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“Ornithology” is a tune written by Charlie Parker. The word ornithology means the study of birds which makes this an appropriate title seeing as Charlie Parker’s nickname is “Bird”.
This tune is what we call a “contra-fact” which is a tune that is written over the chord changes of a previously existing tune. “Ornithology” is a melody written over the chord changes of “How High The Moon.”

It is important to note that jazz musicians play two different melodies for bars 13-16 and the last four bars of the tune. Listen to Charlie Parker’s original melody and than listen to Bud Powell’s rendition. Though Bird wrote the tune it is safe to say that in a jam session situation most people are playing Bud Powell’s version (I am not entirely sure if Bud Powell was the first one to record Ornithology this way).

My suggestion is to learn both so that you are prepared either way.
This tune is most commonly played in G major.

Videos to learn the melody/changes

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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."


  1. My band was discovering some melodic differences in our charts that we had pulled from various fake books…this post helped clarify some of that confusion. Thanks


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