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  1. #1

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    Basically, I mean:
    Is it better to know a few tunes that are well mastered, or a lot of tunes that are mastered superficially?
    I just mean improvisation.
    There are different opinions and methods on this topic.

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  3. #2

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    I find that if I know the tune well, there are moments where I can transcend the mechanics of playing the changes and experience things in my playing that I didn't know existed. These moments give me new insights into the concept of improvisation.

    When I'm playing tunes that I haven't internalized yet (in terms of both fretboard navigation and aurally), I get bogged down with the mechanics of things. It's always the same experience, putting out fires most of the time.

    Also I think my time feel and phrasing improve more when the mechanical things don't consume all my attention.

  4. #3

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    But is it better to practice 5 standards or 50 at the same time?
    I prefer 5.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    But is it better to practice 5 standards or 50 at the same time?
    I prefer 5.
    I'm more like 1, lol, or 3 at the most.
    I guess that depends on the experience of the player with playing standards. I learned maybe 40 standards at one point or another at this point. So definitely not 50 for me

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    I'm more like 1, lol, or 3 at the most.
    I guess that depends on the experience of the player in playing standards. I learned maybe 40 standards at one point or another at this point. So definitely not 50 for me
    +1

  7. #6

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    When I was gigging I superficially 'knew' changes to about 400 tunes and it took practice away from the instrument to maintain that level. I enjoyed getting my face off the page which made me a better improviser and reliable accompanist.

    I had a list of about 20 tunes that I played solo and had a deeper grasp upon.

    This was a wholly personal choice, I don't suggest it's best.

  8. #7

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    I believe in practicing one standard per day where possible.

    That said I find if I don’t revisit tunes they sort of disappear, so it’s about reminding yourself of what you know. The second time you a learn a tune it’s easier…. And so on.

    A lot of playing gigs is reminding yourself of tunes on the gig.

    As with Alan there’s load of tunes I could play on the gig with a horn, but fewer I know well enough to play solo or trio, say, so I’m also spending time properly learning the tunes I learned on gigs etc. Looking at how melodies and chords line up is super important to me at the moment

    Something I should do more is learning tunes in two keys - standard and a fourth down because the latter tends to be a good key for female singers. That’s a Bruce Forman tip….

  9. #8

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    I'm not sure what to include in knowing it "well".

    Knowing it perfectly might include the melody and harmony in any key. The lyric. The well-known recordings and arrangements. Having the harmony deep in your ears so that you don't have to think about the name of the next chord and can go by sound. For example, you may know Days of Wine and Roses. Do you know the Bill Evans arrangement that goes up a b3 for the second part of the tune?

    Not needing a chart is typically recommended, but there are great players who like to have a chart in front of them. Not the majority, but not zero either.

    In the situations in which I find myself, there is usually a chart. Often, it's a specific arrangement that the leader has. Or, even if it's a RB gig, people will pull out charts (often on screen nowadays). Maybe that's because they don't expect the sidemen to have the skill to find their parts without a chart, or maybe they just don't want to hear any confusion while that process takes place. More likely, it's to avoid problems due to brain freeze -- you know the tune but somehow the next chord eludes you at this particular moment. Maybe that's not "knowing" the tune, but it happens.

    Another issue is that people don't want to play the hundred or so (pick a number) tunes that all the sidemen can be expected to know. Like, everybody knows Autumn Leaves and Girl From Ipanema, but a lot of leaders aren't going to call them.

    Overall, my impression is that knowing "all the tunes" is not expected the way it once was. I'd be interested if others have different experience on that.

  10. #9

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    "To know a tune well".
    For me this means that I can freely improvise on the basis of the progressions contained in the piece.
    I need to master it so that I can have fun and at the same time be aware enough to rule out any mistakes.
    I just have to control the tune completely.Of course, all of this must be within my scope.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    But is it better to practice 5 standards or 50 at the same time?
    I prefer 5.
    I think with anything in jazz, better to know 5 things really well than to "know of" 50.

  12. #11

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    You can learn many poems in another language without understand a word.
    If you understand the main ones, the others will be easier to play and learn.

    Standards can be classified, that's what I learnt.
    Cycle of 5ths, blues, rhythm changes...

    I know it well when I can play it on every instrument.

    Something strange... I play them all in the right key even if I am a saxophonist.

  13. #12

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    When only talking about the melody, there's a difference between technical ones or the... um, easy ones.
    Like "Yes & no".. or "Yes or no".. what was it? anyway.

    There's 0 point of learning it on 7 different fingerings because you need to be 100% sure of doing it right the 1st time.
    -------

    But the whole tune... jeez. Whats "well"? For me a good test would be if being able to continue from random spot within 2 seconds with impro, tune or chords.
    Maybe for better musicians its only a basic requierment though

  14. #13

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    Listening to a tune is practicing it, you can broaden your repertoire just by listening to say the American songbook by various singers (lots of vocal and musical tunes).

    I followed Ritchie Harts advice on the matter. You learn the melody all over the neck, play bass and the melody together (so you learn to hear a melody note in relation to the underlying chord), then you go for melody, bass and guide tones (or shell voicings, the 3 and 7 on the middle strings).

    Practicing this in a few different keys, you really learn the tune, the chord motions, modulations, etc.

    Once you've played a few hundred standards, and gone through the music of most famous jazz composers, you've pretty much come across most of the devices found in tunes. They become recognizable. These days if I know a melody i can pretty much figure out the chords by playing. Funny thing is I can't do it in other, much simpler styles!

    I play standards in cycles, have maybe 400-500 hundred i know, and just go through them. You forget, brush up, change them...

  15. #14

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    I had such a period of practice in jazz that I didn't pay too much attention to the melody.
    I mean, I had no problem with the melody.
    I mainly practiced progressions from the backing track of jazz songs and I had the melody in my head.

  16. #15

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    Yeah i did that too, but I noticed that spending 30 minutes just improvising with the melody brought better results than hours playing the changes.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter
    Yeah i did that too, but I noticed that spending 30 minutes just improvising with the melody brought better results than hours playing the changes.
    I often do an exercise where I practice a backing track with a softly recorded melody.

  18. #17

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    I have a theory as to how Wes Montgomery learned tunes. He always ended his solos with block chords. That should give us an insight into his process.

    I think he started out with exploring different harmonizations of the melody with block chords. Some of his block chord voicings were very original. It seems like he experimented with them to find voicings that he liked the sound of under the melody note. Then he used these voicings to inform the note choices for his single note solos. Since the chords follow the melody (at least contain a melody note), playing off of these chords would also mean he can generally remain in touch with the melody when he wanted.

    This is a completely wild guess.

    So the method is, first find a block chord harmonization of the melody that you like (under the guidance of the common changes of the tune). This would help you hear the melody notes in their harmonic context and the bass note (or you can analyze w.r.t to chord etc.). Then explore lines that navigate these voicings.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu
    For me a good test would be if being able to continue from random spot within 2 seconds with impro, tune or chords.
    Maybe for better musicians its only a basic requierment though
    I'd agree with this. If you know the melody well enough in the context of where you're improvising in a tune, such that you can immediately reference it or a recognizable version of it, at any point, you have a very strong device to keep the listener glued to what you're playing. Most listeners are not jazz trained musicians that can hear some of the devices one might use in the context of the tune and hence I think you need something to let them know where the tune is. It grounds the melodic and the rhythmic variations that we play as improv. The actual melody is generally not too difficult to get but this skill, being able able to reference anywhere/anytime, is not easy. If you can do this then I think you know a tune.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    But is it better to practice 5 standards or 50 at the same time?
    I prefer 5.
    Not giving advice here.

    I have 30 standards on my playlist. But I do play 3ish all the time(not the same 3 all the time).. It's like having 3 garden plots to take care.
    But for a while, I have had the urge to prepare another 200 to tackle superficially. But it takes like a week to do it. That week has eluded me for too long.

  21. #20

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    Quality not quantity

  22. #21

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    I've been thinking about how to approach tunes for a while so these are just my hypothetical thoughts

    1. Learn the Melody in 3 different ways: Single Note, then chords, then independant voicings (counterpoint?)

    2. Compose 3 Solos for a tune (Could Follow the same format as the melody as long as the solos are different)

    3. Compose 3 Comping parts for the tune (Idk be creative for this one)

    After all that play the tune and then move on to the next one

  23. #22

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    ^ That's a great idea. The more work you put in the better imo.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by emanresu
    Not giving advice here.

    I have 30 standards on my playlist. But I do play 3ish all the time(not the same 3 all the time).. It's like having 3 garden plots to take care.
    But for a while, I have had the urge to prepare another 200 to tackle superficially. But it takes like a week to do it. That week has eluded me for too long.
    garden-tune?
    A lot of weeds can grow in the garden.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    garden-tune?
    A lot of weeds can grow in the garden.
    That sounds like my tune garden

  26. #25

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    I try to do this so I know if I know it or not.
    I know it but I don't play it very well.
    Solar on 4 instruments