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What are Real Books?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Icarus26, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. Hey TBers. On my trip to San Francisco State University (Yes i got accepted! HAHA), i met with a bassist from the college. I plan on majoring on music since i feel that i'm not passionate about anything else. Now i know i have to be cautious since being a musician may not be the most secure job, i understand all of that.

    But back to the subject at hand, the bassist i met with suggested that i get a Real Book to help me practice. I have no clue what this is, so if anyone could tell me, i'd appreciate it. I did a search, but it just talks about legal and illegal issues...so i need some clarity on what it actually is.
  2. thirtypoint87


    Feb 9, 2004
    Manager/Repairman: Music-Go-Round
    Ok, here goes..... "Fake Books" are collections of songs reduced to their minimum: chords, melody, the basic form. Fake books are notoriously inaccurate and, as the story goes, some students at Berklee (?) got together and figured out the correct versions of a big stack of jazz standards and put them together in a hand-notated Real Book.

    Due to copyrights being owned by lots of various companies, there was no chance that this book could be published, so the only way to get a "real" Real Book is to get a pirated xerox copy of one.

    In recent years, publisher Hal Leonard was able to get/license the rights to the songs and has published a Real Book that is actually pretty good.
  3. jefkritz


    Oct 20, 2007
    iowa city, IA
    a real book is any book that isn't fake.

    ...but seriously though, it's a big book of jazz standards. there are a bunch of them, though the first book is the standard one. they have the chord changes and melody (and occasionally other parts) to tons of songs.

    edit: dang, beat me to it. and with a better answer...
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    The idea was originally that you should know all the Jazz standards and be able to play them at the drop of a hat - but then people started putting together "Fake Books" so you could fake your way through these tunes as if you actually knew them!

    These were illegal - but when they started producing better legal versions - then Real is the Opposite of Fake!! :p
  5. synaesthesia


    Apr 13, 2004
    A 'fake' book is a binder of lead sheets with melodies and chords, enough to improvise a performance on the tunes. Several of these breached proper copyright, hence 'fake' covers some of that, but it refers more to the idea that you can 'fake' or busk your way through a tune, with just the melody and the basic chords.

    A 'real' book, accounts for the proper copyright - but it is still a binder of lead sheets of tunes written out with melodies and basic chords, over which you can improvise or 'fake' or busk a performance of the tune.

    The A section of the melody is often also referred to as the 'head'.
  6. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    OK, no, that's not the definition of "real book" and "fake book", there's been a big confusion here of what exactly they mean.

    Fake book is exactly what people have described them to be - a book or binder of lead sheets that people can use to "fake" a tunes performance that they don't know. Historically, most of these were illegal because they didn't pay royalties to the artists, and even if they were legal somehow, they were all miserably written with poor copying and incorrect melodies and chord-changes. In the 1970's around Berklee there was a group of faculty members and students including Steve Swallow and John Scofield that put together a fake book for student use that was better than the garbage around at the time. They called it the "Real Book" as a word play on the "fake book", and that became the product name for their fake book. It became wildly successful not just as Berklee and around Boston, but all across the country, but still was an illegal "fakebook" that you had to buy under the counter at music stores. Virtually every music store had them, but you had to ask a certain way to get them. This was up until a few years ago.

    Now sheet music publishers obviously wanted to get in on the "brand name" of "Real Book", and so began publishing fake books with titles like The New Real Book, and The Jazz Real Book, and things like that, which is probably why people are confused with the difference between fake book and Real book. The original Real Book was illegal, and so nobody could really claim copyright infringement. Hal Leonard, however, in a deal with music publishers, decided to go out and publish a LEGAL version of the original Real Book, complete with the same iconic binding and printing, and most of the exact same tune selection, and even called their version "Real Book sixth edition" in homage to the 5th edition that the illegal Real Book was on. This effectively ended the illegal printing of the old Real Books because the legal Real Book was cheaper, cleaner, more accurate, and more available. So now you have the legal Real Book (volumes I-III) as well as Sher Publishings' New Real Book (volumes I-III) and a variety of others, all of which are titles of FAKE BOOKS.

    Get the difference?
  7. Lichtaffen


    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Where could I get the last edition of the illegal one? I like the style it is written in and the simplicity much better than the "new" real book I have. Plus, it has a certain nostalgia for me. I live near Boston, by the way.
  8. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    I would recommend a book that is a good intro to the Real Books, it is called the "REAL EASY BOOK." There are at least two volumes. Start with Volume 1.

    Real Books come in a variety of clefs and transpositions. Be sure you are getting one that is in C, and then pick treble or bass clef. In all honesty, I recommend treble clef.

    I can read any clef, but having treble means others (guitarists, pianists, flutist, vocalists, vibes, etc.) will be comfortable with it, since it is the same one they use.

    For transposers, at least they won't have to sweat a clef change when they transpose, and for those that use clefs when transposing, you don't need to worry about them, because they are about 500 miles ahead of most players.
  9. guizzy


    Nov 17, 2008
    Well, as you mention it, it's illegal, so I won't give you any direct answer other than I'm pretty sure I've seen it floating around on the web somewhere.

    If you want a physical copy, well, it's been made pretty much irrelevant by the legal ones and although some musicians still swear only by the old ones (some songs couldn't be licenced for the legal ones, and some musicians got used to the mistakes of the older versions) so I doubt you're going to find it in music stores anymore. Your best bet would be buying it off (or photocopying it) directly from a musician who has it.
  10. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Well, there is a "New Real Book," which I believe is published by Chuck Sher, and the "Real Book, Sixth Edition," which is the successor to the original, illegal "Real Book." Which one is it that you dislike? The "Real Book, Sixth Edition" is pretty similar to the original Real Book in terms of simplicity of presentation, although the tune selection is a little different and some of the mistakes in the earlier Real Books have been corrected.
  11. PocketGroove82


    Oct 18, 2006
    There is a small music store in Allston, Mass (right off the green line) that used to sell the illegal one under the table. They sold me mine prob. 6-7 years ago.

    There is some downloadable file that you can find on the web that has pdfs of 15 different "real books" in numerous styles...vocal, latin, dixie. etc etc.
    If you find that, then you can take the PDFs to a copy shop and have them print/bind whichever book you want.

  12. Vakmere


    Sep 6, 2007
    +1 HaVIC5, when I was at Berklee in 80-82 we had fun with the staff putting the correct voicings in over the published ones. Penciled in of course along with all the harmony analysis arows-brackets-roman numerals-and and occasional female dorm room number.
  13. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Congratualtions!!! Are you doing double bass AND electric bass?

    I should have said that before. I think you will love it. It's not easy, but it is very worthwhile. I may be a bit prejudiced, as I had the honor of teaching theory there for a year back in 2000-2001.

    My advice (even though you didn't ask) is:

    1) Push yourself to do ALL the work your professors assign. However, don't overload yourself with difficult music and non-music courses during the first year and a half. Take your time. You will need to discover how to meet the demands of being a music major without them overwhelming you. It is hard.

    2) Sing in the choir.

    3) Open your mind to ALL of Jazz and Classical music, and don't look down on music education.

    4) Work very hard on your keyboard skills. Piano skill will save your bacon a million times from now on. Really. No, really!

    5) Don't get behind in any classes, especially ear training and written theory. If you need help, ask for it. If you don't get help, it is your fault--so be the squeaky wheel! :hyper:

    6) When you do get behind (LOL), go to your instructor at once! They will help you, but not if you wait. If you wait...Nope, you don't want to know what happens then...:crying:

    7) Go to the SF Opera, the SF Symphony, and Yoshi's as often as you can.

    8) Congratulate yourself. You will be living in the greatest musical city in the United States, besides New Orleans, that is...:D

    Seriously, there are so many bands, gigs, etc. You are so fortunate. If others knew the kind of opportunities you will have to get together with other players, they would be really stunned and amazed. :D
  14. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Clearly, your questions have been answered.

    Can I suggest something with respect to college? Make sure you study something aside from music - minor in business or computer science - - it's good to have a fall-back when you can't get a gig.
  15. Harry has a good idea.

    Double major in Music and something else... Computer Science (or something IT related) is a great idea. That way you have a flexible resume and you get some skills that you can use in the music world. Worst comes to worst you can have an IT job and gig at night. Best case, you find a job working in the IT industry using you music background. Either way... you win.

    Sorry to sound like your Dad... but I am a 36 year old part-time college student... you don't want to go back to school at my age. It sucks.:bawl:
  16. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Gentlemen, this is good and kindly advice. However, music is a terrifically broad education. It can and will include a significant amount of writing, research, computer usage (including notation and recording software), history, language, and of course all the other general courses in Math, Science, Literature, Political Science, Languages, etc.

    I think a serious music student at a University such as SFSU can acquire a truly broad and thorough Liberal Arts education simply by meeting the degree requirements for a Bachelor of Arts in Music, Bachelor of Music, or Bachelor of Science in Music Education. These are all quite different, though each worthwhile.

    That last one is actually pretty significantly different. Getting a Music Ed. degree is killer hard, but worth it, IMHO. There is a very serious shortage of certified music teachers (I am one). If a young person gets such a degree (it is hard to do), they can pretty much walk into a good paying (summers off) teaching job. Wait kids---it is hard work, so think twice. :D

    However, a B.A. or B.M. in music earned at a University like SFSU, are still great educations, as good IMHO, as any Liberal Arts degree, such as History, English, Political Science, etc. Also, a music degree prepares you for grad. work in music if you want to become an academic (heaven forefend), or better yet, go back and get certified as a public school music teacher. Rock will soon triumph there, too, IMHO.

    Finally, music study is totally demanding. Way more than most degrees. Those who survive to graduation will find their way, what ever it may be. Trust them.
  17. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    What I find rather insulting is the insistence of guidance counselors and dispensers of "wisdom" everywhere that if you want to major in music it is necessary to get a degree in a secondary field because music is considered "less valid" or "less practical". This advice is never given to those who study History, Literature, Foreign Languages, Philosophy, Political Science, or any of the humanities, just music. It is often times looked on as being a program of study that is full of "fluff," and most guidance counselors at state universities are completely unaware of the amount of work required for a typical 4-year music program. Many times music classes are 2 credits instead of the normal 3 so as to have enough material covered in the limited allotment of credit hours they need for a full-fledged Bachelor of Music curriculum. As far as I know, no other major in any other field of study is like that on the undergraduate level.
  18. In a few words:

    "Jazz player's Bible."

    ... Well, thats what my teacher explained it to me ass

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