When I pick up a new jazz standard, should I play through with roots, 3rds and 7ths?
This is definitely a very good approach. When I play through a jazz standard, I will usually start with at least 1-3-7 + melody.
In the Tenderly tutorial, that lesson was aimed at beginners and so the root + melody is a very simple step to take first. This helps you understand the root movement of the chord changes but you may be able to skip this step.
If you feel comfortable, you should move straight to 1-3-7 + melody.
Remember that the 3 & 7 are the most important tones… these two tones define the harmony and so you should need to have these tones in most chords you play. It’s very good practice to isolate 3rds-7ths.
By playing through with just root-3rds-7ths, it also makes you pay attention to good voice leading… remember that 7s fall down a half step to 3s in any 251 progression, and so 1-3-7 will isolate this and you will be able to see it.
Once you are comfortable with this, then i recommend that you add the different extensions. Start by adding the 9 in over major and minor chords… it may work, it may not work… you need to experiment.
Remember that over minor chords, you always use the natural 11th and over major chords you would use the major 11th.
The 13 works for both major and minor chords… perhaps it is more common over major chords.
With dominant chords, you can experiment with extensions. After you can play with root, 3 and 7, maybe try adding the b9 or the sharp 9 in the middle of the chord. Next you can try #11 or #5.
These 3 lessons will help you understand the different voicing options you have available to you:
Major Voicings Options:
Minor Voicing Options
Dominant Voicings Part 1
Dominant Voicings Part 2
Remember to always analyse the melody note in terms of the scale degree… this will help you identify suitable voicings.
Also don’t forget to do the following steps:
1) Listen to many recordings of the tune… as many as you possibly can… do this for a week or 2 before you start learning the tune
2) Listen to a vocal arrangement of then tune and memorise the lyrics … this will help you with phrasing the melody and will stop you from getting lost in the form
3) Practice singing the melody away from the piano, or sing the melody and play left hand voicings underneath
You can practice these steps before even trying to play the melody.
It may sound like a long process but you will be rewarded… i promise… try it on your next jazz standard and let me know what you think.