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Real Book bass clef or treble clef version?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Axtman, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    Should I purchase the Real Book (version 6) in bass or treble clef? Thanks!
  2. This is a good question. Most professional reading musicians can read both, so if that’s you, I would choose treble, because those charts can be passed out to the whole rhythm section (piano and guitar don’t want their melodies in bass clef).

    Really, the only reason to choose bass clef, is if you only read bass clef.
    Winoman, rwkeating, oren and 5 others like this.
  3. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I agree with @dreamadream99. I started buying the bass clef versions, but realized everyone objected to the bass clef versions, even keyboard players. So I ended up buying the Treble Clef versions afterwards.

    The Bb version also works for Eb alto players though -- the notes are in the right position for their instrument if they ignore the bass clef. But the C versions are good for piano, guitar, flute and other C instruments. Some Bb players (tenor sax, trumpet) can transpose C versions to their Bb instrument. Get the C book and learn to read Treble clef on the bass.

    Also, some cats will throw charts at you too, and it will most likely be a C treble chart, so you might as well embrace the nasty and learn to read treble clef on your bass.
    Jeff Elkins likes this.
  4. Jeff Elkins

    Jeff Elkins Supporting Member

    A piano player I work with has a much appreciated habit of throwing together charts for me whenever he has a gig he wants to duo. I dig out the bass clef charts for any bass-heavy head that I need to read — Red Clay or So What or Night in Tunisia if it’s been awhile, for example — but otherwise it’s treble charts all the time.
  5. I’d get the Treble Clef version because I play several instruments and can fluently read either clef.

    +1 it’s good practice to be able to sight read TC on bass. I get plenty of BC from Big Band charts.
    Dabndug likes this.
  6. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    bass clef= one guy can read it
    treble clef= the whole band can use it
    Dudaronamous and Leo Smith like this.
  7. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    For study, the bass clef version is a lot better, depending on your level. If you don't know a lot of tunes, the bass clef version will just be quicker and make sense faster in terms of getting the heads under your fingers as well as the chords.
    For performance, people that need real books will have real books. More obscure charts might be better in treble for other band members. Even then, you will have a quicker sense of the melodic material for tunes you are playing on the fly.
    There are lots of ways to get your treble reading together, and a second book isn't that big of a deal - I own both.
    I also read bass, tenor and treble clefs.

    The Real Book is about having quick access to lots of tunes, adding another road block early on is unhelpful. Most will say it is not a book for the bandstand anyway.
    tonequixote, DrayMiles, Selim and 2 others like this.
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I think it's a good idea for bass players to be able to read treble clef, especially because you will primarily be getting TC charts in small group settings. I'd get the treble book and use it to work on this skill.

    Side note, I've found that the two versions are not identical musically, which can be a problem particularly when doubling the melody with players using the other version. Changes can vary, too.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
    Leo Smith and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  9. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    From my amateurish perspective.

    Treble clef, you mostly want a fake book for the chord changes. So the fact that the melody is in treble clef isn’t going to effect most gigs where you don’t know the tune and need a quick overview of the changes.

    If you are working out melodies at home you will quickly pick up treble clef. In bass clef you may transpose up an octave anyway so it’s not so easy.

    This will also prepare you when someone hands you a chart from another book. They won’t hand you a bass clef version most likely and they’re not going to want to read your bass clef version if you are on the other side handing out the chart.

    As someone else mentioned the two books aren’t always identical and can have different interpolations.
    PauFerro likes this.
  10. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    As I often quote Jackie Brown, "You ain't askin' the right questions". There are a series of questions to answer.
    1. How well do you read bass clef?
    2. How well do you read treble clef?
    3. Do you know a lot of tunes?

    Therein will be your answer. IMO, you should be learning the melodies, so they do matter. My opinion is that the Real Book is certainly not the right tool for the job for learning treble clef. It is the right tool for learning a lot of tunes.
    There are endless other ways to bone up on reading treble.
    Only in the case that you ALREADY know a lot of tunes and need to get your treble reading together should you buy a treble clef Real Book.
    As far as the difference in changes, you need to be ready for different changes on songs you know - even more than you need to read treble!
    Use the right tool for the job, trying to multi-task in your study of the double bass is a fool's errand.
    tonequixote and DrayMiles like this.
  11. marcox


    Dec 10, 2007
    Discussions like this make me grateful that I started on piano (and sang 1st tenor in choir), so I think of treble and bass clef as a continuum, not separate systems.
  12. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Treble clef. It's not that hard to learn once your read bass clef and then you can read both. Duh!
    Joshua and Don Kasper like this.
  13. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Treble clef micro version. If you don’t know it well enough to play it without the chart you don’t know it well enough for a gig.
  14. jasonrp


    Feb 19, 2015
    What would you guys recommend to learn Treble? I can read bass clef easily but treble requires thought. A piano book maybe?
  15. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Time and practice. The same way you learned to read bass clef.
    Old Blastard likes this.
  16. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I guess I learned from Mingus: More than a Fake Book. Treble clef will find you, ultimately. If you don't already read treble clef well, buying the Real Book in treble is a bit like buying expensive clothes that are too small that you "intend" to loose weight for. Not a bad idea IF IT HAPPENS. If the treble reading doesn't take fast enough then you won't be expanding your rep. either. The advice to buy a treble clef book is well intentioned but bad advice.

    I started with a treble book - bass clef books were harder to find. I read fluently in all three clefs. My friend was killed in a bike accident years ago and left me his sheet music, in it was a bass clef book. Being a bass player, bass clef is still the most direct way to communicate pitch to me so I never open the treble book.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
    DrayMiles and Lee Moses like this.
  17. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Treble clef because you need to be able... I mean that’s what a fake book has always been: a melody line with chords over it. To my mind (get ready), transposed fake books are an abomination.

    You play an Eb instrument? You learn that clever trick of reading it as bass clef and adding three sharps. Bb you raise one step as you go.
  18. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I think it may come down to your stage of development. A treble clef version is a bit more versatile in that you can share the chart with others. But if you are learning to read, don't go treble clef first. Big Band charts aren't in treble clef, which is where i would do the majority of my reading. I have the bass clef version because i wanted to get better at reading bass clef. Also the book is mainly for my personal use, not for others to read off my stand. With all that said i totally agree that being able to read treble is a great skill to have.
  19. Nonsense.
  20. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I learned treble clef first in grade school and bass clef came later when I briefly studied organ and of course took up the bass. So I read as well in both as long as I pay attention to the clef when someone hands me a chart :whistle: The notes on treble clef are only one line off from bass clef, so transposing is pretty simple once you start working on it.

    The lines in treble clef are E G B D F (every good boy deserves favor) and the spaces are F A C E.

    Bass clef lines are G B D F A and spaces are A C E G.

    In both clefs A, C and E are on spaces within the staff, they are just shifted down in bass clef.

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