Learning 150 tunes in three months

itHi there,
I hope you’re fine at this time of Corona Virus.
Since I have more free time than normal, I’d like to use this time to expand my knowledge of musical tunes that I have in my repertoire. Yes, I’m a musician, in particular a jazz pianist. For us jazz players, it is important to have a good number of jazz song learned by hearth.
I have to say that I have already 50 tunes in my mind, but I want to arrive at 200 in three months.
I’d like to know if you have opinions on how to train myself in order to have 150 learned in three months.
Of course, with a simple calculation, we know that I’d have to learn five tunes per day and it’s basically impossible as I’ll never retain them in the long term memory.
But I’m pretty sure about the fact that it’s possible to do them if I make a solid plan to learn them using spaced repetition and so on.

Do you have any experience with this? Is it possible to do so, or am I just dreaming? If it’s possible, can you suggest me how I can compile a table for planning my training?

Thank you in advance

I tried to teach myself how to play the piano using “piano playing for dummies”, but after two weeks I could only play “row, row, row your boat” in slowmotion, so I’m probably not the most quailified person to give advice, but I can’t resist.

Memory palace, with a tune in every location

I remember a documentary about an jazz prodigee who associated his compositions with all kinds of things. He would say something like ΅this is what Chicago in the winter sounds like". In this example you may use a snowman to represent this tune and place it in a location in your memory palace.

I hope this can be a start.

Hi Luca,
Your goal is certainly possible, but that depends on a few things. I have a great interest over many years of exactly the sort of thing you are intending to do - and (though I am not allowed to promote my own work) it is exactly what I do in one part of my day job. Before I comment further could you possibly just give me a little more information? No problem if not however!

As you say you are a jazz pianist, I presume you are working from either lead sheets (AKA Fake Sheets) with a top line and harmonic accompaniment or you are playing by ear (nothing wrong with that) - on that subject I know some great jazz musicians both here and in Asia who work with chord symbols and can’t read a top line - including the best jazz pianist I have ever known and even jammed with (he was my best friend’s dad when I grew up) - a brilliant arranger and accompanist to an even more famous singer - Carol Kidd (una cantante jazz scozzese) - he did not read music - well not proper ‘music’.

If you can read music - it REALLY REALLY helps - not for the playing but for the learning.
Can you read ? Music I mean. And how well? Can you sight read? Or just ‘read’? Your level at this is (in my opinion) very important for teh speed you can learn new material.

The other thing is - and this might seem strange - what method do you currently use to learn a new song and commit it to memory? That’s really important.

Anyway great to hear there is someone else with a love of music into memory systems.

Kind regards


Thank you both for replying to my post.
My sight reading skills are pretty high and that’s why I never committed to put scores in my memory. I usually play both classical and jazz on a professional level, so reading is not a problem at all.
The problem is memerizing. When learning jazz standards, I used to just have a lead sheet and follow it, both melody and chords.
The thing I discover is that I retain more the song if I just learn it just by listening to a version of it without writing it down. I play a version of a standard song and I figure out the melody - bass notes and voicings. Doing so, for me it takes more time, but my memory retain improves.
But… I’d like to put really a boost on this, and find ways to learn more in less time.


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Hi Luca, apologies for not responding sooner, (as one other member on the forum knows from messages - my time management at present is mad due to this V thing).

You sight read well, you know jazz style, you can play directly from a lead sheet with top line and chords - presumably you are then doing all your 2-5-1’s and tritone subs also automatically but (and this is a guess -) playing and memorising is completely different. … And hope that some method exists to aid you in the time it takes to to memorise a number… Well there are! Many.

Before going into detail I’m going to spell out - just so you know where I’m coming from - what ONE definition of how a memory system can help and why, and suggest one parameter that you can do a little experiment with.

I say this because there will be highly knowledgeable people lurking on this thread b who will consider what I’m going to say as “simplistic” or very far from the whole truth - and they’d be correct from their points of view. Never the less here it is:

In essence all You should try as a first step is to realise that memory systems in music are adding two things: you are doing everything else the same but adding (1) A DELIBERATE SPATIAL ASSOCIATION and (2) into that spatial part you are adding a SENSUAL ASSOCIATION of the information you are trying to memorise. The sensual part is (we tell beginners) visual representations, but really it can be anything sight, sound, taste, emotion, number/order, a symbol, a character you associate with some sensual association… it is a very long list… But I’ll stick with visual at present.

An experiment you can do - this minute - is pick up your fake book turn to random number - and instead of trying to play it, think of a specific place where you choose to associate this number with… I’ll give you a couple of example:. Dam Square in Holland or The Pantheon in Rome, choose just one. And from now on that number is associated with that place. What style you want to play it? Like Oscar? Well, now see Oscar sitting at the piano but studying the exact same page you are looking at. Imagine him in a specific place in your chosen location… There’s Oscar Peterson sitting looking at this for the first time… What would be say? What would he advise? This - seemingly mad idea is what after years of research and thousands of people working on this problem - is the STARTING point… You have a number, a location and one character. On this we build… But that’s the very first step…

After an hour doing something else, come back to the image in your mind’s eye and add more detail…

This is all that these methods are doing. But they can be incredibly powerful… But that’s how you start.

Try that, and tell us if that makes sense.
If it does, you can learn how to encode the chords, the harmonic rhythm, the top line, the modes and scales … all in the same step by step way… but it starts with spatial placement.

Hope that makes sense.


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Thank you for your long reply!
I tried your experiment and this really works! wow!
I pick up I heard a rhapsody. I knew that song but just the melody (and not even well).
I imagined The square of Den Haag with Oscar Peterson at the piano, explaining that the song is basically in Eb major, but it start on the VI chord.

After this, I went an hour after and he “told” me that the three A sections are identical, they start on the VI, then they do II-V-I, then II-V of the II, V and then solving on the I.
I write you this all by heart, and I really took just a look to the chart once and then imagine him talking about this.
Of course, I still have to learn the B section and also how to put even more chords on that A section, but this thing is incredible!

I’d like to know more of this approach.
Thank you
Kind Regards