I wrote almost two years ago that my new study priority was learning standards. It stuck for a little while, but faded as I started working at getting into music school. Whoops.
I've become familiar with enough tunes over the years to quickly recall the melody, chords, and improvising strategies if the music's in front of me. But I never went about memorizing a repertoire, so when asked what I wanted to play in the absence of a fake book at my first lesson with Bob Boss a few weeks ago, I didn't have an answer beyond what I'd just prepared for my audition. So that was my first take-home lesson: quit screwing around and memorize these things. I have a DVD of a Joe Pass clinic at Musicians Institute, in which his strongest advice is, "Learn tunes!"
So I made myself a spreadsheet to get organized. I looked up all the tunes I played in my college jazz improv classes, suggested repertoire from a few jazz programs (SDSU, CSUN), and the top 100 from jazzstandards.com. For each tune, I need to know the melody in two octaves and the changes well enough to comp, improvise, and transpose to any key. I keep track of my progress by marking "~" when I'm close to commanding one of these elements, and "Y" when I have it down.
View the whole spreadsheet on Google Docs, and watch it evolve in real time.
Here's a sample:
|C Jam Blues||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Comin' Home Baby||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|I Got Rhythm||Y||Y||~||~|
|Bye Bye Blackbird||Y||Y|
|Scrapple from the Apple||Y||Y|
|Five Hundred Miles High||~||~|
|I Can't Get Started||~||~|
|Stompin' at the Savoy||~||~|
I've been pretty good about brushing up on old ones and learning new ones every day for the last few weeks. I think I'll find this very rewarding if I can keep it up for a while.