I am beginning to learn guitar itself. I can read music sheet, have studied music theory well enough to understand chord progressions. But I have not played much other than Bach's Bourree and some church songs and pop songs because nothing much draws my attention.

Without much experience and ears to pick up melodies and chords, how should I start studying Jazz standards?

  • 1
    Fakebooks are usually filled with chord symbols in addition to the melody, so maybe you should practise playing chords symbols too.
    – Emil
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 3:26
  • There are many valid approaches, making this question perfect for the chat room, but not a fit for the main site. In the chat room, the various approaches can be listed and discussed as needed.
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 4:19
  • 2
    This has already been answered here: music.stackexchange.com/questions/49220/…
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 8:30
  • If you want to do it like people used to, when jazz standards were made, you'll learn to play by ear and you listen to definitive recorded versions of the tunes, and play them by ear. I'm not convinced that reading real/fake books can lead to becoming a jazz musician. You will need to be able to play by ear. I don't see any benefit in starting from anything else than playing by ear.
    – user94880
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 13:37
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? I want to start playing jazz music, where should I start? Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


By listening to recordings. 'Jazz Standards' can refer to both songs from the American Songbook (Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.) as well as songs written by jazz musicians (Ellington, Monk, Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, etc.).

For the former, the original musicals or movies these songs come from are a great place to start. Then find jazz singers you like. I would recommend Ella Fitzgerald. For the latter, find tunes you want to learn and musicians you gravitate towards and check out the recordings.

As far as actually learning the tunes, the best way is to actually transcribe them yourself, lyrics, melody and chords. In addition to developing your ear to hear melodic and harmonic relationships (which is important if you want to improvise), transcribing from recordings will also help you learn the phrasing used by singers, as opposed to just the quarter-note rhythms you might see in sheet music. Fake books also can have errors.

Then you need to play with other musicians.

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