1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

How wrong is the realbook?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by JoeyO, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. JoeyO


    Apr 3, 2009
    Wolcott, CT
    I am going to a jam next week to meet some folks for the first time and play some jazz standards. I haven't played much jazz since college so of course I want to prepare as much as possible. I play in a blues rock bad currently and typically to learn tunes I will pick it up from the recording.

    I want to do the same with the jazz tunes and / but I would like to play along and have a chart too.

    Seems to me that the charts from the realbook don't always match the recordings. For example, I listened to 3 versions of Night and Day. I have a realbook chart and looked at the chart from realbook.us ... and they seem to be wrong ... or better said I suppose: they don't match my recordings. I did download (and pay for, NBD) a sheet from musicnote.com and that was a little closer for me.

    So ultimately I will need to simply be comfortable enough playing with whatever chart we end up using.

    Going to talk to the guy tomorrow to see what he has for charts or if they just plan to use thereal book ...

  2. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
    The new legal Hal Leonard Real Books are the definitive source. Many of these tunes have been recorded many times by many artists and each has their own take on the harmony, however the REAL BOOK is the start for learning them. The changes in the legal ones are pretty good and make contextual sense most of the time.

    Start there and if a particular person wants to change a chord or two, it won't be that difficult to adjust.

    FWIW, that first chord in NIGHT and DAY varies a lot depending on the source.
  3. "How wrong is the realbook?"

    In my experience, pretty effin' wrong.

    I have the Hal Leonard Bass Clef 6th Edition, and have only used it for two songs, All Blues and Michelle, and while Michelle's chords were right, the actual notes were not. All Blues didn't even have the right chords. I pretty much decided to throw out that book at that point.

    Also, I feel it's better to learn the songs by ear anyway. I'll use it when only absolutely needed, but would never trust it to be accurate, maybe only as a guide as I transcribe.
  4. Rumbledom

    Rumbledom Inactive

    Jan 19, 2013
    The chords to Michelle are accurate? Whose version? Not the Beatles.
  5. LOL, I don't remember if the chords were actually right or not. I thought they were but basically had to transcribe the entire song anyway. It was a while since I looked at it. I was just shocked how inaccurate it was.

    I also don't like how the book does nothing to address a song's structure.
  6. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    The 5th edition may be "wrong" but that's how many people have learned them/played them for a long time. Think of it as a sort of consensus. I know the 6th edition purports to correct errors from the 5th but I've played a few from the 6th where the corrections were terrible.
  7. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    So, I fall back on the economist's saying "it depends". The previous posters criticisms of the Real Books are right on, IMHO. The Real Book 5th Edition is WAY wrong much of the time. Tunes like Dolphin Dance are nearly unrecognizable from the definitive recordings. The Hal Leonard 6th Edition is more accurate but doesn't contain all of the tunes in the 5th Ed., and may be referencing a different recording than the band. At the end of the day, what's most important is that everyone is playing the SAME chart. So, my advice, for what it's worth, is: ask the band leader what books or editions they use and get that. If they make their own charts, as I do, ask to barrow their book to make a copy so you can study ahead of the gig, assuming you can get a set list. Hope that helps. Having a 5 Ed Realbook at a 6th Ed jam or vice versa is a train wreck waiting to happen.
  8. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    I remember the 1rst and second editions. They were great, simply because there had never been anything like that. That said, some of the charts were laughable, while others were quite handy. But what I always wondered about the laughable charts was whether it was an idiot who wrote it, or whether the transcribed source was inappropriate to the book's generic purpose. Back then, it was very 'open source' or 'Wiki' as it's called now.
  9. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I'll take a stab at that. In some cases, I think it's just a typo, like the missing 4 bars of Desafinado. In a lot of cases, it's just laziness, or hurriedness, specifying a ii-V7 when it was really a V7 chord over an altered bass. Sometimes, it's just notated from a guitarists standpoint while ignoring the bass note that would have resulted in a different chord name of similar notes. Still, that results in a "bad" bass line from the bassists perspective. In a lot of cases, it's not so much that from a theoretical standpoint that the chords are wrong, as that wasn't really the sound of the definitive recording - more a guess at the intent or function of the chords. I once had a saxophonist claim that my chart for Miles Davis' "Four" was wrong on one chord, but I was pretty sure it was right because I transcribed it. I listened to my source again and it was correct. I listened to 2 other recordings and even Mile's band played a different chord, but similar, at that point in later recording. I found that RB 5 and RB 6 transcribed different recordings and both were correct for their respective recordings. Sometimes the melody is off but I think that's usually more of a lazy typo than a dictation error, like with the tune Estate. Personally, I think it's best to learn tunes by ear and then use the Real Books to check your work rather than learn tunes from the Real Book. As one of my teachers like to say "fake books are for when you DON'T know the tune."
  10. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Mar 5, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.