Expanding one’s repertoire is an essential part of becoming a better musician.

By learning new tunes of varying styles and difficulty, you can expand your palette of musical skills and deepen your musicianship.

Here is a list of 5 tips to keep in mind while learning new tunes

  1. Check out the Records
    • Save the sheet music for LATER. Listen to as many different versions of the song as you can!

If we were learning “Stardust,” here would be some good versions of the tune:

    • Listen for how the singers/horn players interpret the melody. Everyone interprets it differently!

2. Internalize the Melody Aurally (by ear)

  • Sing along with the recording – out loud or in your head.
    • If you can sing it, you can play it!!
  • Listen for patterns
    • Melodic ideas, repeated phrases, etc.

3. Analyze the Form of the Tune

  • Looking at the bigger picture will help you in the long run.
    • Are there all 8-bar phrases?
    • Is it 32 bars?
  • Examine the phrase structure.
    • AABA, ABAC, or other?
  • Don’t go “chord-by-chord.” Hear the whole form!

4. Examine the Harmonic Movement of the Tune

  • Look for defining harmonic characteristics.
    • g. “the bridge goes the minor ‘vi,’ or “the second phrase ends on a II­7 chord, which is F7 in this key”
    • (These landmarks will help you remember the tune!)
    • Does the tune start in major or minor?

5. Play the Tune in Different Keys!

  • Playing in different keys will deepen your understanding of the tune.
    • You can discover the harmonic movement in a variety of contexts!
  • With a cemented understanding of the tune, not only will you remember it better, but you’ll also be ready if someone calls it in any key.

Comment below with your strategies which you would like us to know!

Picture of Sterling Cozza

Sterling Cozza

6 Responses

  1. No doubt we would know the song well having done this, transposing with any facility is over my head at this point.
    It would be helpful If you went into more detail using Stardust as an example.

      1. Hi Robert,

        I’d love to help you out, but I’m not sure what you mean by our learning tools? All of our free education is available on our website. Our paid membership and courses are available for purchase if you’re looking to take your education further. Hope this helps. Let us know if we can assist in anyway. Best!

  2. Memorize the lyric, whether you are a singer or not. It will help you internalize the melody and the harmony, which in a well-written song are tightly integrated with the words and the story.

  3. Hi…agree will the 5 steps and comments from readers…esp. the transcribing which is a very very slow process…what I have read is that you start with a few simple bars of the song and solo’s and leave it at that…I am working on O Peterson “A Train” and have finally figured out the D7#4 chord he plays in the intro – album is Live in Russia…but what a thrill when I found it…

    PS…for what it is worth I use Transcribe software which slows down the music without affecting the key…

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