Intro to jazz standards

Wanted to Ask what will be the best way of gettinng into the jazz standard collection in this course
please list them according to thier difficulty and guide about which one to start from

I find it’s best not to over-plan or over-think it…pick a song you LIKE , don’t rush it and Hayden links at least two theory and basic other lessons that are applicable. If you enjoy the song and learn it, you will simultaneously be learning the underlying fundamentals.
I also watch, listen several times away from the piano, writing notes on the score, before trying to learn the song. Seems to help my understanding. Just have fun and you will be surprised at how well you do. As far as easy… Easy to Love is a nice simple and pretty tune.

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Thanks for the insight Lori… some really great tips there:

  1. Pick a tune you like

  2. Listen to as many versions as you can

  3. Annotate your score with notes, perhaps based on the versions you’ve listened to

  4. Have fun! :slight_smile:

That’s a brilliant 4 step strategy to approach any song… (2) is particularly important, music is an aural artform and so the best way to learn is to listen!

In terms of jazz standards increasing in difficulty Samyak:

The lesson on “Tune Up” by Miles Davis is the first jazz standard lesson in the course:

In this lesson we talk in detail about how to voice the chords on a lead sheet. We will apply some of the theory: major 251s, chord extensions and we touch upon chord alterations. Don’t worry if something in the lesson does not make sense. This is a good thing because it means you are exposing yourself to more complicated topics. It will make sense with time.

Next pick and choose as you wish but I would recommend watching them in this order:

Lori also pointed out Easy To Love: which has a simple form that’s accessible to beginners:

The arrangement is complex in places… but that’s a good thing, it means your stretching your knowledge.

If you like, even have a go at some of the more advanced tutorials.

At this point, I think it would be beneficial for you to simply copy the arrangements, note-for-note, even if you don’t understand what you are playing. The full understanding will come with time.

Download and print the transcriptions if this will help you: - but don’t become over-reliant on the notation… make sure you are looking at each chord you play, and look at the individual notes and say ’that’s the root, that’s the major 3rd, that’s the 9th etc…’ this is important to build up an awareness of what you are playing and where everything is located.

Intertwining theory with jazz standards:

There is a big ‘initial hump’ with learning jazz and that is to get beyond the initial bulk of theory.

My approach covers the theory but also intertwines it with more enjoyable studies of jazz standards where you are also working on, and applying the theory.

So whatever you do, make sure you are playing the jazz standards… perhaps dedicate half of your practice time to this.

Hope this helps!


I have a little bit of a frustration problem here. I am practicing not as much as I wanted, but I do practice. When it comes to practicing scales and chords, I am quite happy and I see some progress. Even with the Quiz-Tool I am getting better at numbering the different notes in each scale (Usually I get a score of 8-10).

Nevertheless, when it comes to standards, I have the feeling that I do not really understand them and the minute I start one standard, I have the feeling I forget the one I played before. While the melodies of the standards are simple of course, I struggle a lot with the chords.

For example: “Misty”, I can play it through, but it sounds still super boring. Whenever I try to incorporate the rather more complex chords at the end of your lesson, I find it very hard to do so and it doesn’t “stick” in my head.

Now I thought I’ll try the next lesson with “My foolish heart”, which is one of my favorite songs and I realize that without clinging to each second of your video (pressing pause every other bar and rewinding the video every 5 seconds), I am not really able to play it.

Do you have any idea, how I could free myself a little bit from the videos in order to have more fun playing the tunes?

(I realize that I am falling back into an old pattern which I was following as a kid learning the piano: I always wanted to play well, but got super frustrated practicing.)

Hey Moritz :wave:

Yes I certainly have some suggestions and feedback for you here.

That’s a struggle that I myself, and I’m sure all musicians have! Just listening to jazz counts as ‘practice’ and so get into the habit of listening to jazz every opportunity you have. Maybe get some headphones if you can’t play it aloud etc… but any chance in the day, take the opportunity to listen.

Within 1 year of listening every day, you musicality will develop exponentially. It’s hard to quantify this at the beginning, but trust me… stick with it and you will be rewarded.

That’s great that you are seeing progress here, focused daily practice is the key to learning (and remembering!) the theory.

This is again natural for a beginner when you just start out with standards.

The more you learn, you will quickly realise that they are in fact very similar.

I’d ask yourself how you are thinking of Misty…

Just to mention, I was playing that tune with the lead sheet in front of me for a couple years, the same with all the other jazz standards that I was learning. I wish I stopped this sooner and instead learnt the tunes by memory.

Now when I sit down at the piano to play Misty, I don’t use the lead sheet at all, here’s what I think/see in my head:

It’s an AABA form, so essentially the first 8 bars make up 75% of the tune. If I memorise those 8 bars, I already know 3/4 of the tune.

I see this in my head:

That is the formula for 75% for the tune. The 2nd A section has different last 2 bars. So maybe 70%

I can then also make this into even less information:

  1. We start with 1 bar of the Imaj7 Chord (Eb Major)

  2. Then a 251 to the IVmaj7 (Bb-7 / Eb7 / Abmaj7) this is why leanring scales numerically is good… becuase now I can memorise bars 2 & 3 simply as “251 to the IV” becuase the IV of EbMajor is Ab.

  3. Then we have a ‘backdoor 251’ progression, Ab-7 to Db7 back to Eb Major. This is very common in jazz standards and the more you learn, the more you will notice this common movement. Right now, just remember it as Ab-7 → Db7 → Ebmaj7.

  4. Ebmaj7 goes to relative minor C-7

  5. 25 Progression in Eb (F-7 / Bb7)

  6. Just a normal 3625 turnaround back to the Imaj7 chord… (G7 → C7 → F7 → Bb7)

So with those 6 pieces of information, you know have the ‘formula’ for 75% of the tune.

Test Yourself Away From The Piano

Try testing yourself on this away from the piano, can you say to yourself all of the chords in the A Section? If you can do that, then you will have “freed yourself” from having to look at the lead sheet, and you can really get into what you are playing.

Do you have the iRealPro app on your phone? If so, you could use this to test yourself during the day…

Then once you have memorised the chords, then follow a process like this:

  1. Play through just with roots, 3rds, 7ths, and the melody.

  2. For every chord, look at the notes you are playing, and point out “that’s the 3rd, that’s the 7th” etc…

  3. IMPORTANT POINT HERE … for the 25s and 251s … make sure that you are visualising the b7ths dropping to 3rds… this voice leading is very important. You have 4 of them in these 8 bars:
  • 251 in Ab,
  • 25 Ab-7 to Db7
  • 25 F-7 to Bb7
  • 25 G-7(G7) to C7 (you can change the G7 to G-7 if you like)
  • 25 F-7(F7) to Bb7 (you can change the F7 to F-7 if you like)

  1. Then play through again, and add the 9th into each chord. So play:
  • Ebmaj9
  • Bb-9 to Eb9 to Abmaj9
  • Ab-9 (9 is in the melody anyway) to Db9
  • Ebmaj9 to C-9
  • F-9 to Bb9
  • G9 to C9 or G-9 to C9
  • F9 to Bb9 or F-9 to Bb9

If you can’t see the 9th, then stop, play the scale for that chord, and count to the 2nd/9th note, and there it is. Then add it to the basic R-3-7 voicing you are playing.

  1. Then you can keep going, perhaps add in the 13 to some chords, perhaps play a b9 on some of the dominant chords.

  2. Then you could also check out the inner voice tricks I explain in this lesson: Adding Inner Voice Movement |

Does this help?

Yes that lesson is definitely the most advanced in in the beginner courses.

The form is tricky, it has lots of chord changes, the melody is pretty tricky too.

Here’s what I’d recomend:

  1. Learn all of the chords as directed above. My Foolish Heart follows an ABAC form and so you will have more chords to learn. Also check out this lesson on common forms… Common Jazz Forms | AABA - ABAC - AB - ABCD Song Structures

Understand that learning songs like this takes time Moritz… it certainly does not happen overnight. This is a new way of learning songs, instead of reading music notes, and so it’s like a new language.

  1. Listen to every version of the song, I just searched in Spotify and I found lots…

You will then have a much greater appreciation of the song, and you should be able to ‘feel’ where you are in the form.

Try to follow along with the recording in your head whilst away from the piano, and follow along with the chords that are being played. Try to visualise where you are in the form when listening to recordings.

I feel you! It is frustrating.

It’s a long slow process Moritz, but gets easier and easier.

Spend a few months doing my suggestions above, and then post back with how you now feel with those 2 tunes. That’s a lot of hard work and i imagine more frustration… but follow the above advice and I guarantee you will get the results you are looking for.


Wow, that is a long answer. Thak you so much Haiden. I will defiitely implement this. Especially since I will be travelling again, so having ideas on how to practice without the piano is great!

Reading this, I realize that I have a funny way of learning. Again this is a pattern from my childhood. I can play simple things by heart almost after one time of trying (like the melody). This leads to me not really looking at the lead sheet and learning the mistakes by heart as well ;-). That’s also why I keep being stuck at your videos, because I currently learn the finger positions rather then the chords.

I remember when I was a child, my music teacher would hold a book over my fingers in order to force me to look at the score instead of the fingers… Instead I watched my fingers in the mirror of her black grand piano. :wink:

But: that means, I don’t really know the chords, I just “know” what to play when. I guess this is the reason, why I find it difficult to add anything to it, because I have to do the whole process again. So the recommendation of learning the chords by heart is really good.

By the way, the section about how to increase complexity for standards is also a great advice for the practice cheat sheets we were talking about in another thread.

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Taking your advice, I have created this Spotify Playlist (which hopefully everybody should be able to add to) where i want to collect as many versions of all the standards we are learning here in one place.

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My pleasure Moritz.

I’m editing my way through Jovino’s course, and he shares some interesting insight about playing tunes.

In his lesson on the tune Corcovado, he says that despite playing the tune for many, many years, he is still always discovering new things inside of it.

You should understand that you will be playing these tunes for the rest of your life, and I find that then takes the pressure off.

Yes this is a new different way of learning and so it will naturally take some adjustment.

Set yourself a broad goal of learning a few tunes like this. Once you do that, you will have them forever and you will never forget them. It’s a nice feeling to know a tune like that.

Yes brilliant… I didn’t think of that but it would be a great addition.

Do keep feeding these ideas and insights back to me… and I will add this, and also remove the ‘notes/insights’ section as per your feedback.

Great Idea.

I like to create a ‘mini depository’ of recordings of the jazz standards I’m working on.

I might listen to these recordings over the course of months or even years, and they are a great source of inspiration for chords, voicings, introductions, improvised solos, and much more.

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