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Learning ‘Donna Lee’

September 28, 2012

Working on the tune ‘Donna Lee’ this week. Made progress. One thing with any jazz tune is that you have to actually learn the song. You have to memorize the changes. And I find that I can get hung up if I just memorize by rote. Many others have said that. It’s very helpful to do some kind of harmonic analysis.

I have attached a photo of the sheet music and my notes sitting on my piano music stand. It helped me to note the structure – A-B-A’-C – and to note that it’s 32 bars. Then I needed to know the first chord of each section: Ab major in sections A and A’. Db major in the B section. and F- in the C section. Then to finish it off – learn the melody note in each section: G natural (the major 7th of the Ab chord) in the A and A’ sections. Eb (the major ninth of the Db chord) in the B section. And then C natural (the fifth of the F- chord.

That’s it – now I’ve learned the song. It’s locked in now. This was actually easy. But it’s very important to do this. You have to know the song!

donna lee


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