Standards help

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by flavaham, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    So, not a big issue for me but I haven't played jazz standards in years. I'm more of a rock/blues/jam kind of player. I played some jazz standards back in the day but I'm looking to revisit some basics and look for some subs and new improv lines. I was checking out the "truefire" site and there are a few jazz courses for around $29. I consider myself a fairly advanced player for what I do. I get theory for the most part (haha, to an extent as we all do...it doesn't end) but im looking for something that will let me look at a chord chart and really think in some fun directions. Can someone recomend either a few pointers on this, a web site that has some great info or perhaps a Truefire course that is worth the $29??

    I can keep jammin what I know, but the standards just seem to sit there and mock me, as if to say, "You can't play me...Go ahead, try it!" And then I tear it a new one. Haha.
    Thanks!
     
  2. russ6100

    russ6100 Member

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    Do you feel like you don't have much in the way of options over a ii7-V7-I?
     
  3. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    If you want, pick one and we'll go over it. There are books that can help I'm sure (I'll let the other folks recommend some) but most anything of value I've learned was either through listening and transcription or learned on the bandstand. And by that I mean it's more about vocabulary and taste then theory knowledge.

    But as knowledge goes, the important thing is to really understand each chord's function in a tune. And really I see it like this, you need to be aware of 3 things at all times; each individual chord's function, each chord's function in it's sequence, and its sequence's function in the tune. That way you always know where you're going and where you're coming from, and how deep you may want to get. What I mean is let's say we have a ii-V-I, you can focus on each chord, treat the ii and V with same sound, or all 3 with the same sound, or even replace the entire sequence with something else.

    As you already know you can justify any note over any chord, and on the same lines any chord over any chord. So if everything is open to you, the question is; what do you want to play?
     
  4. JonR

    JonR Member

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    This might sound a little old-fashioned, but I think you can go a long way (maybe as far as you need to) as follows:

    Take any standard you want to jam on.

    1. Learn the melody (essential)
    2. Learn the chords (the standard changes to start with)

    Learn both so well you don't need to read them. (And learn the chords in every possible position on the neck.)

    3. Look for alternative melodic routes through the changes, without using alterations. Work through all the chord tones, stepping from one chord tone to the nearest one (above or below, or same note) on the next chord.

    4. Add chromatic transitions where possible. (Eg if a step between tones on two neighbouring chords is a whole step, introduce the half-step between.)

    5. Use chromatic approaches on individual chords, beginning with half-steps below each chord tone. Make sure you resolve to the chord tone before the chord changes.

    6. That's it ;).

    Seriously, in terms of raw material, there is nothing else. (Of course there's a whole load more you need in terms of how you use that raw material, to do with phrasing, rhythm, dynamics, feel, etc etc. That comes from listening to jazz, it's hard to teach any other way.)

    Imposing other scales on particular chords (chord-scale theory) is only an organised way of doing a combination of steps 4 and 5. (And it may be too organised, or too distracting.) But the important thing is not to do that before you've been through steps 1-3. You have to know the tune intimately before you can improvise properly on it. Don't just treat it as a bunch of chords, because anything you do then will sound like an exercise. (Of course, that's OK if you want some jazz exercises - no harm in that - but don't confuse it with actual improvisation! ;))

    You don't need to pay for a course, IMO. A Real Book (or two) and maybe some Jamey Aebersold playalongs will do (OK, they'll cost more than $29...:rolleyes:... but will probably be more useful.) You could skip the playalongs and make your own backing tracks, but they're unlikely to swing the way Aebersold's pro musicians do.
     
  5. FatJeff

    FatJeff Member

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    I got a lot of mileage out of this book. http://www.outsideshore.com/school/music/harmonic/

    But as the saying goes, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." You gotta actually play the tunes to get much out of any analysis.

    One thing I'd add to JonR's list above is if the song has lyrics - learn them. After a bit, you get familiar enough with the song to where you never get lost, just on account of having a "singer" in the back of your mind as the changes roll by.
     
  6. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Good point. That was Miles Davis's advice when playing ballads, at least: think of the words.
    In a sense, one's improvisation is just another way of expressing the sentiment of the song. What is the song saying, and how do you feel about that? How would you say it yourself?
     
  7. guitarz1972

    guitarz1972 Member

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    I've got the Hal Leonard publication "The Best Of Jazz Guitar" by Wolf Marshall. Anyone had experience with this book? Looked like a good way to cover some standards to me. Just now getting back into regular practice myself, and will be exploring this one a bit in the days to come.
     
  8. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    If memory serves, it's just WM's transcriptions of some classic jazz recordings. As a reference against which to check your own transcriptions, cool. But IMO it's not a good book for learning jazz, really. I'm with JonR, though. I don't think books are the way to go. It's tempting, but learning jazz through books (and most courses) is an expensive and ultimately fruitless proposition. Books and courses are how really good players (and sometimes some not-so-good players) make money in the music business. Ask a really good (like world-class) player how he learned to play jazz. If he/she is honest, I'd be willing to wager books (other than The Real Book) will hardly be mentioned at all.
     
  9. FatJeff

    FatJeff Member

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    And then there are some who even say that using the Real Book stunts your musical growth. I don't disagree.
     
  10. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Instituting a policy of only learning tunes I could actually hear (in my iTunes library, CD collection, Youtube, etc.) sure changed my jazz learning experience. If I can listen to a tune repeatedly, then the Real Book serves as a rough guide. If on the other hand I am relying totally on the Real Book, because I can't hear the tune anywhere (because it's not in my music library or easily available online), then I know I'm probably going to get it wrong.

    It's also an interesting exercise to listen to a tune and follow along by reading the chart in a Real Book, to see if I can find any mistakes in the chart.

    Of course, this was all a minor epiphany for me compared to the great one: The bulk of my jazz education should be coming from learning tunes, and listening to the masters playing the tunes
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2012
  11. Sensible Musician

    Sensible Musician Member

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    Listen to JonR. Everyone who ever got good at jazz got good by listening and imitating. That goes for improv, too. You can go really far by listening to how great players messed with the melody. E.g. Miles playing the head on Cannonball's version of Autumn Leaves. There is a hell of a lot of stuff in there. Also a lot of improv is based on the melody.

    There is kind of a natural progression from simple to complex in the development of the music over time, so if you start early and work toward late it will make more sense when you hear one new approach at a time.

    The name of the game is learning vocabulary and learning to use that vocabulary in ever-increasingly varied contexts.
     
  12. GreyJazz90

    GreyJazz90 Member

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    The best way to learn standards is by listening to the records and playing along to the melody/solo's. There are so many nuances on the record that the books and instructional video's can never teach. Not to mention a lot of RealBook charts are incorrect.
     
  13. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    I'm one of the first guys to mention getting away from real books, yet I've realized I still play some of those tunes wrong. Old habits die hard.
     
  14. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Thanks, and yes.
    Not that I want to suggest those two sentences are referring to the same thing :D :rolleyes:... I wouldn't encourage young jazz musicians to come and listen to what I actually play at my next gig, and imitate me... ("Hey... so all we need to do is stick with major pentatonic! and a bit of blues scale!" :jo)
    Do as I say, not as I do... :)

    Remember that none of the great jazz musicians actually studied jazz from books or at college. If they went to college, it was to study European classical music (even if they did drop out after a while). They studied jazz by listening to their heroes, and copying them, commonly in an "apprenticeship" system, where young players would play in bands alongside more experienced ones, who would feed them little tips in the form of pithy sayings. That would be the only "theoretical" education: phrases like "let the melody be your guide". That's worth more than a whole set of books on improvisation.

    When jazz is taught in other ways - via college courses or books - it gets reduced to formulas, stuff that can be easily written down and delivered in class exercises, amenable to box-ticking concepts of "right" and "wrong": such as chord-scale theory. You get introduced to a whole set of "rules": things that tend to limit you rather than inspire you.

    That's partly understandable, because improvisation is a really scary thing if you've never tried it before. And a lot of western music teaching still doesn't allow improvisation as much as it should, from the start. (In my experience, it does now; but still not enough.)
    But if you've never improvised - probably because you think you have no "ideas", same as you think you can't "write songs" - then you want your hand to be held; you crave not only guidance, but a set of steps to follow so you can make no mistake.
    "Here's a chord; and here's a scale you can play over it so you won't get any wrong notes."
    "Phew, thanks!"
    :rolleyes: :facepalm
    That's no way to make music. It's like those kind of lessons which train you to pass an exam, instead of helping you understand the subject.
     
  15. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    Who says that, and in what context? And what is meant by "stunted"? Does it somehow imply that reading charts is detrimental to one's playing? I guess if reading charts is done in a vacuum it's not as good as listening to the tunes. But that was most certainly not what I was advocating or implying in any way.
     
  16. vhollund

    vhollund Member

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    "Help with standards" hmm

    How about something more specific within the last 100 years of Jazz evolution ? ;)

    One thing i'd say though that is often neglected is that Jazz has a lot to do with Sound and Rhythm and having a tremendous time and chops.

    If you take the most common standards like
    Autumn Leaves, or Stella by starlight

    Theres are Melody and chords in real book that you can try to combine
    But how you combine them depends on your sense of the rhythmic phrasing

    Check out this video
    I know it's probably abit early to go for but it's great inspiration
    Look at how he plays with the rhythm agains the 2-4 click


    3 starters :

    1) You can "survive" the harmonic content of a fast standard by playing the 3rd and 7th, in two note voicings, and only play bigger chords occasionally

    2) And you offen can for starters get a feel for the rhythmic part by trying to lift/push as many of the chords, placing them on last triolized eighth note

    3) The solo part you can get to quickest by playing chord notes, and mapping corresponding intervals around chord notes. and using your ears


    On a longer temporal approach :

    ALOT of theory is learning by heart and learning really well so that you can actually use it.
    (The rest of the work is actually hearing it)

    First thing to do is learning the notes on the neck so that you ca always find the chords.


    You might think you know where the notes are but do you really where they are so that you can go there instantly without looking ?
    Can you play them as you read them and do you know where the relative intervals around them ? Can you go to the M6 instantly ?

    Then learning all the notes that are in the triads is really usefull so that you always know tha A is a c# and e and Ab is ab c and eb etc
    then learning all the major scales from tone names. A is a b c# d e f# g# A, Ab is Ab bb c db eb f g ab, etc
    and you can part them up in tetra chords so that they are easier to memorize and map on the fretboard

    Theres upper structure chords

    Etc etc theres a ton of stuff to learn, but at one point you kind of find out what you can actually use.
    Some theory books are not always so concerned with that

    Just start where it makes sense to you and then go forward from there

    I hope this post is not too incomprehensible, its pretty late here. If so, then hereby my apologies.;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  17. arthur rotfeld

    arthur rotfeld Member

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    Shameless plug....I have a new book out on chord voicings. It has a chord dictionary and a whole bunch of examples of the most common progressions with a variety of voicing methods.


    (It was a work for hire, so I'm not trying to fill my coffers. Got my check already ;) )

    http://www.ejazzlines.com/JAZZ-GUITAR-CHORD-VOICINGS-p136398.html

    It's on Amazon and probably at your local stores too.
     
  18. arthur rotfeld

    arthur rotfeld Member

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    This is a good book of transcriptions plus commentary from Wolf. Lots of music. It's the one with multiple versions of various standards, right?

    Not quite what the OP is looking for though.
     
  19. arthur rotfeld

    arthur rotfeld Member

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    I agree.

    Fake books often have errors, though I love them and own about ten. Good advice to consult original sources. Easy to do with composed jazz originals (Parker, Trane, etc.) For standards, a couple of jazz versions, original show/film recording, etc.
     

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