How do you sing jazz standards

The 100 most important jazz standards

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Learn by heart [3/4]

What is the best way to memorize a jazz standard? Well, that depends: on the instrument you play, on your own harmonic understanding, and on the standard itself.

The first thing I would do is look at the melody. This may be a matter of course for singers and wind players, but not for pianists or guitarists, for example. They usually learn the chords very quickly because they accompany chorus after chorus with them. But they often only have a vague melody in their ears. They notice this at the latest when they have to play them all at once, because there is currently no melody instrument on stage.

For accompanying instruments it is therefore important to know the melody tones and their harmonic function exactly so that you can align your chord voicings accordingly and use color tones correctly. If, for example, the melody falls on the 13th of a dominant chord, you must not play it alternately, as it contains the b13.

It is also helpful for memorizing to know the text of the melody, if there is one. Many jazz standards are originally vocal pieces from musicals. Some well-known musicians in jazz history have always emphasized not to play a standard without knowing the text. Some even sing it along in their minds as they play the melody. (Lyrics for jazz standards are best found in a Vocal Real Book.)

Another thing that is often neglected is to orientate oneself to the melody when improvising, at least at the beginning of the solo. Often one has the impression at sessions that the theme is only seen as an "annoying" prelude to the solos, in which the chords are improvised without any reference to the melody. It can be much more creative and also more transparent for the listener to lean the solo more or less on the melody at the beginning and then move away from it more and more. It is also helpful to pick up a scrap of the melody in the last chorus to clarify the end of the solo.

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