The difference in approach, a standard v.s. an original. In fact, there is not much difference at all, you just have to work at it, and that is a thing with some issues.
The reason I write this blog is because in the past I thought there was a big difference;
1-A Standard is someone else's composition, so you have to study the melody and harmony, play it by heart and after a few days you can play with it.
2-An original, and I mean your own composition, you wrote it yourself you were already developing it for a while and you used the chords and colours that you knew and maybe some new ones but in general you can play it when it's done, when the composition is ready....I thought..
Mastering a tune is actually a completely different story, I realized it much later. Of course when you play a standard there are many examples that is why it is called a standard it is part of a tradition played by many musicians and you can get a lot of inspiration, colours, chords and views by listening to many recordings . And probably some will really resonate in you. We'll talk about this later. But how do you want to play it, give it a twist, strengthen your perspective of expression of joy in playing and deepen the way of playing the melody, rhythm and harmony? And there is the bridge between a Standard and an Original: You have to start from scratch.
The meaning of the song, the feeling, your feeling appropriate to the tradition or your own personality and a combination of this with many other possibilities. It's about infusing your personality and style into the music. This process requires deep exploration, considering the meaning behind the song and finding the right balance between tradition and personal expression.
Taking time for mastery Mastering a piece, be it a standard or an original, takes time and dedication. By immersing yourself in the music you can discover new possibilities and expand your skills. Taking the time to work on a piece not only expands your understanding of it, but also opens you up to new musical experiences.
I think you understand that in fact playing your own new composition or one of your colleges, band members put you in the same procedure. It’s not that you instantly know this are all the possibilities. In the past I took new material to my trio and the first time we played it was in a live radio broadcast. It is possible, it is fun too because everybody is open, focused, and can, will and have to jump into it with fresh ears and an open approach. But… listing back this kind of adventures I often heard the freeness and open enthousiasm but also realized later we can and could go much deeper. It ist's necessary to dive deep into it, and I will easily take two months to explore a tune in all details. By the way, delving deep also means that after working out a tune, 500,000 other tunes will sound better because you've mastered a lot of new things.
On purpose every now and then I work on a 'simple' songs and see where it takes me or where I can take the song.
You can find some examples on the website, such as ‘Basin Street Blues’ or ‘Don't You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans’.
It takes time for instance to have a good beginning and end, a cloudy "Here's That Rainy day" or some ‘midnight’ chords in "Round Midnight" It will help to know the story behind the song and the lyrics can be a really good guide, although there are songs without lyrics, songs whose lyrics came later and lyrics who doesn't guide you at all :)
A strange example perhaps, a friend of mine, a classic musician, walked on stage and played 8 notes on his trumpet, stopped, walked back behind the curtains and did this 10 times or more. We were in the break of a rehearsal so had some spare time. Of course I asked him ‘what are you doing?’ He said: 'I'm working on a solo trumpet etude and I'm practising the beginning, the start , try to get used to it a little bit, because I'll come from behind, walk to the edge of the stage to start the concert.
I’m practice to start, play the first eight notes and later in the live performance I'll get used to getting up and starting and all the other notes will follow more easily.
Brilliant right? It made me realize that we can go deeper into every detail, train, practice, work things out as best we can and it's fun to do. I also heard of bands playing the whole set including the talk in between, just to get used to it, to smooth it over. Attention to detail every detail matters when it comes to musical performance. Just as a friend of mine meticulously practised the opening notes of his trumpet solo, we can strive for excellence in every aspect.
Practising, training and working out the intricacies of a piece can lead to a more polished, deeper and satisfying performance. Whether playing standard or exploring original compositions, it is essential to devote time and effort to your craft. By going deeper, paying attention to details, and embracing the process, you can become a better musician and artist.
'All good things comes slow', referring to a book written by Fred Hersch. And keep in mind that it takes time, give to yourself as a gift with a lot of time and no rush. Music often unfolds on its own. I mean, you don't have to push so hard.