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The Real Books

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by IamGroot, Nov 16, 2018.

  1. Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  2. Great description.
  3. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    I find it's real helpful when a tune is called that I've heard a thousand times but never played, to be able to look at the changes once or twice. At that point I usually have no trouble looking away or closing my eyes and playing. At this time in my life I've probably heard all the common jam session tunes a thousand times, or at least tunes with the same harmonic content (as in, the first A section is like so and so, the second A goes to the bridge a little different, the bridge is like a different tune, and so on.), so I don't really have to stay glued to the book.

    So I kind of disagree that "the book should be closed" but I also kind of agree.

    Frankly, unless one is both a full-time practitioner of one and only one style and genre, or a prodigy of eidetic memory, there's just too much music. By the time I memorize all the typical bluegrass tunes, Trad tunes, swing tunes, bebop tunes, hard bop tunes, modal tunes, rock and roll tunes, country tunes; there's just too darn much music. I don't accept that you can't be permitted to be a musician unless you have 10,000 tunes committed to memory.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    good stuff! (and so are the real books!)

    i've forgotten more music than i can spontaneously recall (age?), and i'm writing/arranging for one of my bands, so: i'm in the position of losing what i'm not regularly using = if i was called for a 'real book gig', i'm sure i'd actually take it with me, these days, whether i needed it or not!

    accuracy? well, it's accurate enough that it can't stop the ensemble from playing well. :D
  5. I play all sorts of jam sessions , mostly blues and rock now, and just about everything gets called. I memorize a lot, but its more about being able to remember the song and play by ear. I would need to brush up on my real book if i went to a jazz jam.

    Some jazz stds need memorization. But the list is under 150. If someone called Fly Me to the Moon, I am sure a lot of folks could do that by ear.
    DrayMiles likes this.
  6. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    If I ever host a jam session, then I'll bill it as a Real Book session. I'd even list a few tunes people can prepare in case there is any fear of getting started. We can do them at the start of the jam session.

    I remember my first jam session, I was scared out of my head to get up and play because a) I didn't know if it was going to be an ego-fest on the part of the jam organizer and other musicians b) I didn't know what to expect. I think we have hard enough time keeping jazz alive to be throwing curves at people who are attracted to it.

    I didn't go up at that jam session.

    Funny, at my first jam session where I did choose to perform, a blues session, I found it relatively easy. The organizer called simple blues songs. I pulled out Cantalope Island (since the guy was open to playing something different) and everyone was asking me how to solo over it. The drummer, a past drummer in one of my groups screamed "Who's jammin' who???" when I pulled out my chart. But everyone was somewhat fascinated with tunes that were from the non-blues genre.

    This led to me pulling out Watermelon Man, Comin' home baby, Mr. PC and a bunch of other easy songs. Everyone was asking questions about how to solo over them. And this was one of the busy, well-known blues bands in our area. It really opened my eyes.

    Also interesting was that I took my piccolo bass. NO ONE GOT IT. They kept putting me up there as the bass player even after I explained it wasn't a low-end bass -- it was a solo instrument and tuned an octave higher. I was prepared for this and used my octaver the whole time to hold down low end.

    Anyway, I digress.

    My style isn't to try to put people down. it's to create a supportive environment where people can learn. Real Books will likely always be welcome at any jam session I initiate or attend.
    MDrost1, Nashrakh and Steven Ayres like this.
  7. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I think they are great study tools. As a full time free improvisor I value the luxury of the score, especially for music I don't REALLY care about that much which is most standards. I like the historical aspect of them.
    The last time I did standards in public it was list of tunes I didn't know and I just used the lyrics.
    I don't think Real Book versions are any more or less valid than recorded versions - of course when the Real Book states the recorded version and there is a conflict, of course right is right. The Real book is one of the ways this music has been recorded/preserved.
    If you really want to play standards at a high level in performance, the Real Book is just a stepping stone and you are best off moving to learning tunes from recordings or the more reliable transcriptions that are out there.
    Like anything, it can be a crutch.
    It is great tool if you don't have a lot of standard forms down. Getting a lot of these melodies under your fingers is also great.
    I am not a fan of trying to multi-task when learning music. I would separate ear training/transcription exercises as well as things like reading treble clef from learning a bunch of songs.

    Also, I think there is something to be said for tunes we want to learn top to bottom and tunes we just want to be able to make solid bass line through.
    Since the bass part is so often improvised and ephemeral, learning by ear is not a super efficient way to deal with songs you just want to be able to play your part on. Seeing the chords and melody on a chart is a big help at that point.
    MDrost1, Steve Boisen and DrayMiles like this.
  8. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    If it’s a jam, why not have options? If it’s a pro gig, then you have most probably rehearsed the tunes enough to not need written music. Let people learn and enjoy playing... book or not... IMO.
    Stages of learning and plateaus...
    MDrost1 likes this.
  9. I don’t think it should matter, if you’re cutting the gig.

    In my early days starting out, the Real Book represented instant access to jazz standards I had either never played, or hadn’t played enough to memorize yet. It was my secret pass to high profile paying pickup gigs, that I, obviously, didn’t yet have the experience to qualify for on my own.

    To this day it’s my safety net. It’s always open to the chart at hand, in case I just can’t remember the key, the next chord, or the bridge, or the coda, or the roadmap. Also, for those times a song gets called that I’ve never played before.

    But I understand to some it does matter. To the gentried elite who have memorized a century of music, we are considered cheaters who take shortcuts to glory we haven’t paid the dues for. I can even understand the earned sense of snobbery they exude, due to the time they have put in.

    But I have a saying for situations like this: “If you’re the best musician in town, and you refuse to play with lesser musicians, then you will never have a gig.”
    PauFerro, Dabndug and Winoman like this.
  10. Bingo
    PauFerro likes this.
  11. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I think the whole "burn your Real Book" movement was started by instrumentalists who have the primary composition elements included if they transcribe their part - the pianist will be playing the chords to song, maybe even the melody. When you transcribe a bass line, you are normally getting THAT bass player's bass line. You are expected to come up with your own bass line. Of course, it is good to learn all the parts to a song by ear, still, if we do this for every song we want to play it gets beyond "educational" and onto being tedious. There is enough just basic instrumental study just to have basic facility and intonation to keep us busy. I think charts for tunes we are going to play once or twice in our life are not only fine but an intelligent choice.

    When this method of improvising on common tunes was invented there were far less genre separations, radio stations played the same pop songs. These songs were everywhere. At this point, radio itself is pretty uncommon. Cafes will often have their own Spotify playlists. "Pop" is cut up into so many genres that common ground is actually very uncommon anymore. I am 46, at no time in my life were these songs anywhere I'd hear them over and over.
    This idea that Coltrane or whoever was putting on records and learning these songs is probably not accurate.
    They were in the air, and most people could not only learn them by ear, but by ear FROM MEMORY!
    In my case, I am interested in playing very little of the music I've been subjected to in that way. Still, most of the music I have learned by ear was like that.
    Since jazz formed around these songs they are historically important. Understanding the basic structures - even for free players is crucial. The Real Book is great tool for part of this process.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  12. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Only one quibble with the video: He says to pour coffee on it. Wrong. And don't burn it either. Instead rip the covers off and let the book shrink as you lose pages from the front and the back over time.
    damonsmith, IamGroot and PauFerro like this.
  13. That sounds like my first Vol. 1. I have three copies of Vol 1 including the Hal Leonard version which I call the fake real book.
  14. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I have a whole bunch of them. The ones I use at gigs are a complete wreck. I have a rule now that I copy the pages I need and take THOSE to the gig.

    I have to confess, there is room for improvement in the real books construction. The Real Easy Book is well constructed. I have taken those to many, many gigs and they are in good shape. But give the book a comb binding with sharp edges and bursting at the seams pages, and you get a wreck of a book after a couple gigs. The covers are also not very durable, so they rip fast.

    That's one reason I like the Today's Jazz Book concept -- making it almost purely electronic allows you to print only the pages you need. Also, for the printed copies I'm making, I'll never bind more pages than say, The Real Easy Book.

    @Scottgun I was surprised he poured coffee on it. Actually, a little shocked. I suppose the respect I have for the impact of the book makes it something I would never consider doing.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018

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