Tag Archives: how to learn jazz standards guitar

Make it Easy To Learn Jazz Standards – Important Chord Progressions in Minor

In this lesson, I will go over the most important harmonic building blocks in a minor key, which will help you learn most Minor Jazz standards and give you a ton of options for your own songs.

When you learn Jazz songs, you need to memorize the chord progression, and if you try to do that as a long string of chords, that is NOT going to be very easy. Instead, you want to recognize the smaller building blocks of the song, making it 5 or 6 things to remember instead of 30.

It is a little like going from looking at a row of letters to recognizing the words and reading the meaning, and I am sure that you can see how reading words and remembering the meaning is much more useful than spelling everything.

This lesson will show you how that works.

Hearing The Chord Progression

The way I am going to do this is also important, because it will help you learn and remember songs a lot faster! I will play the different building blocks but I will also play some songs they are used in. Hearing how they sound in a song is probably more important than recognizing them on a piece of sheet music.

If you think about the chords in blocks like this you can use the songs you already know to learn new ones because you recognize how they are similar.

And more what is more important: You know how it sounds

#1 The Most Important Progression

As I will show you later in the video, minor keys do things major keys don’t, like having chord progression that is only one chord but still moves.

But of course, the most common progression is the cadence of the key, the minor II V I.

You have that in most minor songs like Alone Together or Yesterdays. And actually, the next progression is a very common variation on this II V I but it is a little hipper.

A funny side note with the minor II V I is that in the pure form, you use all 3 minor scales, one for each of the chords:

Dø from Natural minor, G7(b9,b13) from Harmonic minor, and Melodic minor on the Tonic chord being m6 or mMaj7. This is, of course, a part of why these are considered more difficult than the major counterpart.

But let’s check out a very common variation that just screams minor.

#2 The Most Minor Cadence

This Chord progression is extremely common in minor and includes a tritone substitution, which is maybe a little surprising since that is mostly seen as a type of reharmonization, but here it sounds surprisingly natural and I will explain why in a bit.

You know this progression from Minor Blues or songs like You Don’t Know What Love Is.

There is a reason that this tritone substitute doesn’t sound so crazy or out of place. The chord consists mostly of diatonic notes, so for Ab7:

Ab C Eb Gb

Is mostly diatonic to C natural minor: CEb F G Ab Bb C

This progression is probably the most common final cadence in minor Jazz Standards. Next, let’s look at an important progression that doesn’t resolve to minor at all.

#3 Another Common Cadence

You don’t always go back to the tonic in a song, there are other places you want to move to or visit in Minor. The relative major is a very common destination. You come across this in songs like Beautiful Love: – First minor cadence then major

or the other way around in Autumn Leaves, first to major then to minor:

It is a nice variation to have, as is the next one which is also a cornerstone in the tonality

#4 We Need To Go To The Subdominant

Another place that many songs go is the IV in the key. You don’t want to just cycle around the tonic all the time, that gets really boring. An example would be Alone Together. It first moves around on the tonic and then before it gets boring it goes to the IV chord.

So a cadence to the IV in the key is useful:

Before we get to the One-Chord-Progressions then let’s look at a few great minor turnarounds.

Should I Make A Major Version?

The minor songs tend to be a little simpler than many major progressions, mainly because there is less use of modal interchange and fewer modulations. But would it still be interesting to make a similar video for major keys?

#5 Turnaround Variations in Minor

There are turnarounds that almost only work in minor, but the two most common and important version is of course the I VI II V in minor:

And the version with a secondary dominant for the II chord, which is again a tritone sub:

 

Another turnaround that is used almost exclusively in minor is the Andalusian Cadence:

But in minor, you only need one chord to create progressions.

#6 Chord Progressions With One Chord

You know both of these examples since they are incredibly famous. These are really just voice-leading tricks that sound great and are often used in the minor.

The first is the “Stairway to heaven/My Funny Valentine” line-cliche which has a static minor chord where the root is moving down in half steps:

Often we forget the other variation of these which is the line-cliche from the 5th which you find in songs like Cry Me A River and of course most famously the Theme from James Bond

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7 Easy Jazz Standards In Minor You Need To Know

Most Jazz songs are in a major or a minor key, and Minor songs are a great place to learn several things that you need in Major as well, so it is a good idea to really dig into studying some minor songs.

In this video, I am going to go over 7 songs that are in a minor key that you want to have in your repertoire because knowing them will improve your playing.

I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but most Jazz standards are in a major key. Some pretend to be in minor but then turn out to be in major. I don’t want to single anyone out, How Deep Is The Ocean, You’d Be So Nice To Go Home to, What Is This Thing Called Love.

Anyway… The first song you probably already know, but maybe a few of the other ones will be a surprise, and later in the video, I will also talk about why So What is not on the list.

#1 Autumn Leaves

Probably one of the most well-known Jazz standards, and even though the old Berklee Realbook has it in Em, then the most common one in Jazz is G minor.

A little fun trivia is that the Miles Davis “riff” is actually also a part of the original arrangement with that clear m6 sound.

Lesson on Autumn Leaves as a Chord Melody: Easy Chord Melody on Autumn Leaves

What do you learn?

When you are working on Autumn Leaves then you are working on the two main cadences, the major tonic and the minor tonic cadences (highlight in sheet music). It is also a great place to explore how to play tonic minor since you really have the melodic minor sound in both the melody and the arrangement with the Gm6 riff.

#2 Blue Bossa

Another famous and simple song that is often among the first 3 tunes that you learn is Blue Bossa. Mainly because it is a short 16-bar form and has really basic harmony in the key of C minor only taking a short detour to Db major, which you could describe as a cadence for the Neapolitan subdominant, even though the melody maybe suggests otherwise.

Learn Blue Bossa: Blue Bossa Getting Started Soloing

Famous Versions

There are quite a few famous versions of this song to check out beyond the original recording by Joe Henderson. Especially George Benson and Pat Martino’s interpretations are worth checking out!

#3 Bernie’s Tune

I think this is maybe the least known tune in this list. It was actually difficult to find songs that are in a minor key and also not too difficult, but this song is really pretty simple and covers some basic chords in the key that you want to master, especially the tonic minor and the tritone substitute of the V of V. The chords are also lasting a little longer so you have a bit of space to develop your vocabulary and really get into those melodic minor sounds and how beautiful they are.

The melody of this song is also based on a great swinging riff using 3/4 on top of 4/4. Lots of stuff to learn from this one.

Lesson on Bernie’s Tune: Getting Started With Melodic Minor on a Jazz Standard

#4 Softly As In A Morning Sunrise

This is in a way a minor version of Rhythm Changes, mainly because the A-parts are built around a minor turnaround, which is of course the most important progression in the key. It is usually played in the key of C minor.

There are many fantastic versions of this song, both Jim Hall and Emily Remler are important Jazz guitar versions to check out. Emily Remler also includes a beautiful reharmonization of the melody going away from the minor turnaround, but still going back to the usual progression later in the solo.

The bridge is a short trip to the relative major: Eb and then with a few diminished chords back to Cm.

Lesson on Emily Remlers Solo: Emily Remler on Softly as in a morning sunrise

#5 Minor Blues

The Minor blues is really the re-invention of the 12 bar blues of the Hardbop era. The most famous examples are probably Coltrane’s Mr. PC and Equinox, but of course, there are other great examples out there. Mr. PC and Equinox are great examples of the extreme range of tempos that you play blues in with one being very fast and the other very slow.

While the minor blues is a great progression to check out how to use different minor sounds, so really dig into melodic minor or Dorian and it is also a great exercise in playing the most common variation to the minor II V which uses a tritone substitution for the V of V instead of the II chord

Minor Blues Lesson: Using Minor Blues to learn Melodic Minor

Similar to Bernie’s tune this is a great progression to explore tonic melodic minor, Lydian dominants, and altered dominants (high light or call out)

#6 Summertime

Gershwin’s Summertime is a beautiful song that is actually a bit modal in the sound. It is a great example of a short-form song that still manages to get around the tonic, subdominant, dominant and relative major. It is also a good vehicle for other meters like Jonathan Kreisberg’s amazing 5/4 version of the song, also an awesome example of dynamic solo guitar performance.

And what many people don’t realize is that Wes Montgomery’s song Four on Six is in fact written on this chord progression with some common reharmonizations.

Lesson on Wes’ Four on Six: How To Make Simple Sound Amazing – Wes Montgommery

#7 Solar

In a way this is a Parker Blues version of the minor blues. It is actually also a Bebop composition written by Chuck Wayne and then later stolen by Miles Davis, who we all know as the composer, and even has a bit of the melody on his tombstone.

Solar is a great song to study because it has a melody that is quite clearly using tonic minor and also a lot of typical bebop movement with a long series of “how high the moon II V I” meaning that the tonic chord becomes a m7 to become the II in a II V going down a whole-step.

The famous recordings of this song would probably be Pat Metheny trio and Brad Mehldau trio both are amazing! A great composition on these changes is Jerry Bergonzi’s On Again Off Again with some interesting shifting melodic minor scales by Mick Goodrick in his solo. He also recorded it with John Abercrombie on a later album.

Chord solo lesson on Solar: Easy Chord Solo Exercise

Honorable Mentions

As I already said, most Jazz standards are in minor, and I actually asked a few colleagues about suggestions for this list and didn’t really get something that I thought was easy and famous enough. Maybe it was because they were both bass players?

Some of the songs that are very common, and in a minor key that is maybe not precisely easy would be Alone Together, Beautiful Love, Angel Eyes and You Don’t know what love is. They are all worth checking out because even if they are not exactly what I consider easy

Alone Together

Beautiful Love

Angel Eyes

You Don’t Know What Love Is.

Please let me know if you have other suggestions for easy songs in a minor key! It is always great to have suggestions for songs!

Why No “So What”?

So why isn’t So What on the list? I get the question “what about So What” very often on my 10 easy standards video, and I understand why that would seem to fit both there and also here, it is a song with very few chords for a jazz song. But to me, it is more logical to have a list of songs where studying one will help the other, and So What is a completely different type of sound and song than these. In fact, it is not really in a traditional key. There are no cadences or really moving harmony, so in that way, it is something else.

That does not mean that it is not a good song, that I don’t like it or that it won’t be useful to study, but, to me, it is something else and not anymore related to these songs than it is to How High The Moon.

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50 Jazz Standards – The Songs You Need To Know

Jazz Standards are the songs you need to know to learn to play Jazz. I always say “Learn Jazz – Make Music” in my videos and the Jazz Standards are the songs that play when you make that music.

This video is a list of 50 Standards that are really useful to have in your repertoire. I have split them up in some different categories because that is practical for when you are playing. You don’t want to play 5 medium swing songs in F major next to each other in a set, you might find yourself playing the wrong theme at the end (true story!) Having variation in a set is very useful.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:57 Easy Standards

2:03 Intermediate Standards

2:23 Don’t be like AC/DC!

2:37 And it goes for Jazz as well…

3:23 Difficult Standards

3:47 Ballads

4:05 Don’t be like Dutch Audiences

4:18 Samba & Bossanova

4:45 Jazz Latin (and a little modal)

5:14 Blues

5:45 Waltzes

6:27 Jazz Standards in a minor key

6:56 Bebop Themes

7:27 Is your favorite missing?

7:42 My favorites (that I couldn’t put on the list)

9:08 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

Learn important Jazz Standards

Download the list here

Fill in the form below to be taken to a PDF download

The Worst Mistake When You Study Jazz

It is probably mostly a problem you are teaching yourself but organizing your Jazz Practice and getting the right things in there is something that is often going wrong. At the same time, this is so incredibly easy to avoid and all you need to do is take a step back and look at what you are trying to learn without getting lost in the details.

I say it all the time: Learn Jazz, Make Music but for you to make music you need to focus on learning some pieces to make music with and that is very often not on the list when people start practicing and studying Jazz.

Other Important Practice Lessons

This is a Good 10-minute Practice Routine

Avoid Long Practice Plans – This is what you should focus on

Guitar Practice – How To Be Your Own Teacher

Content

0:00 Intro

0:26 Forgetting What You Want to Learn? 

0:42 It may seem ok, but it isn’t

1:15 Skills for Jazz

1:40 Exercises are not Music

2:19 What you will miss and what you should be doing

2:38 Playing Real Music

3:07 Jazz Harmony is more than II V I and Turnarounds!

3:37 How many II V’s in a Jazz Standard?

4:30 How To Really Learn Jazz

5:10 What is playing Jazz, what is the goal.

5:53 Is this missing in online education?

6:12 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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How To Learn a Jazz Standard – Important Exercises

Learning Jazz Standards is essential to learning jazz, in fact learning the repertoire is everything with any genre of music. There are of course many ways to go about this, but since it is important and you want to learn a lot of songs then it is also useful to do this in an efficient way.

The first time I started to learn a Jazz Standard it took me about two months, and there are better ways to do that how I did it. And that is what this video is about.

If you want to check out my other video on the 10 first Jazz Standards to learn, you can do so here: The First 10 Jazz Standards You Need To Know

If you want to check out some more videos on the topic of studying songs then check out this short playlist: Learning Jazz Standards

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:07 Learning Jazz is Learning Jazz Songs

0:28 Take a better approach than I did

0:44 A Method or a Checklist

1:10 #1 Pick A song

2:02 #2 Listen

2:29 Learning By Ear and using vocal recordings

2:54 #3 Analyze the Song

3:35 Join the FB Community

3:54 #4 Playing The Song

4:13 Play the music, not only exercises

4:31 #5  Pick a Position

5:12 #6 Learn The Melody By Heart

6:04 #7 Play The Chords

6:44 #8 Learn The Arpeggios

8:01 #9 Other Exercises

8:50 Like the Video? Check out My Patreon Page

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