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Couple of questions regarding properly learning a song

T1mothyT1mothy ✭✭ Furch petite bouche
edited May 2015 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 79
So about 2 months ago I said thats enough of learning one solo after another hoping magic will start happening. Took the easiest song I could think of and learned 1 3 5 for each chord. A min, D min, E maj (actually dominant but you know, 1 3 5). Once I could see it the disgusting fear of hitting the wrong note subsided quite a bit and I really felt relieved. Problem being I cant stand that minor swing progression really. Having only 3 chords all of them being played same amount of time. Took me time to bite the bullet but I decided to go for all of me. Being also in a key with no sharps / flats (nondiatonic chords, nevermind.. :D).

I got it all down except the C section starting with F. Meaning only Fmaj and Fmin is left but I already have been practising playing 1 3 5 for each chord and switch to the next one whenever the play along does. (Ive been using this "learn jazz standards" one. Its quite slow :-) ) Anyway problem is I hear more than just 1 3 5 already and sometimes I find it hard to stick to it but it indeed is a good practice mode. + I feel a bit more like playing actually if you get me :D. So Im wondering whats the next step. Or more like precisely how to execute the next step because I believe now I jsut need to play what I like most. Then we get to the licks that I like most but Ive read somewhere that it is advisable to learn the licks you like most (obviously) and then use them in as many ways as possible.

Which at first made me think that I dont know enough progressions that I could arpeggiate through to play the lick over the specific chord within the progressions context that its being played over originally. Then I was thinking my first assumption might have been wrong and perhaps I should even try to convert min licks to maj ones and really use it in all places possible but then my next objection my mind made was that it would sound stupid if I played one lick over C, then E, then A, then Dmin. So Im not really sure. Also besides getting to know the progression, learning the arpeggios, filling vocabulary for each chord quality, is there anything else one should try to achieve to thoroughly learn a song?



  • bbwood_98bbwood_98 Brooklyn, NyProdigy Vladimir music! Les Effes. . Its the best!
    Posts: 517
    1. learn the melody.
    2. learn the chords - correctly
    3. arpeggios (first 1,3,5; then 1,3,5,7, then add other notes 1,3,5,6,9)
    4. improvise on the melody
    5. use some scales improvising
    6. apply some licks/vocabulary
    7. cut loose and just play on the song.

    8. repeat and refine for 20 or 30 years or 1000 hrs per song or whatever.

  • T1mothyT1mothy ✭✭ Furch petite bouche
    Posts: 79
    Im really puzzled about the "how to efficiently build a vocabulary" part.
  • bbwood_98bbwood_98 Brooklyn, NyProdigy Vladimir music! Les Effes. . Its the best!
    Posts: 517
    a quick secondary point about singing and vocab. Put the backing track on, sing a solo while recording it. then learn it on the guitar- all the licks will be from your own mind. If you really do something cool- start applying that to other songs instant creation of your own vocab!
  • Posts: 3,063
    T1mothy wrote: »
    Then I was thinking my first assumption might have been wrong and perhaps I should even try to convert min licks to maj ones and really use it in all places possible but then my next objection my mind made was that it would sound stupid if I played one lick over C, then E, then A, then Dmin.


    Stupid? No, that would be right on.
    From the mouth of someone with much more credibility than the person typing this: "I'd much rather listen to the player that has one lick solid with a great timing and a groove to it than someone using 12 licks but they're all sloppy"-Gonzalo Bergara at Django in June 2013.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • AppelAppel ✭✭✭
    edited May 2015 Posts: 78
    I'm with Buco on that last point, and further the support to note that there's nothing but good ideas in this thread so far.

    I was once instructed that it was more important to be able to deal with new repertoire on the spot than to learn a lot of tunes. How is that done? Chord/scale studies, studying the basics of rhythmic distinctions between styles, lots of listening and ear training. Sure! All that stuff is great. But I really think it's better for one's life and well-being to find a bunch of tunes you love and work on them until they are written on your very bones. Well-chosen repertoire carries within it pretty much all any player needs to know ...

    One of the other members here, Jazzaferri, recently posted a link to Hal Garper's website, a very interesting jazz pianist and educator who has some very strong and useful ideas about learning tunes (and a lifetime's worth of other stuff as well). For one thing, Garper suggests what looks to me like a bottom-up approach; that is, start with the form of the song (the pattern of verses and choruses), then get the bass line down, fill in the harmony, and after all that, then tackle the melody - which is often the most complex part of the song. Here's the article: How to learn a tune

    It's some of the best advice on memorizing tunes I've come across.

  • AppelAppel ✭✭✭
    edited May 2015 Posts: 78
    ... actually there is one step in the method suggested by Garper that gives me pause. The first step (I misled you about Garper's steps in my first post - really, Garper's article is a valuable piece, it merits a careful read, and I plan to reread it several more times) is to "learn the key".

    That could mean a number of things ... and I suppose Garper means it in every possible sense. But the sense by which we mean the agreed-upon key for performance is a tricky one. Do we mean, the key that Django played the tune in, at a particular time? Or the key of the "original" performance of the tune, whatever that might have been? Or the key chosen by the tune's most famous interpreter? Is it the key in the handiest songbook? How did the editors of the songbook decide? It can take some research to find these things out.

    And who is it, exactly, who has agreed upon the key? I've recently read (somewhere in this forum, I believe) that Coquette, within the "gypsy jazz" community, is generally called in the key of D major, whereas players outside of gypsy jazz tend to take it in C major. I don't know myself, as I first heard that tune on a Django/Stephan recording.

    A great, great jazz musician once told me that he learned every single tune he knew in the key of C. If he did that, then he could play the tune in any other key, instantly, with no further thought or work on his part - because, of course, he'd worked on all the keys and could move fluently from one to the next. This player was a pianist as well as a great arranger and bandleader. I was told by players from his big band that he would call tunes in different keys on different nights ...

    Other jazz musicians - perhaps players more focused on soloing and upon being known for improvisation - have insisted to me that to "properly improvise" on a tune (whatever that might mean) requires thorough understanding of the tune within one carefully chosen key, and that within particular communities of particular kinds of improvisors the select keys will be understood, and that learning the tunes in those keys was one way of becoming a part of that community.

    One thing I notice and really, really love about the gypsy jazz community is that it seems possible to at least find out what the agreements are, so you can prepare a little bit. Coquette is in D major - end of story. Any questions? The more experienced players will trip over themselves to answer just any question and try to help. Players in other genres whom I've tried to work with have tended to hold their cards a little closer to their chests ...

    But I still don't get what it means to "learn the key". It's worth reading into the way that Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass worked on the tunes they recorded. Are there "better" or "deeper" or somehow "more skilled" improvisors than Ella, or Joe, somewhere in the world? I highly doubt it. And it's my understanding that they would fool around with the tunes, especially the keys, until they found a key that suited Ella's voice, and that Joe could take the tunes into any key she wanted with no hesitation or thought, and with no compromise to his own performance.

    I guess I'm not helping much!
  • edited May 2015 Posts: 3,707
    Another Galperism that I will pass on.

    "I'd rather be the guy with 20 licks that I can play a 100 different ways than try to learn a 1000 different licks."

    I still have a rather prodigious vocabulary in English, I do find in most situations if I try and exercise this affliction people seem to fade off to other parts of the room. LOL

    I think Galper's quote is really worth thinking on. The more I listen to Django the more I think he was a genius at restating his chops in a whole lot of different ways.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • AppelAppel ✭✭✭
    edited May 2015 Posts: 78
    Ah, interesting ... this, from the man who talks about having learned over 1,000 songs ...

    But - what is at the heart of this seeming contradiction? In the same article - about learning songs - is the statement that, after learning 1,000 songs, the player comes to see that there are really only about 20 songs. This suggests an interesting circle in Galper's thinking - I don't mean a circular logic, rather a kind of completeness. Of course we come across a lot of tunes based on the chord changes from "I Got Rhythm", or "How High the Moon", etc. and that's one level of understanding, one expression of that phenomenon. Without trying to pretend that my own understanding runs any deeper - far from it - I do believe that there is a deeper level in tunes, a level that extends past and/or beneath the temporality of music wherein one tune overlaps another, and where shapes and patterns that take form in one moment will re-form in another ... is it just a convoluted way of pondering musical memory, or the expression of memory in music? Possibly. Anyway, enough of that from me. What key did we pick for "All of Me"?
  • edited May 2015 Posts: 3,707
    Going back in time, when music occupied a different place in the world, each key was considered to have its own, I will try a modern word, "vibe". Having worked a lot with vocalists, And attempting to be one myself, I have worked up songs in different keys. To my mind (admittedly a rather eccentric one) they do have a different feel in different keys.

    To get closer to being back on of the ways I use to determine if I truly have the piece mastered is to be able to sing the lyrics or the melody line while playing rhythm with relaxed expression.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,562
    This may not be for everyone, but personally I like to learn the lyrics to a song if possible when I learn a new song. Helps me remember the melody and the changes and makes me feel that I am more in touch with the song's essence.

    A couple years ago I was in Paris at a place I won't name where some GJ guitarists were playing the 60's standard "More" ("More, than the greatest love the world has known…") but they didn't quite understand the song's structure, in that the "second ending" varies slightly from the "first ending"--- they played it the same way every time.

    If they had known the lyrics to the song (which I learned via 1960's AM radio) that probably wouldn't have happened.

    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."
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