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Bye Bye Blackbird

If you want to crush it as a jazz improviser, knowing how to improvise over a blues inside and out will give you an unfair advantage.

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“Bye Bye Blackbird” is a tune written by Ray Henderson in 1926. Lyrics were written by Mort Dixon.  This tune has become very popular with jazz musicians, but the scope of its popularity extends beyond the jazz community. It has been used in movies, shows, and has been recorded many times by a variety of artists.

This is a very common jam session tune, and it is important to know! Be aware that this is one of those tunes with multiple interpretations of the chord changes. The tune stays true to the tonal center (F), and never ventures far from the I chord.  Therefore you will find musicians substituting and adding chord changes all the time to create more movement.

The changes we have provided for you are a consensus of multiple recordings done by jazz artists and tend to be the most basic set of changes for this tune.  This tune is most commonly called in the key of F major by instrumentalists, but be prepared to play it in any key especially when working with vocalists.

Videos to learn the melody/changes

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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