I have been struggling for the best way to learn jazz tunes for some time now. When I first started with a beginner jazz band, I thought I just had to study the notes in the sheet music, playing them over and over, without any music. Then, I thought, when the band meets I will be able to just sight read the notes and all would be well. It didn't work.
Then I tried something else. I would just read the chord symbols and build bass lines around them. That worked better, but it wasn't perfect. Some songs, like "Take Five," have specialized note patterns that require reading the notes to learn the song.
Now I have evolved to a third method. I listen to a recording of the song to get the gist of it. Then I play through the notes on the page once or twice to gain familiarity with the song. Finally, I attempt to play along with the recording, by ear.
My final effort is to play the notes along to the recording, putting the sound and the theory together for a complete package. I inevitably discover parts of the song that I can't read well enough to stay up with the recording. I then go back to the notes and study just that part of the song, memorizing the note pattern if needed. Now I play along to the recording again, both by ear and by reading the notes. I repeat this cycle until I know the song well enough to play it with my live band.
This new method seems to work well!
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