I am learning “I Don’t Know Enough About You” and despite it being a straight ahead little song, there’s a lot of subtlety in it. The first 8 bars where she starts singing, the held notes between the 4th and 5th measures are quite winding. It’s fascinating to count through the intracacies of a lilting, groovy melody line then fall back on the 1.
In addition to getting into the vocals, I discovered that learning jazz standards has other benefits. It may be crazy, but after playing guitar for 20 years I am finally learning to truly count. When I was writing my own songs, I was just feeling my way through the tunes, mostly inventing and memorizing lyrics. When I would play with a group they would say, “Oh that’s a Hannah thing–this section is 9 bars.” Why is that?
Without a band during the writing of a song, the bars fit the melody line, whatever it was and I never thought in 4’s and 8’s. It’s been a fascinating thing to learn that while 4’s and 8’s are not necessarily the alphabet (the alphabet would be the basic chords), but the paper itself which most songs are written in.
A song like this seems simple but attacks the 4’s and 8’s in various ways:
- 4 bar intro
- 8 bar singing x2 (AA)
- 8 bar singing x2 (BA, starting with a B section)
- 16 bar solo
- 8 bar singing (BA)
- 4 bar outro
So in jazz language, this is a 4-bar intro, AABA, 16-bar solo, BA, A, 4-bar outro with a cool ending
For an instrumentalist it might as well be: 4-bar intro, AABA, AABA, BA, A 4-bar outro (I think).
Maybe I…don’t know enough about 4 and 8-bar sections but I am opening up my encyclopedia.
For readers who don’t know what an A and B section they are different parts of the song that repeat.
Pick a favorite tune of yours, count along to the measures, and see if the sections are in 4’s and 8’s.
Until next time…
Cover image: art by Hannah Frank.