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HomeLJS PodcastGet help with practicing jazzLJS 02: How to Properly Learn a Jazz Standard

LJS 02: How to Properly Learn a Jazz Standard

Welcome to episode 2 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about how to properly learn a jazz standard. In this episode we talk about why learning jazz standards is so important and 5 great steps to learning a jazz standard so you can really own it. Find out how!

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In this episode

  1. Why learning jazz standards is important.

  2. Listen to the tune.

    • Listen to a variety of different versions and take your time.

    • Buy different versions or use resources like Youtube or Spotify to research the song.

  3. Learn the melody by ear.

    • Learn it by ear, not with sheet music.

    • Be able to sing it before bringing it to your instrument.

    • Listen to artists who play/sing the melody straight such as Frank Sinatra.

  4. Learn the harmony by ear.

    • Learn it by ear before checking with a fakebook or sheet music.

    • Use the bass as your guide to find the roots, and the accompany instrument to identify the quality of the chord.

  5. Practice the tune in different keys.

    • Put what you learned to the test by being able to play it outside of the original key.

    • Helps you develop your ear and understand how the chords relate to each other.

  6. Find someone to jam with.

Important Links:
LJS Inner Circle Membership

Free Guide to learn standards by ear: Learn Jazz Standards the Smart Way

Listen to Episode 1: 4 Habits For Better Practicing

Further reading:

Why Learn Jazz Standards?

How to Learn the Melody of a Jazz Standard By Ear

How to Learn a Jazz Standard and Not Forget It

50 Jazz Standards You Need to Know

How do you learn jazz standards? Leave a comment below.

Brent Vaartstra
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. Brett, im starting from lesson one and taking notes. Great help, but i have to ask "Come Rain or Come Shine" isnt a top 50 jazz standart?

    • Hey Frank! Glad you're following along. I'm assuming you are referring to my top 50 standards list. There are so many standards out there, and everyone's list is different. These are just the ones I suggest, and you could easily sub a few out based on your preferences. Hope that clarifies!

  2. Awesome Podcast and tips Brent, thanks a lot for sharing it with all of us.
    Great idea about starting a jazz scene in the city, I'm really considering it here 🙂

  3. Thanks for such a useful resource in general, and this podcast in particular. I'm making a donation now! I'm trying to move away from being a "Real Book" player, and learning (in some cases, re-learning) tunes by ear. Some things I've found helpful to accomplish the recommendations you made in this podcast:

    1. Transcribe! software. It streamlines the workflow of starting, stopping, playback, looping, adjusting tempo and pitch etc very simple and efficient, so I can concentrate on the music on on my ears.

    2. For finding musicians to jam with, is great. Search your area to see if there is already a jazz jam group in your area on Meetup. If not, create one, chances are you will find people to play with. Our meetup group (Vancouver BC) has over 100 members since it started in just over a year, and we now have jams almost every week in multiple locations (mostly peoples' homes).

  4. Hi Bret, Very interisting topic. My only concern is point 6 : where to find somebody to jam with, morevover when you're a beginner or early intermediate like me ? My piano teacher is also a bass player, so every week when we met we play together…But it would be could so cool if I could find somebody to jam with, same level. Let's say for example we could meet every two or three weeks and agree to work on a tune or two to work on for the next session..But to be honest I don't know where to search, or if there is a kind of forum…any help welcome 😉

  5. This was very helpful, thank you! A little bit out of the subject, but I was just wondering what are the songs you used in you're little intermissions? I really enjoyed

    • Hey Miguel, glad to be of help! In this episode it's actually an original piece of mine I recorded a demo of several years back. Each episode I feature the music of an assortment of different artists, and usually I say who it is and where you can check out more music.

  6. Hi Bret, just another great podcast, very clear.

    Being an older guy and an engineer by background and nowadays a business consultant, I often find myself overanalyzing stuff and reading all kinds of papers and books on how to best practice and progress in Jazz Guitar…

    I am in general good at learning melodies, at least pieces by ear, harmony chord changes are a whole other story… I am taking clases with Berklee Online and the instructor recommend Tenuto for ear training, which I am trying to use as part of my practice sessions. Your tips on how to pickup the chords are great.

    On another note, I see that you instruct via Skype, do you know of I have tried for jamming and it is really something, haven't tried their video feature, but I hear is great and they have some special thing for teachers.

    Anyway, thanks for the info and keep them coming!

    Carlos Figueroa

    • Hey Carlos,

      Glad you enjoyed it! Like I said in the podcast, learning the chord changes by ear tends to be the one that stumps people. But like I said, keep struggling with it and practicing, and it gets easier!
      Checked out Tenuto, and it looks like a really cool app! I've heard of jamkazam but have yet to check it out. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hi,
    your infos and material are great to learn playing jazz. Good ideas and reflections for someones daily practicing as an amateur musician! One question: are there anywhere translations of your Episodes 1-4 in German? Because my English isn´t good enough and so I don´t understand all you say.
    Thank´s so much.
    Kind regards


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