5 Tips for Charting Songs

Learning jazz repertoire takes time. I recently read an article by Ed Harlow and wanted to share some of it with you. I hope the information is of help to you. Here are 5 tips that will help you organize what you have learned.
1. Key 
Although the first chord of a song is often indicative  of a song's overall key center, this is not always the case. Sweet Georgia Brown is an example song that settles into the key center after the first chord has sounded. verifying the key helps to clarify any doubts that may exist for those songs that don't begin in the song's overall key.

2. First Chord

Knowing the first chord of a song whether or not it overtly indicates the overall key is critical information.

3. First chord of the "B" Section (assuming there is a "B" section).

Sometimes the transition from the "A" to the "B" section is a common one - such as up a fourth, as the case with "Take The A Train" and "I Remember You". The transition to the "B" sections of such songs are usually relatively predictable - since the key of "A" and "B" sections of such songs are so closely related, your ear will tend to lead you there.

Other times, the relationship between the "A" and "B" sections is a much less common  one. For example, in "Cherokee," the "B" section begins with a II-7-V7 I up a half-step from the song's primary key. In "The Girl From Ipanema," the "B" section begins with a Major 7th chord up a half-step from the primary key. It is important to be very familiar with the construction of these types of songs because the chordal movements from the "A" to "B" sections of such songs is not as predictable.

4. Form

AABA, ABAB and 12-bar Blues arre very common song forms in jazz, but there are others that crop up now and then that should keep any player from becoming complacent on the matter of form.

For instance, "One Note Samba," and "Besame Mucho" have an ABA form with 16 bar "A" sections and 8 bar "B" sections. It's easy to accidentally add an extra "A" section before the "B" section in an ABA song form.

"Chega De Saudade" (ABCD) and "Cheek to Cheek" (AABBCA) are two songs that start simply enough, but are quite lengthy and have unusual forms that can easily go awry for those who are unprepared.

Be rock solid with the form of every song you learn.

5. First Note

"Stella by Starlight" is in Bb, but you'd never know it by the opening series of chords. Knowing what the first note of a song is helps to cut through any confusion when the key of a song is not overtly stated in the first few measures.
Song Information chart.

The prospect of memorizing dozens or hundreds of jazz tunes can seem overwhelming. Making a spreadsheet with song names along with their basic components is very useful in getting to know each song's basic structure, for keeping a record of the songs you've worked on and as a tune list for practice, sessions and gigs.


Wine and roses      F                      F                A-                                        ABAC               C
Girl from Ipanema Db                Db              D                                          AABA                Eb
I Remember You    F                    F                Bb                                        AABA                E
This is a quick and direct way of familiarizing the player with one or more songs. This not only gives you a valuable reference for practicing, sessions and gigs, but it can also serve as a list of songs you've taken the time to map out. This is far more effective than flipping through endless songs in a book or on a phone.
For those who read sheet music or chord charts:
The Girl From Ipanema: The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook
Other related topics you might enjoy:
Have a great weekend,
-- LadyD
"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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