Best way to learn a song you aren't very familiar with?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Triocd, May 31, 2015.

  1. Triocd

    Triocd Supporting Member

    Messages:
    365
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2015
    I've started trying to dig into learning some very old blues songs and some jazz songs. Admittedly I have never really listened to a lot of blues and jazz, so these songs aren't that familiar in my head. I picked up a book for each style and I can follow along and play with the book in front of me, but take away the book and I have no recollection of how to play anything other than the basic chords.

    Any ideas on how to lock in these notes into my head?

    Go through each song bar by bar and not move on until I've memorized each bar?
    Just keep listening to these songs over and over again?
    Something else?

    The song I'm most focused on is a lead line to satin doll.

    Thanks
     
  2. fezz parka

    fezz parka Member

    Messages:
    879
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2009
    Location:
    The Land that Time Forgot
    Familiarize yourself. It's sounds silly, but to play jazz & standards you have to listen to them. Then you'll know them, and be able to reproduce them.
     
  3. JonR

    JonR Member

    Messages:
    12,151
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2007
    Location:
    London
    Yes, pretty much a no-brainer! Not familiar with it? Then get familiar... :rolleyes:

    Method:

    "Go through each song bar by bar and not move on until I've memorized each bar?" - yes
    "Just keep listening to these songs over and over again?" - yes
    "Something else?" - maybe, if the above two don't work, but they should.
    (My tip: try #2 first, then #1.)
     
  4. fezz parka

    fezz parka Member

    Messages:
    879
    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2009
    Location:
    The Land that Time Forgot
    I just learned 'Round Midnight. I knew the tune from casual listening, but to really learn it, I listened to every version I could get my ears on. Wes, Grant Green, Ella, Miles, even Julie London. I immersed myself in the tune. :D
     
  5. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

    Messages:
    9,376
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2005
    Location:
    we eat a lot of cheese and drink a lot of beer
    You have to internalize the melody. Know it enough to sing it, just like you would a Beatles or Beach Boys song, that's what helps you keep your place. If you can't do that you need to listen more. Satin Doll has a really easy melody to remember.
     
    derekd likes this.
  6. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

    Messages:
    17,256
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2009
    Cigarette holder which wigs me
    Over her shoulder, she digs me
    Out cattin' that satin doll
    Baby, shall we go out skippin?
    Careful, amigo, you're flippin'
    Speaks Latin, that satin doll
    She's nobody's fool so I'm playing it cool as can be
    I'll give it a whirl but I ain't for no girl catching me
    Switch a rooney
    Telephone numbers, well, you know
    Doin' my rumbas with uno
    And that in my satin doll
     
  7. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

    Messages:
    34,720
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2007
    Location:
    In a van down by the river
    This.

    Even though most of these tunes are played instrumental these days, a ton of them have lyrics. I found buying recordings with the lyrics and memorizing them so I could sing along did wonders for how well I retained them. Ella, Frankie, Pizzarelli, whomever. Once you have the melody/words in your head, hearing the changes comes pretty easily.

    The other thing this does, imo, is gives you better facility for improvising the melody line, something I don't hear guys do enough. We all want to play our cool lines over these tunes, but these melodies are timeless for good reason. I've really been forcing myself to work from the melody rather than some chord/scale approach lately. YMMV

    Good luck!
     
  8. dsimon665

    dsimon665 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,475
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2007
    Location:
    19-tone, CA
    Even if you get familiar with a song "familiarity" can have a few levels of depth to it. Certain intervals or melodic relationships...voice leading you didn't notice...etc.
    It can take a while, maybe years.

    For pure melody its good to know the solfege syllables related to the key.
    do re mi...
    or use numbers like 1 2 3...
    The "first note" of the melody ... is it the fifth? Like in C major is the first note G?
    Things like that.
    Then...what's the first chord...how does the melody relate to the chords?
    How do the chords relate to the key?
    etc.

    Its nice to play it on keyboard - with the harmony in the left hand.
    Learning the melody and harmony at the same time.

    Also on guitar/piano...for the harmony you can see some voice leading if you keep everything in one position.
    So that would be using inversions to keep the voicings close together.
     
  9. gennation

    gennation Member

    Messages:
    6,691
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2006
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Your second sentence is your answer.

    I got back into music and learning through jazz about 12 years ago, I'm still listening.
     
  10. gennation

    gennation Member

    Messages:
    6,691
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2006
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    I should add that I am constantly learning and interpreting songs I've never heard before, including many people's originals that nobody's heard before. Sometimes this is a whole set of music. Since I'm a mediocre reader, and survive by ear, I make a cd of the tunes at hand and listen to them in the car non stop. This has been my process forever.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  11. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

    Messages:
    10,396
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2010
    Location:
    Encinitas, SoCal
  12. 2HBStrat

    2HBStrat Member

    Messages:
    35,359
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2009
    Location:
    East of the Rockies...
    I agree with everybody else....you just gotta get familiar with them. Take one song at a time and listen to it over and over, basically till you know it, till you internalize it. Then you won't have to look for the licks, they'll be there.
     

Share This Page