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Using The Real Book

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by yor123, May 6, 2003.

  1. yor123


    Mar 29, 2001
    New Orleans
    I am confused on how to use The Real Book. As I listen to different artists' recordings and look at The Real Book's charts, I am having great difficultly keeping my place, so to speak. Is there a certain format that I can follow? I have a couple of Abersold Books which are easy to follow. They show where the different phrases stop, how often they repeat, where the bridge begins, etc. I can't seem to find similar clues in The Real Book- just a bunch of chords written over bars!

    Any suggestions or links that break down The Real Book format?

  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Are we talking about the Sher Real Books? I've never had any problem with using these and see no real difference to the Aebersold books? :confused:

    I suppose the only difference is that the Aebersold books come with recordings that match exactly - whereas if you're trying to match recordings of tunes to what is in the Real Book, then you are probably going to be put off, as Jazz artists will change everything and improvise - that's what it's all about! ;)
  3. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    It looks like a bunch of chords written over bars because you don't know anything about the tunes the melody, the harmony or the form. The most common song forms are 12 bars(blues), 16 bars(some blues), 32 bars(AABA). AABA refers to a song with 8 bar sections, the A sections are at times similiar except for the last couple of bars leading to the B or bridge section which is different.

    Want to get totally confused, check out the book that has the verses to the standards.
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Phil, I'm thinking that deciphering the form may be what yor123's problem is. Is that what you're talking about yor123? Where's the bridge, what does the funny-looking coda sign mean, etc? That's not always obvious...

    It's been so long since I worked with a black market book that I can't really remember 'em too well. I've found the Sher books to be quite good, certainly good enough.
  5. yor123


    Mar 29, 2001
    New Orleans
    Hey guys,

    Thanks for the replys. You are exacty right. I can't easily figure out where is the bridge, coda, etc . I don't know where these sheets came from. A friend copied them for me. I assumed The Real Book, but I don't know. I did find a couple of web sites which have the chord progressions for every bar. If the tune is 32 bars, there are 32 chords written out. I can follow that. I am going to be meeting with my instructor soon. He'll hopefully help me out. I posted the question figuring that somone else had encounted this problem.

    The Abersold books that I have have complete bass lines written out along with the one page sheets. The one page sheets have four to eight bars with repeat signs, and in some cases a bridge section and a coda section. It also indicates how many times to repeat the whole thing in order to play along with the CD. By following along with the written out bass lines, it has helped me understand the format that these sheets are in. I guess what makes the transition from Abersold to Real Book difficult is that the various recordings that I have don't follow the charts like the Abersold play along CD does. I suppose that is where a good ear comes in.
  6. I would recomend learning to play the melody as written in the book so that way your ears will help you understand the chart in relation to the recordings you are listening to. If your only counting and looking at the changes you'll have a harder time understanding what's happening. Besides learning the melodies to the tunes you are playing can only help. ;)
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    That's what I was saying - Jazz Musicians are constantly changing and re-inventing tunes - you wouldn't expect a Jazz group to play anything "straight" as it appeared in the Real Book. You very much need to have a good ear and go where the music goes - you need to hear what is happening.

    But the more tunes you play with other people, the easier it becomes - the best way to get better at this is to play different tunes with other people. Get out there and jam! ;)
  8. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Hey, he wrote in asking about reading the charts. So we go ahead and advise him to learn the melody and to use his ears.

    The chart thing can be confusing, yor123. You'll have a much easier time of it if you can work with your teacher or some more experienced musicians.

    Don't be shy about it. On the side I've been playing some old jazz ballads with a few friends, and we've all got different charts and books. There are some tunes where three charts agree on key, melody, chords, but where each chart present the same form differently. Some use repeats, some don't. Some use codas, some don't. Some document their usage, some don't.

    You just gotta get used to the different ways it's done. Try and be amused about the variety of approaches. Once you've learned and played enough tunes, you won't have trouble with this.
  9. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    hey, try to break everything down into 8 bar phrases if not a blues.

    If it is the real book, (I guess no trademark, right?)
    then they have double bar lines at most points in the form.

    If you can't follow the form very well, try to follow with your eyes while you listen to the songs, or try counting the form while you listen, to be more aware of how the song goes. If you are just starting out, you might want to pick a couple easier favorite standards, get a bunch of different versoins, and sit down to figure out why they don't seem to fit the book. some can seem quite confusing, like Mile's My funny Valentine 1964 concerts- but they do actually follow the forms, it's just easy to get distracted by all the things going on.

    Also, try to follow forms when you go to hear other jazz bands, see if you can fidure out what they are playing.

    Also, a really good book about what happens in forms is called Hearin the Changes, I forget who wrote it. It is a book meant to help you hear changes, but it also explains what to expect, and which patterns tend to repeat themselves.

    good luck. remember a lot of charts are questionable too, so you really have to combine your listening skills with all your other skills.
  10. "Hey, he wrote in asking about reading the charts. So we go ahead and advise him to learn the melody and to use his ears."

    I suggested learning the melody to a tune because it's something we all have to do at some point anyway. I also figured if he was a little more fimilar with the tunes melody he would have a reference point to relate what is happening to any other version of that tune. Personally, I have a much easier time relating to a tune when I know the melody and changes without looking at a chart.
  11. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Absolutely, mike da mook. Couldn't agree more.
  12. yor123


    Mar 29, 2001
    New Orleans
    Thanks to all of you for your advice. Today I sat down with chart for "Fly me to the moon". It is a song that I know the melody to very well. Sinatra's version on "The Very Good Years" followed the chart very closely. I started to develop my line by playing roots for each chord then adding chord tones, scale tones, and chromatics to fill out each bar. I realize that it is not a tough song, but it was FUN to write something original and COMPLETE.

  13. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Gregg, writing out lines can be a helpful exercise and it is a joy to make sense out of something which was unclear. But keep your eye on the big picture: As jazz musicians our ultimate goal is to respond to the music that is going on around us at the moment. I'd caution you against getting too wrapped up in 'fitting the xyz lick in here' -- the same energy can be applied to seeing how and why Mr. X fit the xyz lick in where he did.

    Play on!
  14. I would also suggest that if you have a friend who plays keyboard or guitar and understands real book charts you get together with them and play through the charts in a duo setting. Then when you get to a spot that you're unsure of just ask ok what the hell just happened. Just having someone you can sit down and play with plus ask questions is always helpful. But whatever happens, don't be discouraged, it all begins to make sense the more you do it.
  15. This thread is similar to the "Hearing Chord Changes" thread. I'm really having trouble trying to improve in improvising bass lines to standards with the Sher Real Books, simply because I'm still a relative beginner. The Aebersold series is more helpful to get the sense of the form of the tune, because you can turn off the bass and improvise your own lines to it, while following the form exactly as specified in the books. However, you can't change chords, which musicians do on the bandstand. So I find the "Band in the Box" program helpful, because you can make changes in the chords and play along with the basic form.

    The other thing I think is helpful about Band in the Box is that you can suddenly change the key and try improvising bass lines to the same tune in different keys, which also is typical of the bandstand situation, when a singer calls the tune in a different key from its usual key. Trying to play the tune in different keys also helps to get an inner sense of the form of the tune. However, I'm not very good at doing this at this point.

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