How to Play Jazz Standards Your Way

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You’re on stage. In the practice room. Or rehearsing with your friends. It’s time to run through yet another jazz standard. But here’s the thing, this time you’re not going play it like you always do. You’re done sounding like everyone else with a real book. It’s time to get creative on your own terms…

So what do you do??

How do you take a jazz standard that’s been played thousands of times and put your own spin on it? How do you make those tired phrases sound fresh instead of the same notes in the same exact places?

This is the challenge we face every time we play a tune like Autumn Leaves, All the Things You Are, or dozens of other titles in the jazz repertoire. And it’s why  so many jazz tunes have become boring and predictable – another set of notes and chords to churn out like a machine.

Remember, the whole point of playing a tune is to add something personal and in the moment. To say it in your own way through your own experiences.

What many players forget is that the ability to interpret a melody is one of the main things that defines you as a musician. And it’s a skill possessed by the all of the great improvisers that you love to listen to.

That’s why this lesson is all about the nitty gritty details of interpreting the jazz repertoire. We’ll start with a simple show tune, dive into the nuances of the harmony, and analyze how two master musicians interpret the melody and chords.

Rather than simply saying “you’ll hear it,” today we’ll show you some specific techniques for improving the way you approach the jazz standard repertoire or any tune you choose to play.

Let’s get started…

The Original Melody

The melody we’ll look at today is If Ever I Would Leave You from the 1960 musical Camelot by Frederick Loewe.

Before we go any further, take a listen to the original recording featuring Robert ...

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