Why Memorise Jazz Tunes?
“If you are looking, you’re not listening” Hal Galper
Reading and playing is another form of multi-tasking. The myth of multi-tasking has been explored and debunked by many reputable researchers. As we all know, it is an activity that has been found to be less effective than single minded focus.
A memorised tune means you’ve internalised the changes to the point you don’t really have to think about too much. This enables us to fully contribute to the jazz conversation on stage.
So… when learning a new tune play it for an hour or two. Play it fast/slow, loud/soft, transposed in a few keys. Take a simple lick and transpose it over each chord or ii-V pattern in the piece. This was Monk’s method.
“The better you know them (the changes), the freer you are” Hal Galper.
Galper suggests checking out the multiple recordings of the same piece that Miles Davis and Monk made over the years. Listen to the development and evolving sophistication of the performances.
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You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.