If things don’t get too crazy on any given day, I get back to our garage-turned-office and play the guitar a bit. It could be 15 minutes. Sometimes a half-hour.

And I want to get back there. I think I’ve built a habit. Like I said in my last post on this topic, I don’t have a lot of structure or focus. I play what I want.

Often that’s working my way through standard tunes. Lately it’s been “Waltz for Debby,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” and “All the Things You Are.”

I’m not killing it on these tunes. By any stretch. But I think learning tunes is the key to learning jazz music. And music music.

I’m doing a lot of work out of Ted Greene’s Jazz Guitar: Single Note Soloing, Volume 1. It’s a bit of a deep dive, dropping you into the world of arpeggios, scales and lines across the various chords you will encounter (major, minor, dominant) when improvising over jazz tunes. I haven’t been dipping into Volume 2 quite as much. There’s a density to Volume 1 that keeps me in it.

In contrast, I’m all over the three volumes of William Leavitt’s A Modern Method for Guitar, though these days mostly volumes 2 and 3. I also recently acquired his other reading-oriented books, Melodic Rhythms for Guitar, Reading Studies for Guitar and Advanced Reading Studies for Guitar. While these other three books offer some good note-reading material, I think A Modern Method really does the job well.

Leavitt has you reading all over the neck in all keys. Right now I’m working on major and melodic minor scales in all 12 keys in the fourth position, which is in Volume 3. I think it’s really valuable to play across keys in position without relying on the same two scale forms up and down the neck.

I’m using both the Leavitt and Greene books not just for technique but to train my ears. I really need to work more with melodic minor, Especially with Ted Greene, you start to hear the chord qualities as you play through the runs and hear the target notes like the 3rd, 7th and 9th.

Learning tunes is still slow going. How can you ever really play this music if you don’t know the tunes you play inside and out? I mean playing the melodies and chords in any key. Right now I’m “settling” for one key. While looking to the far future, I don’t think it’s possible to get there without doing what you can in the now.