Learn one tune very well

by Sam
(London, UK)

You say “Learn one tune very well”. But what constitutes “very well”? Should you know how to play the chords and melody in all positions before moving on to another tune?

Any advice really appreciated 🙂

_______

 
M-A’s Answer :

Hhmmmm… that’s quite a nice question! “What is *very* well?” and “How good is good enough?”

My very first issue with students learning new songs is the melody : can you play the melody perfectly, IN TIME, for the complete song? Can you do that ten times without missing anything? Minor mistakes are ok, but the big picture should be there.

No need to worry about positions on the guitar for melody. If you want to proceed with that as an exercise, that’s fine… but otherwise, consider the melody learned on the instrument if you can play is in one “solid” way.

Then, there’s also the hearing aspect of it… in fact it should come first! Can you sing / hum the melody or hear it in your head *without* the instrument in your hand?

Of course, the last aspect of tune learning is chords. Can you play them all, IN TIME, for the complete song with accuracy and good sound? Can you do it many times in a row and nail the chords chorus after chorus? What about just the guide tones? Can you voicelead through the chords properly? (once more : play in time!)

Lastly, I want to insist on this : the great jazz players don’t necessarily have a technical proficiency beyond ordinary players. What they have though is extraordinary hearing abilities. All of this (melody, chords, rhythms) is deeply ingrained, and there’s no way to shake them. They know where they are in the form and what happening at all times (even if they, or no one else is playing).

This is sometimes referred to as “vivid hearing”. If you can really hear all of which you practice and at any point during the song stop playing the instrument, listen to what’s happening inside your ears, and then resume the song on the instrument (in the right spot), then you’ll be all set.

This concerns both melody and harmony aspects PLUS hearing it in time. I can never repeat this enough : practice in time! Solid quarter-notes, with a tangible pulsation to whatever you’re playing.

Of course, this last topic is a lifelong endeavor. You cannot expect to master this before moving to a new song. It happens over time. Nevertheless, it should be your goal when learning any new tune “for real”. It’s not about how well you can play the melody in all the positions, or how well you can read the chart. The real deal is hearing it all (at all times, in TIME) and playing whenever you please.

I hope this helps. Please, let me know if you have any questions.

 

Marc-Andre Seguin
JazzGuitarLessons.net
MarcAndreSeguin.com

 

PS : If you wish to deepen ever more your knowledge of a tune you could hunt down several recorded versions of it and listen to them *a lot*. You can also learn the lyrics and transcribe famous jazz soloists on the same tune. Now, talk about mastery! (-: