Tag Archives: jazz standards for beginners guitar

Why You Struggle To Learn Jazz Standards: A Method That Works

Don’t Start With The Realbook

This is NOT how you learn a new jazz standard. Not if you really want it to be a part of your repertoire so that you don’t have to re-learn or read every time you are asked to play it.

In this video, I’ll show you how to internalize a song and also cover 3 mistakes that so many of us are guilty of, and that ALWAYS come back to haunt us later.

Step #1: Technology Is Your Enemy (And Also Your Friend)

It is in fact technology that is getting in the way, and when you hear that you are probably looking at your phone or iPad and thinking “These things are terrible!” But actually, this was a problem before the internet as well, and the technology that got in the way was printing (b-roll printing books). Of course, I don’t want to sound like some sort of religious cult leader who wants to ban books, but you are trying to learn a song and that is a piece of music that people listen to, so maybe you want to start with listening to the song. You shouldn’t immediately try to transcribe it or figure out the chords, just listen to it. And ironically, here the fact that you have access to the internet is a HUGE advantage because you can go on Spotify or YouTube to find 100s of versions of the song and then find a few that you like and focus on them.

Listen to the songs a lot, it is fairly low effort and it will make it 100x easier once you try to actually play the song. Just be patient and keep listening so that you get it into your ear and into your system. You don’t want to start by trying to listen with your eyes. It is also important that you don’t use backing tracks, Lazy ears are a real problem, but I will explain why later

A short side note here is, choosing songs. Finding a standard that is easy to learn can be difficult, and you don’t go from a 12-bar blues to Autumn Leaves to Giant Steps. There is a way to be more strategic and make it easier to build a repertoire so make sure that you don’t start with very difficult songs!

 

I have videos with suggestions of songs to work on,

and you can better learn 3 easy songs than break your neck on one impossible song, I am sure that is obvious, maybe suggest good songs to start with in the comments, we can never have enough good songs to learn!

Mistake #1 Listen to the song (and listen some more)

So the first big mistake is..not listening to the song to learn it, but there are a few other mistakes and bad habits to get rid of!

 

Step #2: A Song Is Not A Bunch Of Chords

To me, iReal is quickly becoming the worst way to see a song. On a very basic level: If you think of Happy Birthday then you hear the melody (play) you are not thinking of this:

and the same should be true for Autumn Leaves,

and I am saying this even if I think it is a very useful app on gigs and for a lot of other things.

So my point is that once you have listened to recordings of the song, then you want to start by learning the melody, and mainly that is because the melody is the strongest part of the song. The chords are there to support the melody, not the other way around, and you will also see how people use different chords for the songs, but they don’t mess with the melody.

Another thing that the melody is great for is as a guide to the form. When you are improvising then you hear the melody internally, you are not counting bars like a robot … or have some sort of internal Google Maps navigation.  Instead, you are using the melody as a way of knowing where you are.

Learning By Ear – Part 1

Jazz Standards are usually in a key, and you can use the last note of the melody to figure out what the key is.

That makes it easier to learn the melody because you can rely on a position on the neck for that scale and use that while figuring out the melody. If you already listened a lot to the melody then it won’t be too difficult to figure it out going phrase by phrase.

Of course, Jazz standards are often interpreted by the artist, so it can be useful to check it out from people who are not changing the melody too much.

If you take the song “The Way You Look Tonight” then you have a clear version from Frank Sinatra here:

And learning the melody from Sonny Rollins is a lot further away from the original melody:

Don’t think that I am saying Rollins is doing something wrong, he is supposed to interpret the melody, my point is that when you are learning the song it is practical to learn a version that is close to how it was written, not something that is almost a different song. When I had lessons with Peter Nieuwerf, he always suggested checking out songs from Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald,

which is really good advice, and their take on the song is always great to check out simply because they are amazing artists!

Step #3: But You Do Need Chords

Now that you know the melody then it makes sense to start adding the harmony. For now, you can use sheet music for the chords, iReal, Realbook, or just Google them. I will talk a bit about figuring chords out by ear later. If you are new to learning songs then start by just playing through the progression with chords on the heavy beats and when the chords change. You can even sing the melody to get an idea about how that sounds against the chords. The main thing is just to start hearing the harmony in time, don’t use a backing track for this, I will explain why later in the video.

Mistake #2 Don’t Memorize Rows of Chords!

The difficult part of this is probably to memorize the chords, and this is where the #2 mistake becomes important: You Need to think in blocks of chords.

Any Jazz standard will use a lot of the same progressions and you want to be able to think about groups of chords, not single chords. Think about it in terms of language. If you have to memorize a random sentence like: “Dutch Bread Truly Sucks“, then that is pretty easy compared to memorizing all the letters in that sentence: dutchbreadtrulysucks without thinking of the words that they form. And this is much more powerful than you might think. If you know a few songs and think like this then I can teach you the progression of Jobim’s So Danco Samba in one sentence: It’s an AABA song with an A-train A-part and an Ellington Bridge.

If you know what that means then you can play the song. Of course, we don’t have descriptions for all 8-bar progressions, but chunking together the chords makes it a lot easier, and if you ever wondered why it makes sense to learn understand the form, and learn theory and analysis then here’s your proof.

Learning By Ear – Part 2

I get asked about figuring chords by ear fairly often, but very often it also sounds like people expect to get some trick so that they can hear changes without any effort. Which is not really how it works, certainly not for me. I sometimes get the impression that people are listening to the song for the first time and say:

“I am already in the 2nd A and I didn’t figure out any chords yet!”

Don’t get me wrong, it does get a lot easier the more you do it and the more songs you have done and you know, but the way to start is probably to have the two outer layers that are the easiest to figure out: The Melody, which you already know, and then the bassline.

I used to always write out the melody and then transcribe the bassline under it as you see here.

From there you can use that to figure out what chord is being played, and again theory helps you narrow it down and then you listen for what sounds right. As I already mentioned, then there are a lot of common building blocks and you get more and more used to hearing those and then you can hear several chords at the same time because you have heard them 1000s of times before, but the first time it takes more effort. And even if you do this and have some holes in there, then don’t worry about that. You have to start somewhere.

The Bonus with Chords (Which Is Sometimes A Bit Overrated)

If you have the chord vocabulary and fretboard overview then it can be very useful to also try to play the song as a chord melody arrangement. it is a great way to really connect the harmony and the melody and it will also often reveal if you have places where the two don’t really work together. Of course, doing this is also quite demanding technically, and if you are not used to it then don’t worry about it. Sometimes chord melody is made more important than it should be, especially by beginners who can better develop other skills first.

Step #4 Start Soloing

You are pretty much there with learning the song now, you know the melody and the chords by heart, so now you can start working on improvising. You are ready to improvise if you can do these two things: Play the melody in time by heart, and play the chords in time by heart. That is what you want to aim for.

Mistake #3 Lazy Ears!

In the beginning, you just want to ease into it, so turn on a metronome and first play the melody, maybe also a chorus of chords. This is just to hear the song and help you keep track of where you are internally. At this stage, it is incredibly important that you don’t use a backing track because you want to get the song into your system and be forced to hear the melody and the harmony inside. With a backing track, then that is too easy and you get lazy with all the important things like REALLY hearing the harmony, and feeling the time and the form. When you are practicing a song, you want to work on it so that you are building a strong foundation to lean on once you play with others, and a backing track is too easy it makes your inner ear lazy because the track will tell you where you are and what the chord sounds like. You can test this by playing a new song only with a backing track and then solo with just a metronome, then take another new song and switch those two around, it will quickly be very clear.

Getting The Right Start With Jazz Guitar

There are some things I wish I could do better in learning Jazz if I had to do it again!

5 Concepts Jazz Guitar Beginners Must Understand To Learn Faster

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Important (beginner) Jazz Advice: 5 Easy Jazz Standards To Start With

Learning Jazz songs is incredibly important, I am sure you have heard me and many others say that again and again. But it can also be unbelievably difficult in the beginning, I spent a long time isolated from the world, practicing for hours every day to learn the first two Jazz standards. And that was largely because I had chosen songs that were much too difficult for a beginner and I just didn’t know any better.

But it is actually hard to figure out exactly what songs will be the good for you to start with, so I thought it might be useful to compare 5 different songs that are all easy so that you have a better way to figure out what might be useful for you to learn, and even if you already know some songs then these could be great to add to your repertoire.  As you will see, I actually left out some very common songs from this video, but I will explain why that is along the way, and there is another thing that is also surprising about this list.

Let’s start with one of the easiest songs to solo over.

Pent Up House

If you look at the sheet music for this Sonny Rollins classic then the theme and the chords in the theme might look incredibly complicated, but the solo form is actually very simple. You could look at the 16-bar form as an AABA,

but it doesn’t really feel like that to me, probably because it is a short form. It is really just a II V I in G major and the two other closely related II Vs.

So common progressions that you may already have practiced and otherwise you can actually start learning them on this song.

It is a great way to work on some basic Jazz progressions in a song, and I have seen a lot of students get more confident improvising over changes learning this song. What is great about the theme being a bit more complicated is that it also really teaches you some jazz melody and jazz rhythm which is very useful for your phrasing and vocabulary.

To compare the songs then I made this chart to have an overview of them. I am going to keep it simple with the grades so it is either good or bad, but don’t over-interpret that, it is also a bit of an experiment for this video.

 

For this song then the progression is good, it is pretty simple with the number of scales and keys you need. The melody is difficult, even if there is an advantage to that as well. It is not really a common form that will help you learn other songs, and the tempo is often a bit high, but you can of course play it slower.

 

Let’s see how it stacks up against the next song, one thing that I actually think is very important is that you work on songs that help you learn other songs, but I will explain that along the way as well!

Perdido

This song is a great example of an AABA form,

and since it is a big band composition from the Ellington songbook then it is also a good melody for learning some phrasing and rhythm. If you are starting out playing Jazz then that aspect is maybe a bit overlooked since we tend to be very busy keeping track of the notes and the chords, but actually learning melodies like this is very useful for your soloing as well since you will learn to hear melodies with interesting rhythms, and also how to play simpler phrases and melodies with a strong rhythm.

The advantage to AABA forms is that you really only need to learn 16 bars to know the whole song: an 8-bar A-part and an 8-bar B-part.

In that respect, the amount of chords in this song is not higher than “Pent Up House.” The Bridge is a rhythm bridge, essentially just a dominant chain ending on the dominant of the key.  This is also a common bridge and will help you learn rhythm changes which of course is stuff you need for a lot of other songs,

so in that way, this is also a very practical song to work on.

 

Perdido scores really well, maybe only the tempo is often a bit tricky since the theme doesn’t sound that great if it is too slow. That is going to be hard to beat.

How Not To Learn Songs

The way I learned the first few standards were not very smooth, and the first songs that I learned are not on this list. This was when I had just started playing Jazz, and I didn’t really know what songs to learn, but I had a realbook and a few Jazz CDs. One of the songs that I heard that I really liked was Stella By Starlight, which was a horrible choice for a song since it has an unclear form, very complicated harmony, and uses a LOT of scales. Everything you don’t want in the first song you set out to learn. The other song I worked on was There Is No Greater Love which was not as complicated but certainly also not easy.

The result was that I spent weeks and weeks practicing two songs for hours every day using brute force to learn them, I just kept on playing until they stuck, which is not the way to do this.

I am pretty sure this list would have been super useful, but at the same time, let me know if you have a suggestion for a good song that is not in this video!

Satin Doll

I suspect you already know this one since there are quite a few great recordings of this by guitarists like Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery, and Joe Pass, and it is one of the nicest medium swing tunes to play! It is also another Ellington song, though this time written by Billy Strayhorn.

This song is usually played medium, and the chord progressions are mostly II V’s with a few of them resolving to one chord.

The progression does move around quite a lot with the II V’s covering quite a few keys and not always moving as predictable II V I progressions.

The form is AABA,

and the bridge is (again) a common progression, namely what is often referred to as an Ellington bridge,

which you will find in a LOT of songs like Honeysuckle Rose, Just Squeeze me or So Danco Samba, so clearly learning this song will give you an advantage with a LOT of other songs.

For the score, the chord progression is good, but there are a bit many scales involved. The melody is easy and the form is not only easy but will also help you learn other songs.

Also a pretty good score! The next song is actually a Bebop theme, but I guess you could also call Pent Up House a Bebop theme?

Start with the Major Key

First I should probably talk about why I am leaving out very common songs like Autumn Leaves, Blue Bossa, and So What, since they are obviously very common and very famous songs.

This is pretty important because you want to learn songs that help you learn other songs and gradually build skills, and you also don’t want to get stuck just worrying about scales.

In my experience, when teaching beginning students then internalizing a lot of different scales is pretty difficult, maybe that is also personal experience? So sticking to major scales can be very practical. This also fits with how long I had to spend learning Stella By Starlight and There Is No Greater Love. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use songs in minor keys like these, but it does introduce some complexity, already with the basic minor II V I cadence you end up using 2 or 3 different types of scales which is quite a lot.

Another factor with this is also what songs you are already familiar with, and if the student already knows and has listened to Autumn Leaves or maybe learned the theme, then a song like that can be fine, but if you are figuring this out for yourself then it is worth keeping in mind how complicated the harmony is in the beginning and trying to keep it simple. I guess I could make a follow-up video at some point including minor songs?

When it comes to modal songs like So What or Cantaloupe Island then they are more difficult to hear, and working on those there are a lot of things you are not developing because the chord progressions don’t flow like the other Jazz standards and you are not learning to deal with chord progressions that you will encounter in other songs. Again, there can be exceptions for a choice like that as well, but if you want to get better at playing bop-inspired solos then the modal stuff is not where you want to begin, even if I do think you need to know some of those as well of course.

Afternoon In Paris

This may be the least famous song on the list, but this song is great for working on your II V I progressionsin different keys.

It was written by John Lewis who is probably most known for being a part of the Modern Jazz Quartet. The motivic melody moves through a few keys and it is much slower than most other bop themes, so it can also be a good way to start with that type of melody.

Again the form is an AABA, probably because these are often a little simpler than a lot of  the ABAC songs think of There Will Never Be Another You or Donna Lee.

The chords are all II V Is, though there are quite a few keys involved in this one and even some chromatic II V movement.

For this song, pretty much all the chord progressions are II V Is, but there are quite a few scales, and the theme is maybe a bit more complicated than the rest.

So this is not the highest score, but keep in mind that this is still a very easy song.

Take The A-train

When I first wrote down the songs on this list, I chose them because I have used them in lessons. I never realized that they were in fact all compositions by Jazz artists, and I was also surprised that so many of them were associated with Ellington, but in a way that makes sense since it is really using Jazz music to teach Jazz.

The last song on the list is the song that I also use in my course: Take The A-train, so yet another Ellington-related song, but one that I have tested on several thousand students in the roadmap and in real lessons, and it is pretty solid first song!

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Take The A-train is again an AABA form,

and here the A-part is a common progression that you will find in a lot of other songs, especially a lot of Bossanova tunes like So Danco Samba and Girl From Ipanema.

The progressions in the song are basic but strong, there are not a lot of scales needed to play it, and it works well at a slower tempo. The only thing that is maybe a bit tricky sometimes is the melody.

Honorable Mentions

Of course, any of these 5 songs will serve well as a first song, or be easy to add to your repertoire if you are looking to find some easy songs. A few songs that I considered for this video but that didn’t make it were:

  • Tune Up
  • Lady Bird
  • So Danco Samba.

I guess it is mostly about having the right balance between a useful melody and an easy chord progression, but I am, of course, curious if you would want to put other songs on this list, let me know about that in the comments!

 

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5 Reasons You Fail To Learn Jazz Standards And Simple Ways To Fix Them

The way I learned the first two Jazz Standards when I was starting out is almost a perfect example of how to screw up everything I am going to talk about in this video, and one of those things is especially tricky the way we often practice now.

#1 The Song Is Too Difficult

The first two songs that I learned were Stella By Starlight and There’s No Greater Love. Both are incredibly beautiful songs and they are also very common standards so they are useful to have in your repertoire. But they are not really beginner songs, so it was a lot of hard work to learn them and maybe I did not get as much out of the process as I could have.

What I did was that I recorded the chords of the song and spent hours every day improvising over them, gradually finding ways to go from one chord to the next and finding something to play everywhere on the song.

It took me more than two months to learn the songs.

These two songs were much too difficult. There are so many different chords and chord progressions that you don’t get the opportunity to develop different options, and you don’t start working on making variations of what you are playing. This really means that you are not developing your ability to improvise and you are not building a flexible vocabulary which is what you want to do because then learning more songs gets a lot easier. Stella by starlight is also a pretty difficult progression to analyze which means that you end up just playing from chord to chord and not really trying to sound like real piece of music.

So you want to make sure to choose easy songs when you start out. Think about it like this: You will probably learn a lot of songs and you might as well ease into it, so If you are looking at a song and think: “I have absolutely no idea what is going on with the harmony” then keep looking for another song to learn. Nobody starts training for a marathon by running 42 km.

#2 Learn The Melody

One of the blessings of using apps on your phone is maybe also something that is really slowing you down in learning Jazz. Here I am, of course, talking about iReal, which is a great very practical app to have if you have to play a song that you don’t know. But there is one really huge problem with it:

A Song is not a row of letters, and if you focus too much on learning songs with iReal then you are probably very often ignoring the melody. Keep in mind that the melody IS the song, it is rarely just the chords and in a lot of songs then the chords are open to interpretation and there are many variations available, so if you only know one set of chords and you don’t know what other options fit the melody then you might get in trouble later.

So you want to spend time learning the melody because:

If you know the melody you always have something to play in your solo

The melody is a great starting point for a solo, and if there is one difficult spot to solo over, then use the melody in that spot.

If you know the melody you have a guide so you don’t get lost.

It is difficult to hear a chord progression in your head, like 1 bar of Gø, one bar of C7 to two bars of Fm6, but it is easier to have the melody playing in the back of your mind because that is a lot less abstract

If you know the melody it is easier to hear other chord changes because you can hear the melody against the chords

When you are playing a standard then sometimes the band plays other changes than what you know, but having the melody in your head helps you to hear those chords. For example, here is the opening for Stella,

and if I change the first chord like this…

you can hear that the melody is the maj7th of the chord so the 1st chord is now a Bbmaj7. (Stella with Eø on chord 1 + Stella with Bbmaj7 on chord 1?)

A bonus from this is that eventually, you want to start learning songs by ear, and the easiest place to start is to learn the melody by ear don’t worry about the chords, just learn the melody and maybe check out a few different versions. Then you can transcribe the bass and combine those two to figure out what chords are played.

#3 Learn To Play The Chords

I am actually surprised how often I have run into this. Imagine a student coming into the lesson to a lesson and we play a song he or she had to learn. The theme and the solo is ok, but playing the chords is not working at all. Whatever song you play, it really pays off to just learn to hear the harmony and to feel how it is to play that harmony. Not only for you to learn the song but also because you want to play with others. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be there.

There is one thing that is going to make this a lot easier, and that is what I will talk about next.

#4 Think In Blocks Of Chords

Starting to think about chord progressions like this is such a gigantic step up. You can save tons of time and open up your playing really a lot. And this is just doing the same thing as we do whenever we read a book or a newspaper article.

Whenever you read a sentence, then you read the words but you don’t spell them, you read them as complete words.

“Scandinavian People Are Always Fantastic”

And that is something you also want to strive to do when you learn a song or even while you are reading and improvising. Make it into chunks of information that help you play over it. Something you can sum up in a few blocks instead of 30+ different chords.

And actually, there is a next-level of thinking related to this where you also start to realize how different chords are actually the same, but maybe that is for another video.

#5 Have The Material Within Reach

When it comes to improvising over a song you are still learning there is one part of the preparation you want to get right:

You need to be able to have all the scales or arpeggios that you want to use within reach. It is pretty much impossible to have any kind of melodic continuity or freedom if you need to skip up or down 3 or 4 frets to have material for a part of the song.

And this is probably not something that is impossible to overcome with a bit of practice, and if you are not at home over the entire neck then pick a place and start there. Once you have one position under control you can expand from there taking the positions next to the one you know..

 

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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

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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The First 10 Jazz Standards You Need To Know

I say it all the time: Learn Jazz – Make Music, and to do that you need to know some songs, so in this video, I am going to go over 10 jazz standards that you want in your repertoire and are great places to start learning jazz. This is In terms of playing changes and knowing all the chords and scale but also about the form that you want to know which is going to make it easier to learn more complicated standards.

When talking about the songs I will try to reference great versions of them, and also talk about whether this song may be a good place to start for you if you are looking for songs to learn.

If you already know a lot of songs and have some other suggestions for this list then let me know about that in the comments to this video. Sharing information like that is really useful for everybody checking it out! I’ll talk about the first standards I learned later in the video, none of those are on the list.

Get started learning some of these standards: Learn Easy Jazz Standards

For example Blue Bossa or Autumn Leaves

If you want to check out some of the important progressions that make up Jazz Standards then check out this video: Chord Progressions as Building Blocks

Want to learn how to analyze standards? Then see how I do that in this playlist of videos on Jazz Standards and music theory: How To Analyze Jazz Standards

Get a PDF of the list

You can get a PDF of this list by filling in your e-mail here, your browser will go to the download page automatically.

Content:

0:00 Intro – Learn Jazz Make – Music!

0:24 10 Typical Standards and Forms

0:36 The Form Of Songs is Important!

0:56 Where are you coming from?

1:12 Something missing?

1:37 #1 Take The A train

2:04 AABA forms

2:52 #2 Cantaloupe Island – Modal Jazz

4:03 #3 Blues

5:28 #4 Satin Doll

6:12 The Ellington Bridge

6:23 #5 Blue Bossa

6:54 #6 Autumn Leaves

7:25 #7 Perdido – Rhythm Changes Bridge

8:02 No Rhythm Changes?

8:15 The First 3 Standards I learned

8:57 #8 Summertime – Four On Six

9:27 How To Use the list

10:00 Did I leave out a Song?

10:05 #9 Solar – Not by Miles Davis

11:23 #10 All Of Me – ABAC Form

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