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Memorizing Jazz Standards 101 (So You Don’t Forget Them)

Welcome to episode 264 where today I go over some tips and strategies for memorizing jazz standards in such a way that you are less likely to forget them, and can recall them even if you haven’t played them in a while. I go over a few don’ts of memorizing jazz standards, and some work you can do ahead of time and during the process of learning that will make a difference.

Listen to episode 264

The question I get quite often is how do I memorize jazz standards so I don’t forget them, especially because it seems as if it’s required of me to know a lot of them?

Like 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, maybe even more jazz standards when you go out to a jam session. Maybe you are a musician who is actually starting to gig around a little bit at your local coffee shops and bars, and you need to know a lot of tunes.

And it can be really frustrating especially if you have learned the tune only later when it’s called on a jam session or a gig to forget it.

So in this episode, I’m going to be digging into some strategies and some tips I can offer to help you memorize jazz standards better and really get the most out of them so that you are not forgetting them so that you are able to put them to use on the bandstand.

In this episode:

1. Learn the melody using the LIST Process

2. Understand the major and minor diatonic series

3. Be able to recall in your head and on your instrument common chord progressions in different keys

4. After learning the chords to a jazz standard, categorize each set of changes rather than thinking of chords individually

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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."


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