4. Chunking

Each of the AB pieces is just a minute or two long. Listen to the set and then choose one you feel like having a go at. Listen carefully to the song and when you’re ready, scat-sing with it (without making the neighbours question your mental health!) – that’s a good way to embed the tune in your musical brain...like ’ ba dad’n  dad’n  dad’n dadat!’ for the opening bass line on Miles’ ‘So What’  from Kind of Blue’,  for example. Then when you’re ready, join in on your instrument, ‘shadowing’ or imitating any bits you can, like this bass line, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Break the song into small chunks that you find manageable and try carefully to play them one by one. Backtrack on the recording as many times as necessary to get the tune right, and pause it to crunch slowly through phrases that trip you up. Don’t worry about speed, that will come with practice. You’ll progress from being able to play just a few notes to some key phrases to the whole piece, by matching what you hear with what you’re doing on your instrument, reinforced by what you’re able to make sense of from the chart, but be prepared to give sustained attention to just one song. 

Jazz teacher David Demsey says: 'On the surface, you are concentrating on learning the sequence of pitches and rhythms - but this is far less important than learning the un-notatable, crucial elements of sound and phrasing, then physically reproducing those on your own instrument, or with your voice'. 


As you listen and play, you're training your ear to hear pitches and durations of important notes, together with the 'intervals' between them, or gaps between the notes on a scale. But remember you don't have to play them all to begin with; start with what you can do, then progress to what you can't yet do. You're training your brain, fingers, muscles and breathing to do things they're not used to; this is new learning. But make sure the rhythmic character of the song is preserved. Miles Davis once said: 'music is all about timing and getting everything in rhythm'. 

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