Building a repertoire - how many songs

half diminished

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I'm finding 'the New Guide to Harmony with Lego bricks' and 'Insights in Jazz' great reading and whilst the 'full' systems seems a little overkill for me, being a rank amateur and not playing in a band, it has set me thinking about building my own repertoire. I only wish I had the time and mental capacity to learn 250+ songs!

I hate sight reading and so try to play by ear/from memory. So my point is, how many tunes is it realistic to learn (melody and harmony)? So far I am progressing nicely (if slowly) with:

Doxy, Autumn Leaves, Lullaby of Birdland, Four, Sugar, Paul's Pal, Moritat, Tenor Madness, Heavenless, Honeysuckle Rose, All of Me, Three O'Clock in the Morning, Blue Bossa, My Little Suede Shoes, Alfie, Alice In Wonderland.

Of course (for me at least) the hardest part is remembering the harmony/chord progression.
 

saxnik

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Sounds like you've made a good start, Ian.

I've built up a learned repertoire over many years by playing in bands, learning jazz tunes for private study, through teaching, etc.
You just pick it up as you go along... I don't know how many tunes I know, but it's probably about 250!

Keep at it, the thing to do is to work on a few at a time. You don't really lose them once they're in - though you may need a refresher before you try to play them on a gig. Jamey Aebersold recommendations: Maiden Voyage (vol 54), Groovin' High (vol 43) - learn those (think you've already got a few of these in your list).

Cheers,

Nick
 

jaelliott

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Ian

Nick is absolutely right.

And as you learn them is starts to snowball and you get faster and faster. That is the point of the method: to show you where what you are learning occurs elsewhere. The first time you learn something is hardest; each subsequent time gets easier and easier.

Melodies appear harder to learn to start with since they are all different and there seems to be no useful equivalent to the LEGO bricks for melody. But just by doing this gets easier and easier too. Doing is the most important thing. I agree the full system can be overkill and you need to adapt it and make it personal as soon as you can.

An example to finish off: a bass player asked me to play Strike Up the Band last night which I know the sound of but have never learned to play. Since I was the pianist in the trio, I could not risk playing it on the spot since I could not guarantee the melody. But at home today I looked at the roadmap and it is very simple bricks of chords. After 5 mins at the piano getting the melody under my fingers I had it nailed and all without any music. Just using Spotify so thay I could listen to 5 or so great recordings.

J
 

jaelliott

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Ian

I meant to add that there are lots of list out there if you are looking for which hundred tunes ones should know(!)

For example:

Mark Levine has one in the back of his Jazz Theory Book. 500 tunes: 100 you must know before hitting NYC.
Jamey Aebersold has one in his free handbook: "Songlist for beginners"
The Manhattan School of Music (MSM) Jazz Department has a syllabus for up to 6 years where they are expected to learn 30 tunes a year in all keys: http://www.msmnyc.edu/pdfs/jazz%20handbook%202009-10%20rev.pdf

J
 
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half diminished

half diminished

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Nick and John

Thanks for the encouragement. Ironically I seem able to internalise the melody and learn the tune pretty well and I'm using my ears as much as i am reading the dots.
 

814jazzer

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Pennsylvania
Three hints for learning a tune and retaining it:

1. learn it from a recording
2. play the melody in several keys (not necessary to do all 12, but that certainly has its value)
3. poke out the chords on piano and try to sing the melody on pitch

best,
~ Rick Hirsch
 
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