Real Book

The Real Book can refer to any of a number of popular jazz fake books, but is generally taken to refer to Volume 1 of a series transcribed and collated by students at Berklee College of Music during the 1970s.

Bassist Steve Swallow and pianist Paul Bley were additionally responsible for producing lead sheets for the book. This might explain why compositions by Swallow, Bley and others of their musical circle make up a large part of The Real Book, alongside standard songs and classic jazz compositions. Three editions of the Real Book were produced (where Vols. 1 and 2 are printed in characteristically 'rough' handwriting and transcription, the third one is typeset on a computer).

The Real Book has become the indispensable resource for all aspiring jazz musicians. Professional musicians, too, find it convenient to work from "the book", because it is available in different editions to suit Bb, Eb and concert-pitch instruments: a band leader can literally call out (page) numbers; experienced players can sightread any tunes they don't know.

The transcriptions in The Real Book are unlicensed - no royalties are paid to the artists whose songs appear in the book. As such the book is illegal; the copies of it used to be hard to find (this situation has been significantly ameliorated with the advent of the Internet). The New Real Book, also in 3 volumes, published by Sher Music, is a legal and somewhat more readily available modern alternative. The collection of tunes in it diverges from the original Real Book, but this edition offers some of the same songs, in new transcriptions and significantly better polygraphy.

Some other music publishers also apply the term "Real Book" to their own publications - for example, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music publishes The AB Real Book.

Foreword to The Real Book: Fifth Edition

The Real Book is the answer to the fake book. It is an alternative to the plethora of poorly designed, illegible, inaccurate, badly edited volumes which abound on the market today. The Real Book is extremely accurate, neat, and is designed, above all, for practical use, and every effort has been made to make it enjoyable to use.
Here are some of the salient features:

    • The book is professionally copied and meticulously checked for accuracy - in melody, harmony and rhythms.
    • Standards and other short forms are on wide spaced, 9 stave paper. All others are on double staff system with chords underneath for easy reading.
    • Form within each tune, in terms of both phrases and larger sections are clearly delineated and placed in obvious visual arrangement.
    • All two page tunes open to face one another
    • All standard type tunes remain true to their original harmonies with little or no reharmonization except for modern notation and in the case of some turnarounds. Many of the modern jazz tunes were take directly from the composers' own lead sheets or individually transcribed from their recordings.
    • Major jazz composers of the last 30 years are concentrated on, with special attention to the last decade.
    • Many standards and Broadway show tunes which have become part of the jazz repertoire vis-a-vis Bill Evans and others are included
    • While some commonly played tunes are absent from the book, many of the classics are here, including bop standards and a good helping of Duke Ellington masterpieces.
    • Special attention had been paid to the giants of the last 15 years or so - Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Mingus, and to the new wave of current writers - Carla Bley, Chick Corea, Mike Gibbs, Keith Jarrett, Steve Kuhn, Steve Swallow.
    • Complete transcriptions of many current album cuts, some as yet unreleased, complete with horn arrangements and written rhythm figures, are included.
    • The composer(s) of every tune is listed.
    • Wherever possible, one or more examples of jazz recordings of the tunes are listed. (The tunes are not necessarily taken from those particular sources, however).

The Real Book was painstakingly created because the editors care about music and want it to be well played and fun to play by you, the musician. "Enjoy!"</tt>

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