In this weeks video I break down some tips to helping you get started learning tunes by ear. This is probably the most important part of developing your tune rep. In this blog I just have a few more things to say about the video. This can either be considered preliminary information or additional information, depending on what order you read/watch or watch/read.
First, I know that iRealPro and the Real Book are great tools that can get you out of a sticky situation, especially when you’re hosting a jam session or when you’ve been called to sub a gig last minute and never got a tune list…etc. But, if you want to be a pro jazz musician it is essential that you know tunes. That’s the quickest way to start getting called for gigs.
Instead of thinking of it as difficult to do, think of it like this. Patience. If you can hear, and you can tell the difference between a telephone ringer and microwave beep, you have the ability to do this. You just have to train your brain to connect some dots, and that takes patience. Believe in yourself and trust that you can do this and just start slow. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. In other words, don’t start trying to learn the melody to Donna Lee as your first tune.
Second, lets talk tunes. Like I said, don’t start with Donna Lee. Start with tunes that will build your confidence. Ex. Take the A-Train, My Little Suede Shoes, All The Things You Are, There Is No Greater Love, Now’s The TIme, or even Autumn Leaves. These tunes have melodies that are pretty diatonic, not too many eighth notes, regular structures, and relatively slow harmonic rhythms. Most importantly, people will call them!
Third, find lots of versions! Listen to as many different people play these tunes as you can stand. Find a consensus on the key by checking each version and see what key the tune is most often played in. Find the most cut and dry version of the melody and see how different musicians embellish it. (hint: this will also help you internalize the melody). Listen to a vocal version and see if you can pick up some of the lyrics and phrasing from that. You’re going to start to realize that some musicians are more reliable than others as far as versions of the tunes that people will commonly being playing on gigs you get called for. Like, Peter Bernstein. He is a VERY reliable source. His key is usually THE key and the chord changes are pretty often the chord changes that everyone plays. In contrast, Oscar Peterson, while absolutely amazing, often does arrangements in odd keys with different chord changes from what is often played. Not that it isn’t a good thing to know O.P. versions of tunes, but it is very often that musicians use the O.P. changes (unless you’re playing with a piano player)
Finally, this is something that is doable. if you stick with it and don’t get discouraged you will be rewarded. Even if the first few times you learn a tune and play it with people you learned something wrong, or missed something, or found some strange arrangement, just keep doing it. And never be too proud to ask someone what they have for this tune or that tune, or “what were you playing on the bridge?” Another great question to ask musicians you look up to, “what record did you learn that tune off of?”
I hope this lesson was helpful, if you have any comments or questions please feel free to reach out, I’m happy to help.