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When to Use iReal Pro to Learn Jazz

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"The Jazz Standards Playbook"

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This is iReal Pro. It’s an app that thousands of jazz musicians use to look up chord changes and even practice.

So, when I came up with the video recently where I said that using iReal Pro with fake books to learn jazz standards is bad advice, you can imagine not everybody liked hearing that.

Now, while I do believe that learning jazz standards in jazz language by ear is the best place to go, it should be our primary resource, that doesn’t mean that iReal Pro and fake books don’t have their place in our jazz education.

So, in today’s video, I will be going over 5 different situations where using iReal Pro and sheet music would be a good idea.

Important Links and Resources

Suggested Resource:

Mentioned in this video, my eBook and course “The Jazz Standards Playbook.” You can check that out here.

Further Watching:

How to Learn Chord Progressions by Ear (No Sheet Music)

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. No, one should definitely not use it to learn tunes, obviously. But as David indicated it is a tool. When I am practicing rootless voicings It is very helpful. For singers it is invaluable, singing it chords over a bass line, changing tempos and keys. It is for practice, not learning a tune. On a gig, yeah, it can help to jog your memory, but I rarely use it as such. It is a practice tool for me, scales, rootless piano accompaniment, etc.

  2. Tools like iReal Pro are just that, tools. If I want to work on certain challenging chord progressions (ie Coltrane changes, or just ii-V) I can program in exercises of cycles to give me background harmony for trying out different ideas. I can choose the keys, I can modify the tempo, I can focus on one particular key. The same goes for tunes. If I want to learn a new standard, iRealPro provides backing harmony. As a bass player, I will use it mostly as backing harmony for soloing, but then I'll also turn it off and practice walking and soling without it. I usually have the bass zeroed out in the mix section, because obviously I never play with a bass player! My rule of thumb is I dont know a tune until I can walk and solo over NO background. Again, I understand its a tool, and the best experience is live performance/jam session for honing ones skills.

  3. Great video, I totally agree with this approach of learning tunes by ear first, then using sheet music as an additional tool. Or in "emergencies". Training wheel analogy is great. I used to think that learning tunes by ear would be impossible for me, until I struggled my way through the first few and learned that I could actually do it. My playing has definitely gotten better since I've started doing this.


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