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  1. #1

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    For a variety of reasons I’ve decided that one of my goals for the next couple of months is to focus on learning jazz melodies. Today I’m starting with Along Came Betty. Hoping this will help strengthen/quicken my ear, as well as my musical memory. I’m doing this in addition to all other repertoire in front of me. Anyone else doing/done this? I’m sure there are, but I’d be interested in hearing your experience.

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  3. #2

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    I haven't made it an explicit goal but I have realized melodies tend to be wonderful licks so I've squeezed in melodies in different songs as licks.

  4. #3

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    This is a good thing

  5. #4

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    I don't think I understand. Do you just mean the standard melody of the tune? Don't we do that with every song we learn?
    I mean...the melody is the song. How would you know Along Came Betty without knowing the melody?
    Or do you just mean that you want to work on melodies specifically without thinking about harmony, comping, etc?

  6. #5

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    Well, sounds to me like the OP is talking about learning by ear, which is NEVER a bad idea.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
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    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  7. #6
    Learning by ear and retaining melodies. That’s the focus.

    Example of this—Learn some rhythm changes heads. Maybe move them around the fingerboard and/or keys.

    Also a side note if learning tunes per se is the focus....As a result of playing with horns and singers, there’s been many tunes that I’ve learned the chords, but not the melodies. So yeah, I know the chords to ACB much better than the melody.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Well, sounds to me like the OP is talking about learning by ear, which is NEVER a bad idea.
    That makes sense. I missed the 'by ear' part. Definitely a good idea.
    I'm terrible at soloing over changes so my solos are usually just the melody, maybe with a little embellishment.

  9. #8
    I personally think that even if you got it off the page and moved it through a couple of keys that your ear would improve. Doing it by ear however makes it much easier to internalize.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by srlank View Post
    Also a side note if learning tunes per se is the focus....As a result of playing with horns and singers, there’s been many tunes that I’ve learned the chords, but not the melodies. So yeah, I know the chords to ACB much better than the melody.
    That's interesting. It's never occurred to me to learn the chords to a standard without learning the melody, even when backing a singer. The melody is always the first thing I learn...I wonder if that's a mistake on my part?
    I expect you'll enjoy your process. The melodies are the fun part.

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by morroben View Post
    That's interesting. It's never occurred to me to learn the chords to a standard without learning the melody, even when backing a singer. The melody is always the first thing I learn...I wonder if that's a mistake on my part?
    I expect you'll enjoy your process. The melodies are the fun part.
    It depends on whether or not it’s sightreading through a tune versus learning it at home first.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by srlank View Post
    For a variety of reasons I’ve decided that one of my goals for the next couple of months is to focus on learning jazz melodies. Today I’m starting with Along Came Betty. Hoping this will help strengthen/quicken my ear, as well as my musical memory. I’m doing this in addition to all other repertoire in front of me. Anyone else doing/done this? I’m sure there are, but I’d be interested in hearing your experience.
    My experience is that this is primarily a function of listening. I used to think I needed my instrument to work on learning tunes, but, it turns out that I was just using my instrument as a way to play through a tune enough so that my ear eventually gets it.

    These days, when I want to learn a tune, I get 4-5 different versions of it and add it to a playlist. I listen to it, not over and over, but just make it a point to check it out. I listen for differences in melody and harmony, in a very rough way, and notice the different versions and what they do: for "Along Came Betty", everyone plays the same changes, but, for a standard like "With A Song In My Heart", the different versions I have generally use slightly different changes. The other benefit of this approach is that with standards that are played in different keys, you learn to hear the harmonic movements and describe them more generally than a specific key. So, "Have You Met Miss Jones?", the melody starts on the third of the I chord, and the first A section is moving from I up to a iiim-vi-ii-V turnaround with diminished passing chords along the way.

    When I know the tune well enough to sing most of it, I play it on the instrument, and work out any parts that my ear wasn't sure about. A lot of ear training in jazz is pattern recognition, and this is how I learned the sound of the harmonic movements and substitutions people make when they play. So, with a tune like "With A Song In My Heart", you'll learn the sound of the six minor (vim) going to the #iv half diminished, because the tune does that in a couple places.

    I've been playing long enough that it's pretty easy for me to play most melodies I hear on my instrument, but, this is definitely a skill I developed vs something that I was born with. It takes time and a lot of patience, at least it did for me. In the beginning, I used to check myself with fake books, but I never do that anymore.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by morroben View Post
    That's interesting. It's never occurred to me to learn the chords to a standard without learning the melody, even when backing a singer. The melody is always the first thing I learn...I wonder if that's a mistake on my part?
    I expect you'll enjoy your process. The melodies are the fun part.
    Yeah I think you often end up doing gigs where you just play the chords from a chart and not really end up playing the melody or even having it in the music. Esp with singers.

    Of course that’s no excuse, but mea culpa.

    If you don’t know a tune from a gig and need to read it from iReal, that’s your next practice session sorted, right?