The following approach should be used as a template for learning a new jazz standards:
- Listen to as many versions as you can on both YouTube and Spotify Web Player. Make note of anything you like and then you can try to incorporate this into your arrangement.
- Play the melody on its own with a metronome until you can play it accurately at tempo.
- Look through the chords and circle any 25s and 251s – find them all and mark them down on the lead sheet.
- Play through using just rootless left hand voicings (not the melody yet) – I do this at the start of some of the jazz standard lessons and it’s an important step to familiarise yourself with the harmony and which keys the tune modulates through. Practice this with a metronome until you can play them accurately at tempo.
- Now put the melody over the rootless left hand voicings and play the tune accurately at tempo.
- Remember to try to incorporate the melodic phrasing from step 1 into your arrangement with left hand voicings. This will involve playing the melody slightly differently than its written on the lead sheet, maybe adding notes in or taking notes out here and there. Work this out aurally.
- The final step is to transcribe from your favourite recordings of the standard. Transcription is the single most effective aspect of practising as you are learning from the masters of the jazz genre. Transcription is a difficult and time consuming task but the results are definitely worth it. For more information on this be sure to check out the lesson on transcription for piano.