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20 Intermediate Jazz Standards

We all start as beginners, but at some point jazz musicians are ready to play more difficult repertoire. We recently listed 20 Jazz Standards for Beginners.  Here are some intermediate level standards for people ready to take things up a level!

The criteria for intermediate tunes, when compared to a beginning tune, include:

  • More than one key center/scale
  • More than 4 to 6 chords
  • More complex to improvise over
  • Perhaps a more complicated melody.

There is generally a big jump between the level of difficulty between our beginning standards and these intermediate tunes.  A more advanced player may not notice the jump in difficulty as much as a beginning player might feel the jump in difficulty when playing tunes from the two different lists.

These are some great tunes that many jazz musicians play their whole careers, but they are of a medium level of difficulty.  MANY tunes from the Great American Songbook would fall into this intermediate level of difficulty!

This was the easiest list to populate of the Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced Jazz Standards series. The majority of jazz standards can probably be classified as “intermediate level.”

A Night in Tunisia A classic tune by Dizzy Gillespie.  This is an AABA form with an Interlude.  The interlude is often played after the head only, although it can be arranged in other ways.

Anthropology This is a Charlie Parker head over Bb rhythm changes.

Autumn Leaves in G minor or E minor  On the short list of most well-known standards, this tune is usually played in G minor or E minor.  It moves back and forth between the relative major and minor keys.

Beatrice Sam River’s modal tune is a hip jazz original with a modern feel.

Days of Wine and Roses A Henry Mancini favorite.

East of the Sun (West of the Moon)  A favorite standard that was actually written by a student at Princeton University.

Four Who wrote this tune, Miles Davis or Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson?  Either way, it’s a great bebop standard!

Groovin’ High A classic bebop tune by Dizzy Gillespie.  This tune has the unusually harmonic progression of an Ebmaj7 chord followed by Amin7 D7, a ii-V7 in G Major, resolving back to Ebmaj7 instead of G major.

How High the Moon  This classic standard is the basis for Charlie Parker’s Ornithology.

It Could Happen to You A classic Great American Songbook standard.

Lester Leaps In  Bb Rhythm Changes with an easy melody.

Meditation A classic Jobim bossa nova.

My Funny Valentine This is one of the top jazz ballads of all time.  The tune moves between A minor and several major keys, finally ending in C Major.

Oleo  Quite possibly the most commonly played tune over Bb Rhythm Changes.

On Green Dolphin Street in C or Eb  A very common standard which often moves back and forth between latin and swing.

Recorda Me A common latin tune by the legendary American jazz saxophonist, Joe Henderson.

Scrapple from the Apple  Charlie Parker’s contrafact over the changes to “Honeysuckle Rose,” but with a different bridge.

Take the A-Train  Billy Strayhorn’s classic jazz anthem.

Triste Another classic Jobim bossa nova.

Yardbird Suite One of Charlie Parker’s finest bop tunes.

Camden Hughes
Camden Hughes
Camden is a working jazz pianist, multi-instrumentalist, and music educator currently living near Boise, ID. He teaches music at the Idaho Arts Charter School, and is the jazz adjunct professor at Northwest Nazarene University. Check out his music at


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