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Out the box strategies for Learning Tunes Pt 1: Make a Playlist

Learning tunes is where technique meets creativity. This is where the melody and the harmony This is where we get to put it altogether and really allow our artistry to grow into the capacity to make creative music.

This months theme is all about some less traditional ways of learning tunes. It isn't that the strategies are weird or risky, it is just that they are things that we don't seem to talk about nearly as much. This isn't to say that these are lesser ideas. I think some aren't talked about because we make the poor assumption that they are common sense. Doing this misses some of the essential things we can do as musicians to learn tunes, expand our repertoire and come to love jazz even more.

So today's strategy is simple - make a playlist. Make a playlist of just one tune! Find as many different recordings of that tune as possible. Find historic examples, modern examples, vocal examples, upbeat, downbeat, every which way that you can imagine. I learn so much about a tune be hearing how it is handled by a variety of jazz musicians.

Here is a playlist that I put together of the tune On the Sunnyside of the Street. This tune will be used as our jumping off point this month. We will use this melody and the accompanying chords for all of the March posts. In doing so, I hope to have you fall in love with the tune, begin improvising on it and engage in these strategies. The playlist right next to me includes vocal and instrumental examples. Hardbop versions such as Stitt, Rollins, and Gillespie as well as Jimmy Smith's and versions that are slightly more historical such as Lionel Hampton's and Louis Armstrongs. I love finding Oscar Peterson interpretations as well as Lester Young because these always seemed to be presented in such a straightforward way that they seem to speak to me on an essential level. The bottom line is that I love every single one of these interpretations.

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