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Memorizing Standards / Harmonic Analysis

Datsyuk

Peace, Love and Coltrane
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,430
This is a very interesting question for me to ask. I'm looking to brush up my repertoire of standards and so typically I will make my own chord roadmaps / harmonic analysis as part of the learning and memorizing process. When dealing with modulations I've always felt that my roman numeral roadmaps, in order to be accurate should reflect the harmonic function of the chords as they pertain to the shifting key centres that will occur in many tunes such as All The Things You Are.

So, I was just checking out the updated version of the iOS app 'iReal Pro' (a digital fake book with chords-only and programmed accompaniment) and they added in the ability to use number oriented chord charts which I think is a new feature.

For All The Things You Are they have:

A Section: 6-7 / 2-7 / 5 7 / 1Maj 7
4Maj 7 / #4-7 7 7/ 3Maj 7 / 3Maj 7

B Section: 3-7, 6-7, 2 7, 5 Maj 7.....etc.

For one, it's weird for me to see chord charts not using roman numerals but no big deal and probably having more to do with constrictions in the app.

My main question / point of interest....is that they are relating ALL of the chords in the song back to the primary key. This makes total sense from a memorizing standpoint...but it strikes me as very weird as far as a true harmonic road map goes and not an approach I've ever personally used. (Although maybe this could be a useful way to go)

So my question to all you hard core Jazz heads...is whether this is actually a pretty typical and common approach that is often used to memorize standards? (Relating very chord in the song, regardless of modulations, back to the primary key solely for the purpose of memorization advantages)

I kind of feel like maybe I've been missing something in my own approach over many years. For example, there's something weird for me taking this approach and thinking of '5Maj 7' in the B section for example. On the other hand, it makes absolute sense for a pure memorizing strategy. I'm really curious what you're thoughts and experiences are...and also any of your own strategies for memorizing tunes both in the easiest manner to recall and in the most useful manner from an improvisational standpoint?

Cheers and beers!
 

Datsyuk

Peace, Love and Coltrane
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,430
Jerry Coker has a good book about this. The Jazz with Lego Bricks also has a nice twist.
The John Mehagen Jazz Piano books had Roman numeral analysis of tons of tunes.
Thank you! You just reminded that I have that Coker book somewhere...and it's a perfect time to dig it out. I should be transparent and state that I have a poor repertoire and haven't really put in the time to master hundreds of standards in all keys, etc or I would have probably well down a specific path that works for me. It's the approach to memorizing specifically that I'm curious how others approach it. I'm reasonably adept at harmonic analysis...but the memorization component has been a weak spot for me. The way I've been doing analysis is great for zooming in..in preparation for working on improvisation...but for straight up memorizing songs were there are a lot of modulations, cycling and secondary dominants...the way I've been doing it seems almost cumbersome for just memorizing. This is why I'm curious if others will relate everything back to the primary key of the song as strictly an effective memorizing tool.

Ok, I'll shut up now, lol....thanks for mentioning the Coker book...(and others)....I'll be all over that tomorrow!
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
42,113
Yeah, relating all the chords in a tune like this to the main key would weird me out for a while until I got used to it.

Not been exposed to that idea before. Thanks.
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,336
If I was starting out I don't think I could learn a tune like that, way too much to memorize. In general, you learn by sections. Many tunes are built of the same components, ii-Vs for instance, so thinking, "the bridge goes to a ii-V in Db" is less memorization than, "Ebmin-Ab7-Dbmaj". When you get more tunes under your belt it becomes, "the bridge starts out the same as In a Sentimental Mood".

The point you want to get to is, you have the melody memorized, and you just want to be familiar with the motion of the harmony. Know where the pivot points are, where the harmonic shifts are, and the rest is gravy.
 

Tone Loco

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,323
I got this book a while ago and he has some interesting ideas about how to memorize standards as well has how to improvise harmonically on standards. Here's a little summary and you can see in the last section that one of the main things is to learn a lot of tunes and as soon as you learn another one, meaning can play it from memory, transpose it to a few keys.
http://www.outsideshore.com/music/e...monic-language-of-standards-in-depth-summary/

The latest and greatest on the Lego approach is probably this: http://www.dropback.co.uk
I like the basic idea of roadmaps. Whether you do it with Roman numerals which is more or less standard as far as I know, or something where you use bigger blocks that relate to each other by having names for them like the Lego approach, is probably at least partly down to what you are already comfortable with.

I think the reason the computer program you referenced wants you to input everything relative to the key signature is to make things easier on the programmer who wrote the code. That might sound glib but I mean it. It really doesn't make a lot of sense for standards since so many modulate to new keys. Jerome Kern tunes like All The Things You Are or Pick Yourself Up, are obvious examples. It just seems like the straightforward way to think of it is to remember that the tune has a couple different key centers - thinking of the various key centers themselves as relative to the original key like up a Maj 3rd or whatever, or in relation to the key you were just in - and what you need to do to get to those key centers at the point of change. The other way seems needlessly complicated and like you'd have to almost ignore what your ears are telling you. To me anyhow ;)
 

dingusmingus

Member
Messages
118
Agreed--I've never heard of anyone who thinks of every chord in All the Things in relation to Ab. I certainly think of it moving thorugh Ab, C, Eb, G, and E. The other kind of thinking (everything in Ab) would also make it much harder to use your vocabulary.

It's just an artifact of the program: I expect it would be tricky to come up with an algorithm to recognize when a tune really modulates.
 

Blanket Jackson

is Tio's favorite
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
15,688
Agreed--I've never heard of anyone who thinks of every chord in All the Things in relation to Ab. I certainly think of it moving thorugh Ab, C, Eb, G, and E. The other kind of thinking (everything in Ab) would also make it much harder to use your vocabulary.

It's just an artifact of the program: I expect it would be tricky to come up with an algorithm to recognize when a tune really modulates.
My standard mode of thinking was that everything locks back to "the key of record". That is, until I got a good teacher who explained that the perceived key shifts constantly, and I realized that my single key approach was just laziness on my part. Once I tore down the walls I was free to understand jazz better.
 

dingusmingus

Member
Messages
118
My standard mode of thinking was that everything locks back to "the key of record". That is, until I got a good teacher who explained that the perceived key shifts constantly, and I realized that my single key approach was just laziness on my part. Once I tore down the walls I was free to understand jazz better.
Yeah, at first it seemed overwhelming to adjust to different key centers. After a while, it's a lot easier than trying to stay in one on those songs!

I'm sure lots of folks know this, but here's something that has helped me: In All the Things You Are, look for the dominant chords--they are the V in a ii-V one that signals a new key. This works with lots of tunes, though sometimes you get a dominant that is only weakly signaling a new key. Like the second chord in A train (II7) or the III7 is All of Me, or the many VI7 chords in lots of tunes. Some people may think of this as a short, new key, put I think most folks don't shift their thinking for the duration of a single chord.

I guess this is why it would be hard to come up with an algorithm that would accurate identify modulations!
 
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