[Sheet Music]

Lesson 41: Learning Songs/ Tunes

The Goal

There is only one way to go - memorize tunes. As long as the music is on a paper, it stays on the paper. When you are able to play a tune from memory, you will start to hear things. Things will eventually start to happen by themselves.

Why Learn Tunes

Master musicians have one thing in common. They know a lot of tunes by heart - typically hundreds of them.

When you learn good tunes you learn melodies that are effective, that sound good. You start to recognize common patterns and ways of harmonizing/ chord progressions.

What to Learn


  • the melody
  • the changes
  • the lyrics! - if there are lyrics to a tune, "sing it" on your instrument - this will make a world of difference!
  • the story behind the tune - where does it come from, what is it about?


Learn to play the melody

  • in every possible area of the instrument
  • in two different octaves
  • on a single string


Learn to play the harmonies of a tune

  • using shell voicings
  • using three note voicings consisting of higher degrees of the chords

Ways to Internalize Tunes

Some ways to really get inside a tune are:

  • to write a chord melody arrangement of it
  • to write a walking bass line to it
  • to write a new melody or a solo to it
  • to look at ways to reharmonize the melody
  • to learn to play it in a different key than the original, even in any key

My Personal Tunes List

I have chosen the following modest list of ( some 50+) tunes for myself to memorize:

  • All Blues by Miles Davis
  • All the Things You Are by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern
  • Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma
  • Beatrice by Sam Rivers
  • Beautiful Love by Victor Young, Egbert Van Alstyne and Wayne King
  • Bemsha Swing by Thelonious Monk
  • Blue Bossa by Kenny Dorham
  • Bluezo by Hal Crook
  • Bye Bye Blackbird by Mort Dixon and Ray Henderson
  • Cantaloupe Island by Herbie Hancock
  • The Chicken by Alfred James Ellis
  • Cry Me a River by Arthur Hamilton
  • Fly Me to the Moon by Bart Howard
  • The Girl from Ipanema by Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • How Insensitive by Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin
  • Impressions by John Coltrane
  • Instant Blues by Stefan "Kilju" Lindblom
  • It Could Happen to You by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen
  • Lady Bird by Tadd Dameron
  • Love for Sale by Cole Porter
  • Lucky Southern by Keith Jarrett
  • Manha de Carnaval by Luiz Bonfa
  • Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by Josef Zawinul
  • Minor Blues by Bob Russell
  • Misty by Erroll Garner
  • Mr. C by Max Schultz
  • My Funny Valentine by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
  • My Heart Belongs to Daddy by Cole Porter
  • Night and Day by Cole Porter
  • Oleo by Sonny Rollins
  • On Green Dolphin Street by Bronislau Kaper and Ned Washington
  • One Note Samba by Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Rhythm-a-Ning by Thelonious Monk
  • 'Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk, Cootie Williams and Bernie Hanighen
  • So Danco Samba by Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • So What by Miles Davis
  • Someday My Prince Will Come by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey
  • St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins
  • Stella by Starlight by Victor Young and Ned Washington
  • Summertime by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward
  • Swing Spring by Miles Davis
  • Take the "A" Train by Billy Strayhorn
  • There Is No Greater Love by Marty Symes and Isham Jones
  • There Will Never Be Another You by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren
  • Willow Weep for Me by Ann Ronell

2005 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.