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How has the Real Book Influenced Your Life as a Musician?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by PauFerro, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    Just curious how the Real Book has influenced your life as a musician? One article I read said that the book is on the music stands of jazz musicians all around the world. Pretty big influence. Can't wait to share the impact it's had on mine...

    How has it affected you?
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I got mine around 30 years ago. A guy at work was going down to NYC to pick some up and asked if I wanted one. I met him in a parking lot to pick it up, just like making a drug deal :roflmao: I wonder if it's any coincidence that a few years after Hal Leonard started printing legal versions that states started legalizing marijuana :whistle:

    Since I have a weak ear trying to learn tunes off records was really difficult. Just being able to read through the tunes while playing recordings was super useful. The few jazz gigs I have done over the years were all RB gigs. It's the Viagra of music books ;)
    IamGroot, kesslari, Winoman and 2 others like this.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i pretty much made a living (for 20+ years!) just by carrying a real book from gig to gig: lots of business receptions, 'grand openings', jazz lounges, jazz festivals, etc. we knew so many of the tunes that we didn't always open it up for page turning...but it was always there...just in case.
  4. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    The Real Book makes my life way easier as a band leader knowing that people have it. No copying charts, sending recordings and youtube playlists to people -- just show up and play.

    And I was exposed to all these great songs, and the composers from other musicians, who no doubt got their knowledge from other musicians who played songs out of the book. It's a kind of aural history of jazz. Without the real book, I seriously doubt if I'd have this love of songs like

    Blue Bossa
    Blue Monk
    Mr. PC
    Song for My Father etcetera

    and so on...as Steve Swallow said in the Story of Fake Books -- the Real Book canonized jazz. And this has facilitated the transmission of jazz to future generations.

    A very important book!!!
  5. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    And without the RB I probably wouldn't be chafing at having to play those tunes so much.

    Since I've been exploring old stock charts it's also come home to me that the RB substantially narrowed the range of general knowledge of jazz standards. Would it be going too far to say that many players don't go much beyond RB1, and that half the pieces in it are only rarely played? At the same time there are so many other great tunes out there that everyone played before the RB became the canon, and many, many more both younger and older that should be better known. We have to be aware of how that might be contributing to disinterest in jazz among the public.

    The RB has been helpful to me in providing a broad but shallow view of what jazz musicians thought was important in the late '60s, and got me around great composers like Ellington, Mingus and Monk. But the book's heft makes it easy to think you've got enough in hand, and I think it was really meant to be a beginner's introduction, not a canon.
  6. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    Yeah, and how about a canon that runs the gamut from merely inaccurate to blatantly and almost ignorantly wrong and/or incomplete and oh yeah, that didn’t bother to pay anybody let alone ask for permission to publish. Chuck Sher should have got a National Book Award for what he did
    RBrownBass, vilshofen, lurk and 3 others like this.
  7. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    On one hand it's a "bible" for pick up jazz gigs. I also loved back in the day when getting one was like a drug deal. That was awesome. One the other hand, there are mistakes, and it limited everyone to those tunes - even though it's a pretty extensive book. Over all, a great reference and still probably a must have.
    JRA and MrLenny1 like this.
  8. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I've learned soooo much by correcting the many errors! It is, and continues to be, a fantastic learning tool!
    But it needs celebrity jacket endorsements :
    "I love the Real Book!" - Helen Keller
  9. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    I would love to see what a publisher like Dover or Library of America might do with the concept of gathering and publishing a comprehensive series of books of standard songs.
  10. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    +1000 for this comment, that’s what was great about it for me as well. It worked that way for me with a lot with jazz biographies as well, my one volume copy of Jack Chambers’ Milestones is riddled with my yellow and orange highlighter marking his many mistakes and dubious opinions
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  11. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    I'm old enough to have gotten mine in the time-honored ("psst...[looks both ways] Hey, pal") way. It really was an arcane bible of information!

    Since it is easier to listen to complex things than to read them, I have very strong memories of sitting with my Real Book and listening along to my favorite performances--seeing what sounds were being created despite the simplicity of the charts: that Bobby McFerrin/Chick Corea album, for instance. They were going off the planet with regards to the performance, but you could see where the spine was. Very exciting!
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  12. I'm just beginning to really explore jazz. I don't think there's a jazz gig within 300 miles of me, but it sounds like a good learning tool. Sorry for the highjack, but which volume should I start with?
    StrangerBasses likes this.
  13. Start with Vol. 1. That's the one everybody has.
  14. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    First paid gigs were senior year of high school with--you guessed it-- Real Book charts. It is an indispensable tool for learning melodies, practicing and gigging.

    I just lost my first book which I had owned for two years and believe me, that felt like a piece of my heart had been ripped out. Replaced it last week and I feel whole again... :)
    pjbassist and IamGroot like this.
  15. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    You’re probably right about that, but I’d strongly recommend skipping that one and go with the Chuck Sher books, they’re vastly superior in every way. The poster you responded to said he was just beginning to really explore jazz, he might as well get the best tool for job and Chuck’s books are that, fake-book speaking
  16. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Real Book gigs payed my taxes and heat for 10+ years.
  17. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    10+ years? Gee, mine burned for only about 2 minutes.
  18. I never bought a real book. I took some out from the music library (always preferring the New Real Books) and photocopied sheets I needed back in the day. Then I got that CD with all the books in PDF format. I've downloaded other books in PDF form as well. Some useful ones are "The Great Gig Book" the "Just Standards Real Book" as well as "The Standards Real Book" which has intro verses to many of the songs.

    * I'll insert this here and say that buying the legal books is the way to go. *

    The new Chuck Sher Real Books are vastly superior to the old ones in every way.

    Often what I do now is make my own charts for the bands, with intro and coda information using a version of Finale. I use chords that are sometimes a blend of the various books, or a favourite recordings, and these even get changed once the other band members get a copy. I keep the melody simple, since the melody folks barely read the sheet anyways. ;-)

    I used www.wikifonia.org a lot until it was taken down. Other "fake books" I use now are the easily edited Band In A Box "fake books" and iReal Pro.

    All these tools just help give the basic road map that the band can all start with.

    I recall one reason I didn't buy a NRB back in the day, was a lot of the songs I heard and wanted to learn were not in there in great enough quantity to justify buying the whole book. With the book, I had to start with the unknown-to-me songs in the book and then go find a recording. Much harder to do in the pre-youtube years. That process seemed backwards.
    saabfender likes this.
  19. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    The book is the way many of us got started, but I've reached a point where if someone brings out a Real Book sheet they go down a notch in my estimation. Had a gig last Sunday with a guy I'd never played with before, and he emailed me a couple of RB tunes, Soul Eyes and Peggy's Blue Skylight, that each have minor but significant mistakes. My whole attitude towards him and the gig changed.
    Don Kasper likes this.
  20. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    A recent gig that had a RB on it was on an IPad.
    Could even transpose with a click.
    Very slick. Too bad RB gigs don't exist anymore IME.
    pjbassist likes this.

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