Playing through The Real Book, tune by tune

If you play jazz piano, you probably know some Real Book tunes. (And if not, then what are you waiting for???)

Whether you know 5 tunes in the book, or 150, there’s no doubt that you’re missing out on a great many musical experiences that the other tunes contain. The ones you’ve never played.

One way to make sure you get the most from this wonderful collection of tunes is to go through the entire book. Not all at once, of course, because this would be overwhelming. But gradually. Little by little.

The key is to play each new tune at your current level. If you can only play the melodies easily, then that’s fine. Learn a melody today and the one on the next page tomorrow. Can’t put the hands together? That’s fine too. Practice the right hand melody, and then the left hand chords.

You can also use this method to practice a new technique you’re exploring. Are you learning how to lay walking bass? Great! Try it on a different tune each day. here are 400 tunes int he book, and you can play walking bass on most of them. This will keep you busy for quite some time!

The point is to start at the beginning, with Duke Ellington’s “The African Flower,” and just keep going. Don’t try to perfect each tune. Just learn each one the best you can in a day or two and move on to the next.

The amazing thing about this method is that you will improve over time. In fact, I challenge you to try this method for 100 days and remain at the same level. You’ll get better despite yourself! lol

I’ve been going through The Real Book in this way myself, playing one tune per week. I’m having a blast; learning tunes I missed before and revisiting ones that I know inside and out.

In fact, I’m up to #50, which is “Byrd Like,” a very fast blues in F by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Although I’ve been playing blues in the key of F for decades, I had never played this particular melody before.

Check it out here, and I hope this inspires you to do something similar!

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