Learning Tunes Efficiently and Tracking Progress

So right now the majority of my practice is preparing for my grad audition in the upcoming year. At one school I am planning on auditioning at the requires you to prepare and memorize a list of 23 tunes. What is nice about this challenge is that it has forced me to develop a practice system that encourages me to learn and review tunes quickly, efficiently. One of the main ideas that every great teacher says in regards to practicing is to have goals and track your progress. I have tried the practice journal so many times and have failed just as many. The problem that kept happening was that I would not want to fill it out, or I would get too detailed for my own good and it would get overwhelming. So I had to find a way to track my progress in a way that was fast but I also knew what I need to work on next.

In the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error but after about I have found a system that is fairly effective for me right now.

Tune Review Report


The basic idea of the google form is that I usually practice the same exercises to learn tunes and my comfortability with tunes evolve in the same way. So I streamed lined the way I recorded that information. The second part of the form helps me track what went well and what to focus on next time. All the info gets charted and graphed into an excel document curiosity of google.

The report is super helpful for me to see where the majority of my practice time is dedicated to when learning tunes. To see how the report results look check out the link below:


Anyway, this is a system that has been working for me. I am curious though how other people track their practice or tricks people use to keep tunes in a rotation and fresh.

The ease of the individual day really appeals to me. You're just checking the box as you go. Practice logs never worked for me either, because I either forgot about it or put too much into it & felt I was losing practice time. The only version of a practice log that's worked for me lately is a month calendar where I write the word "vibes" when I've practiced. My goal is to fill in all the boxes.

For tunes I've been using a somewhat personalized version of the excel sheet provided here:


Priority of the tune can vary by who you're playing with/for, of course, but when you're not given a tune list the one that's part of this is nice. I tend to forget what tunes I should learn.

Once I learn a tune it goes on a personal tune list that I have printed & taped to the wall next to my vibes. The list of everything I know helps me remember to review everything so they stay somewhat fresh.

Thanks for sharing, I'll give google forms a try. I'm applying to grad schools for 2018 too, if you find yourself around Chicago we should play some tunes!

I also have trouble finding what tunes I should learn. I often find myself focusing way too much on the standards from the American Songbook, bop and hard bop tunes and have to remind myself to work on tunes from other eras and styles. I also find if many artists record a tune it must be important. For example, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, was recorded by everybody, Monk, Oscar, Basie to name a few, so I'll put it on a list for later.
I like that excel sheet especially the ranking systems its good way to stay focused.
And if I'm ever out your way i'd love to play some tunes. And if your ever out in western new york/ rochester area we should jam!

I think that the choices a person makes when choosing their repertoire to study and learn has tremendous influence on shaping their style and voice later in life.

Each person has a musical palette. Allowing yourself to naturally gravitate in a direction that helps you learn to do the things you love to hear is part of your development as an artist.

I believe listeners of music can often experience some things in the music that even the artist who created it didn't know was there. Let's say Artist "A" plays something that you think is really cool and it speaks deep into your soul. You, experience it and love it as a listening fan. This little detail in the artist's playing may not even be noticed or be that important to the artist who created it but YOU just found it to be the coolest thing since Bach. Now, you (the listening/learning fan) have extracted a part of the artist that is now a part of you. You now, (the listener who is also an artist) turn that tiny little morsel of beauty into a part of your own voice by practicing it hard and making it yours. It originated with "Artist A" but it was magnified by Listener/fan/artist YOU as you develop.

My point is to balance the things you learn for education with things you learn from curiosity and desire to know. Pick your own songs and know how to play them and know what makes them tick and what makes them speak to you.

just glanced at this. I admire you using tech to help practice. I think you have something here. I wonder how to make this for our TOTM's people could fill them out. just thinking out loud!

I spend a lot of time driving. My car has memory that holds 17 CDs worth of music. My ash tray holds a pitch pipe in case I lose track of key center.

When I want to learn new tunes, I cycle in a CD with them on it. I sing them (badly, but nobody can hear), double check pitches against the pitch pipe if I'm not sure.

Repetition. Oh yeah, I am lazy about changing the music in the memory. By the time a CD is replaced, it has been heard at least 50 times.

That's a great idea! When I'm on a long road trip I will speak the changes out loud or in my head. Sometimes in time sometimes out of time. My first vibes teacher used to tell me that you had to play a tune 50 times to know it, 500 times to memorize, and thousands of time to have it be a part of you.

How To Learn Tunes: A Jazz Musician's Survival Guide (Book & CD Set) (Amazon link below)

As and FYI, I can't really vouch for this either way, but I wanted to mention this book in the thread. I think many of the "wisdoms" in the book have been discussed here at VW. It does provide a good reference regarding similarities of jazz standards and talks some about theory.


It's a really interesting book. The other books in this series are full of a lot of wisdom as well.

hey, what a great structure for practicing! don't know if you're still hanging here, but would you be willing to share the exercises you call out on the checklist? thank you!

I got inspired by this post popping up, and just posted my own thoughts on it. Nice discussion here.