Bobby Selvaggio

Saxophonist - Composer - Educator - Band Leader

Learning Tunes

I would rather know 10 tunes effortlessly than not really knowing 1000 tunes. If you are the kind of person who can learn 1000 tunes effortlessly, and I know a few musicians like that, then awesome. But not everyone is like that. And, knowing a tune effortlessly means that when I call it in a different key, you can still play it. When I call it in a different meter, you can still play it. When I call it in a different style, you can still play it. It doesn’t mean when I call it as it is originally known to be played, you say “Yea, I can play that” and then proceed to get out your IRealbook phone app and proceed to miss half the changes because the screen is too small. I don’t like when Universities put so much emphasis on learning 1000 tunes. That to me is like making kids memorize all the state capitals. What’s the real purpose behind that? Is the student really getting something out of it or is it just busy work to fulfill some kind of quota? Repertoire is important and essential. It’s part of learning the History and Heritage of Jazz music. But it’s also important to teach a student the importance of quality vs quantity.