It occurs to me as the year draws to a close that, in doing a song a day, I might have been better served by really sticking to the traditional definition of a standard song - one that has become standard repertoire of many musicians and has been covered a zillion times.
Standards are about structure - what does a given arranger or performer hang on that same structure? Strings? A clever intro or tag? A face-melting guitar solo? (Yes, please, if only because then I can say "face-melting guitar solo"). Structure is the first thing I take note of when I learn a song, at least if I'm trying to memorize it. Specific notes of a piano part, not so much. There are a few iconic piano riffs that stick - some of the Billy Joel and Elton John stuff, some 80s piano-based power ballad stuff - but the main thing that sticks is the harmony and the form. Guess specifics will have to wait til another year (more on this anon). All I can really hang onto, since I'm not just learning to play but also memorizing, is the form and chord progression of a given song - the bare minimum that I need as a pianist to fake along with a singer. I guess it's good to learn how to do the bare minimum, since my natural instinct is to do everything the hardest, most complicated way possible!
Tonight I'm doing a standard - finally getting around to "Embraceable You". Can you imagine how much darker and drearier the world would be without the Gershwins? I've listened to a few different versions: Art Tatum solo piano, Ella's Nelson Riddle arrangement, Judy Garland, Etta James, Rod Stewart. My M.O. for learning songs for much of the year has been to put the most famous recording of said song on my ipod, but on my headphones, and learn it by ear. I think maybe I'll experiment with twinkling along with a couple different recordings, and then figuring out my own little arrangement of this standard. We'll see how it goes.