you can play most anything.
    Good advice. That is basically what he was talking about with the Aebersold blues and ii V I editions. They are full of different keys/tempos of this stuff. Something to be said for having to create your own comping tracks though, but it certainly is more fun to play with studio guys.

  21. #20

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    I'm actually finding Aebersolds backing tracks a little hard to follow.


  22. #21
    TommyD Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Sailor
    I'm actually finding Aebersolds backing tracks a little hard to follow.

    That's because Aebersold is not a pianist - or an organist - yet he persists in making those accompaniment tracks - I guess to save money on hiring someone who knows how to play the piano. I stopped buying his stuff for that reason. As soon as he starts playing, I can tell it's him. Awful!

  23. #22

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    I have been trying to learn a lot of tunes to play and got frustrated with songs that change keys a lot...e.g..ATTYA has +four tonal centers.

    So I went back and started to group songs into how many tonal centers to play through.. e.g.:

    Autumn Leaves - Can be played all in G maj

    Blue Bossa - Ebmaj and Dbmaj

    Paper Moon - Gmaj and C maj

    Almost like being in Love - Bbmaj, Gmaj, F maj

    Jeepers Creepers - Fmaj, Bb maj, C

    ATTYA, four, Miss Jones, In walked Bud, - 4 or more


    Of course, lots of major and minor ii-V-I's in there but it has helped to progress up to harder songs.....

    I have also spent a lot of time on Rhythm Changes as there a dozens of songs that use that progression...Accentuate the Positve, Oleo, Paper Moon, Perdido,Jeepers Creepers, Frosty the Snowman...

    Just a thought...

  24. #23

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    Hey Sailor,

    I'm relatively new to jazz, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I think your approach to these tunes might be the issue. My teacher started me off with doing chord tone solos to Autumn Leaves, which required me to learn the arpeggios to the chords in the song all over the guitar neck. Next he introduced Green Dolphin Street, which was immensely difficult when I first started playing it, but by focusing on playing chord tone solos (as opposed to playing scales within the keys the song modulates to) I was fairly quickly able to get through the tune. Then we talked about playing chord extensions in my solos, and which extensions worked for which chords and when.

    In the past I have tried to learn jazz by myself, trying to use scale/chord relationships to govern my playing, and I would quickly get stuck and frustrated. The "chord tone approach" has worked very well for me, and I would recommend giving it a try on tunes like ATTYA and GDS if you are so inclined. I realize this thread is a little bit old

  25. #24

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    There are great suggestions here for "beginning" songs, and I'm happy to see "Milestones" mentioned. "Autumn Leaves" and "Summertime" too.

    I'll add "So What" (aka "Impressions") to the list...two chords, dorian mode, and the sky's the limit.

  26. #25

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    If you can play these 10 standards you're pretty much good and have strategies to play most any standard

    1 Autumn Leaves
    2 All The Things You Are
    3 Green Dolphin Street
    4 Stella By Starlight
    5 Night and Day
    6 Alone Together
    7 Have You Met Ms Jones
    8 Body and Soul
    9 It Could Happen to You
    10 Girl from Ipanema

    imo, within those 10 tunes you deal with styles, tempos and harmonic progressions that are universally dominant in Jazz standards from ii V I in major or minor or deceptive to other typical Jazz progressions. You could argue a lot about taking in one or the other and swapping it and that's cool. Not only are those 10 tunes great teaching tunes but they are 10 tunes that just about everyone knows once you start getting into sessions.

  27. #26

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    Great list, Jake. Thanks. I really like "It Could Happen To You" and had it on my short list of Things To Get To, along with "Have You Met Miss Jones." For some reason, the tune of "Green Dolphin Street" won't stay in my head. Maybe I need to find an old, straight version to memorize as a starting point.

    I made a copy of your list and saved it to my desktop. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me.

  28. #27

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    This is a great resource. It lists jazz standards sorted by how many times they've been recorded:

    Jazz Standards Songs and Instrumentals Contents

  29. #28

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    Hi everyone,

    I'm on school holidays now, so have plenty of time to practice guitar.
    I haven't really been focusing on learning that many tunes, but rather getting a solid grip on the theory.

    I need you to formulate me a list of 5 standards to learn in depth. I want ones that you'd be embarassed to turn up to a jam without knowing them

    Nothing UBER difficult, but a bit of a challenge is cool.

    Thanks in advance

  30. #29

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    Alas, there are way more than five "must know" standards, but we all have to start somewhere. Here are five very popular standards to get you going - but not the only five:

    Autumn Leaves
    Tenor Madness
    Watermelon Man

    If you don't have a real book, you really should get one - either the paper ones like I have or an e-version. There are three volumes of the Hal Leonard set that I have, and Volume I is a good place to start. Depending on where you are at, you might want to start with the Jamey Aebersold Maiden Voyage book instead of or in addition to the real book. (Three of the tunes I mentioned are in Maiden Voyage.)

    Good luck. A journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step.

  31. #30

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    Thanks for the suggestions

    I already know tenor madness and watermelon man, so that's cool.

    I have the Warner brothers 'just jazz real book' which i got for my bday. Those Aebersold books sound good and I think my friend has that maiden voyage book, because he plays sax. I'll have to photocopy some of the songs out of it.

    If there are any more, that would be good since I already know 2 of those.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by the*doctor
    Those aebersold books sound good and I think my friend has that maiden voyage book, because he plays sax. I'll have to photocopy some of the songs out of it.
    He probably doesn't have this version: Vol. 54 Maiden Voyage Guitar Voicings (Play- a-Long) (9781562240882): Mike Diliddo: Books

    It was recommended to me when I first joined this forum and I got a lot out out of it. Very useable voicings and quite a bit of variety on each tune.

  33. #32

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    I don't know anyting about the fake book that you have, so barring input from someone who knows better than me, I wouldn't run out and buy another one. However, I was not aware of the guitar version of Maiden Voyage that Jazzpunk mentioned, and it looks like it could be cool.

    As for more standards, I think Blue Bossa and Blue Monk are fairly common. Some others that I personally like are A Day in the Life and When Sunny Gets Blue.

  34. #33

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    hmm jam session...picking five that seem to get called the most...

    all blues
    autumn leaves
    so what
    watermelon man
    there will never be another you

    depends who you are playing with...

  35. #34

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    Anthropology/Oleo/Rhythm-a-ning/Any other Rhythm Changes head.
    Tenor Madness/Straight No Chaser/Blue Monk/Any blues head
    Have You Met Miss Jones

    Another thing you could do is go to a jam session where you wanna start playing, don't play the first night, just go and watch. See what kind of tunes they're playing. Learn them for next week. Many places have songs that are "local" to the place, as in, they're called every single week.

  36. #35

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    Thanks for these great reccomendations!

    Since I already know a couple of the suggested songs, I've narrowed it down to:

    1. Autumn Leaves
    2. Blue Bossa (I haven't really looked at many songs like this)
    3. So What
    4. All Blues
    5. Oleo (Could never play anthropology )

    Are there any good recordings of these tunes that would be ideal to learn from, because I find I get too confused from all the ideas from the many versions of the songs.

    Miles Davis has recordings of each of these songs except blue bossa, so I might check them out, Miles Davis is awesome

    Or can you think of some better recordings to learn from?


  37. #36

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    all the things you are
    stella by starlight
    autumn leaves (learn it it G minor)
    green dolphin street (in Eb)
    body and soul

  38. #37

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    Straight No Chaser
    Killer Joe
    Lady Bird

  39. #38

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    Find out what is "standard" in jams around where you live. It really does change from city to city.

    Rhythm changes will cover many situations and contrafacts
    All The Things has been big for a lot of places
    Stella By Starlight is a swiss army knife of devices
    Body And Soul will often be called for a ballad
    Indiana or Donna Lee is worth learning 'cause somebody's gonna call it and in some places how you handle it is more important than your car or your weenie for self respect.

    Lots more, but that's what I'd want for a jam and only 5 tunes. In the last category, weenie tunes, it used to be Cherokee, then it was Donna Lee, then Giant Steps. Each era has a tune they feel you should know as a "graduate piece" that grants a certain membership.

  40. #39

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    I would stay away from the slower standards. No matter how much I play out, I notice people love any of the blues tunes they can dance to (watermelon man, etc,) Take 5 is usually a hit (even though it's not one of my favorite songs.), something like all of me or there will never be another you, and a cool bossa.

  41. #40

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    I'd say: Autumn leaves, There will never be another you, The Days of wine and roses, Round midnight, Stella by starlight (a tough one)...

    EDIT: Ah and off course I GOT RYTHM (pretty important because it is the base of all rythm changes)...
    Last edited by aniss1001; 01-13-2012 at 08:25 PM.

  42. #41

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    Autumn leaves
    All of me
    Love me or leave me
    Fly me to the moon

  43. #42

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    Blue bossa
    Watermelon man
    Take five
    All the things you are
    Girl from Ipanema

    to name a top-5. I am sure there are vocal and non-vocal easy standards to start with

  44. #43

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    What 3 standards would you recommend someone learn first?

    Or, if you prefer, which 3 standards do you wish you had learned first?
    Last edited by GregMath; 08-15-2019 at 04:06 PM.

  45. #44

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    Autumn Leaves would be a great first tune. It’s one of my warm up tunes. The harmony alternates between a ii-V-I in a major key and ii-V-I in the relative minor key. You’ll encounter ii-V-Is in nearly all American Songbook standards, so here you can practice both the major and minor forms. It’s a good one to learn to play in every key. Doing so helps you develop the habit of thinking of the tune in larger chunks—e.g., thinking ii-V-I to Bbmajor followed by ii-V-I to Gminor instead of memorizing chord by chord.

    I Got Rhythm should be an early tune, but it may be a little complex for one of the first three. Countless jazz standards are based on its changes. It’s got I-iv-ii-V, a diminished 7th chord, and a sequence of dominant (7th) chords moving through the cycle of 5ths—which are basic building blocks of many jazz standards. Again, once you learn it in one key, try to learn to play it in any arbitrary key without a chart, thinking of the chart in “chunks” as I suggested above.

    For practice, it’s usefully to loop over a short sequence of chords form either tune (e.g., the I iv ii V) and explore chord voicings or improvised melodies that work in that section.

    Since the language of jazz was founded with the blues, I’d recommend learning to improvise in the jazz style over a classic jazz blues— C-Jam Blues would be a good choice. Play a classic version over and over and try to steal licks and chord voicings by ear. That’s how people used to learn jazz and it’s a good way. I’m old enough to remember repeatedly picking up phonograph needles and trying to put them back in the same spot!

    After typing the above, I remembered this. Bruce Forman is great. Take his advice! Easy Jazz Guitar Songs?
    Quote Originally Posted by dingusmingus
    On the "Guitar Wank" podcast, Bruce Forman and Scott Henderson discuss Bruce's list of 10 songs that a beginning jazz guitarist should learn. He says these teach you a lot about how the classic standards are put together, and everyone plays these, so they'll get you started for jam session, etc.

    GuitarWank - episode 12 - April 4, 2016 ? GuitarWank

    Here are the tunes, and the reasons he gives. No real surprises, but it's a cool list, and I enjoyed his explanations for what each tune teaches.

    * Autumn Leaves--learn about the cycle
    * Take the A Train--[didn't catch a reason, perhaps because it moves to II?]
    * All The Things You Are--hard, but best example of how the cycle works, and a great form
    * It Could Happen To You (or Ain't Misbehaving)--Chromatic ascending bass line
    * There Will Never Be Another You--Backcycling to IV
    * Honeysuckle Rose--ii-V-Is, and the classic bridge, highly quoted melody
    * Satin Doll--everyone plays it, and a great study in ii-V-Is
    * Green Dolphin--cool form, "triadic shift--C to Eb to D to Db)" also cool backcyling through relative minor
    * Just Friends--starts on the IV, great melody, check out Parker with strings
    * Stella by Starlight--hard, but everyone wants to play it, so you've got to know it.
    Last edited by KirkP; 08-15-2019 at 05:09 PM.

  46. #45

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    I'd pick "Full house" as 4th. Not so difficult and also if played the tune well and groovy, it gives lots of energy for.. at least 1 chorus of the solo.
    With many standards, you play the head and then start kinda "building it up". Full House always has the kick first and you're already up there when the solo starts.

  47. #46

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    Other good choices:
    Satin Doll
    Blue Bossa

    It's less important WHICH three than that you LEARN three. Any standard you learn is worth learning.

  48. #47

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    For me it is

    1. Any jazz blues say blues by 5 by miles

    learn it by ear and learn to play through the changes ( not jazz guys but the best guidance I have come across this is Guthrie trap and josh smith talking about what they learnt from jazz guys is on you tube, then learn a couple of Ii v i licks and play them through the Ii v i of the jazz blues

    Listen to some Stanley Turrentine and listen how simple he starts off and builds. Listen to miles on blues by 5, what is his first lick after the head, I bet you can learn that inside a minute

    2 Blue Bossa

    Cause use it is relatively easy to sound half decent with some c and f minor pentatonic stuff and then use your ii v licks from above for then section.
    dont worry about the d half diminished just play f minor pentatonic

    3 Autumn Leaves

    asmentioned above now now you got major and minor Ii v i.
    find a couple of licks and then jam on them until your fingers bleed.

  49. #48

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    Don't go too complicated.

    One of the first tunes I learned with a jazz hook was Kenny Loggins' version of "You Don't Know Me". It's a familiar tune, easy to play incorporating the melody into the chords, plus it leaves you room to put your own stuff into it.

    A bossa nova is always nice. "One Note Samba" would fit the bill because it has beautiful chord changes over, shall we say, a pretty simple melody.

    I recently incorporated "Alfie" into my repertoire, same key (Bb) that Dionne Warwick recorded it, same arrangement and same chords. It's really beautiful as a solo guitar tune. Again, not complicated but sounds like it.

    Those would be my three. Maybe not standards in the strict sense, but close enough.

  50. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregMath
    Hello Everyone,

    I'm sure this question has been asked before, but a quick Google search of this forum did not lead me to my answer. Please kindly direct me to the correct thread if this was recently discussed.

    As a jazz beginner, I would very much appreciate guidance from more experienced players. With what you know now as a player, what 3 standards would you recommend someone learn first? Or, if you prefer, which 3 standards do you wish you had learned first? I would be happy to read your rationale, if you'd care to share it as well.

    If this thread would be better placed elsewhere, please let me know and I will move it.
    Autumn Leaves
    All the things you are
    The Girl from Ipanema

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  51. #50

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    Standards of standards

    ”All The Things You Are”

    ”Autumn Leaves”

    ”Stella By Starlight”

    Otherwise, learn the standards that you think are most fun to play. ”On A Slow Boat To China”, ”Stompin' At The Savoy” and ”What’ll I Do” are some of my favorites. ”Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” is also very fun to play. It’s also important to find jazz guitarists that inspires you to play. Listen to different interpretations of the standard repertoire. Already at this point you have a good package of knowledge. Remember that everyone have their own musical taste so the list of standards varies a lot. Have fun while learning and playing!