Real Book Players

Here's a nice article about NOT being a real book player.

Honestly if you don't mind. To me a realbook is the sign of one of a few things.

1. A pro doesn't know a tune and he's reading it because he has to.
2. It's a student who doesn't know enough tunes. (that's fine).
3. It's an amateur. Also fine.

Anyway this article sums it up perfectly!

Access: Anonymous


Tony, what do you think about all the realbook apps out there? I see these on bandstands a lot more than physical realbooks these days. They seem worse in a way because they often don't have the melodies. I notice rhythm section players using these "changes charts" a lot, even good players on tunes you might think they should know. Because of this I think in the future there will be much fewer great bass players, pianists, guitarists, etc. who can get through a large number of tunes or learn the chords to a tune on the spot without the crutch.


I agree with all was said, and i would add 2 another reasons for not to be a real book player.
First, If you come on a gig, open the real book and play all the tunes reading, that means you didn't prepare nothing at all for this gig, and it's exactly what the venue's owner and audience will understand (they are not all stupid...)....
2 - the real book (when there's no mistake) only gives one way to harmonize a tune, when in fact every of the great players who have already play this tune used his/her own harmonization. Playing only the real book changes put you automatically in the no-great-player community...
And that shows off your lack of curiosity...
My 2 cents

Hi everybody,
I have been pretty low profile due to a busy life and not visiting the vibes workshop has been a bummer. When I was younger I was quite stressed on not knowing enough tunes via from memory. Now I'm happy to play again :-) because I am a fulltime plus music educator, with other musical goals (i.e. composing, conducting many concerts and my newest passion: composing! In addition, a ½ your old son that is the best. Therefore, I realized I've made choices in my life that puts me "in the amateur category" as suggested by a few of these readers.
Disclaimer: I don't mean to bat the hornets nest, but I have suffered from "do you know enough tunes from memory for too long" now I let music speaks for itself. By the way, I have seen Gary Burton play with a music stand in front of him and this was a few decades ago.
if a musician judges me (or audience) because I'm using my surface and music apps, (all my lead sheets are PDF with the melody, thankfully ) but I have practiced and strived to be as musical as I can be. That is the artistic end result. Even though he or she doesn't think I am worthy... And perhaps the audience... That is too bad... Technology is changing the way we do things... It's wonderful that we have vibes workshop :-) This used to be a very tough topic because if we did a blindfold test and asked how the musicians sounded and the end result was musical. we met are goal. BUT we said; "they were reading" oh no are they no longer musical? if you're communicating/performing with the band and you notice audience members engaging isn't that enough?
I have a gig at the end of this month and will be reading tunes because I just don't have the time to memorize all of them and I'm the leader of the gig. I'm not getting paid which is fine because it is a school event but will be paying (via school account :-) rhythm players. Sadly, the town I live and has a little music scene,as ascap has been a stronghold and you can only play originals... At the restaurant's, seriously.
Tony makes total sense when you memorize a tune your auditory senses increased greatly. I strive to do that and respect that all musicians know their weaknesses, but we also need to do things that help let's connect the dots. For instance, I have been dictating this blog (thanks technology as I have a disease that unfortunately is affecting my nervous system.. )
My writing is also amateur :-) - jj it'soh well life is too short..i will just play free! ha ha

Is the music in your head or is your head in the music ? This is the question posed to us in conducting class when I was in music school. Good question I think. Is your head buried in the chart ? Or do you know the tune ? When I first started playing out, the comment I usually got was 'get rid of the music stand in front of you', or 'just play what you know', ' you don't need the sheet music. So now I only play what I know from memory. If I need the chart, it had to have been a request and I just didn't know the tune. I see a lot of folks using their ipads on stage. Man that looks bad. That's no time to be staring at your box. My two cents for the day.

how do they sound when they have their ipads in front of them? so many players play so many of styles of music, not just jazz (one of my favs)therefore dedicating your life to know tunes.. is great, but some have to other stuff to make ends meet. again we stem on what we should do, but was is the norm..if i am not getting paid and don't 100 tunes i will look at "Bernies tune" or whatever..let the art speak..not the visual.

I'm the number two guy. i don't know enough tunes and don't have many friends who like jazz.

There are many aesthetic approaches to creating music. Certainly, even within jazz, there is a long history of written arrangements and performers who had paper on stage with them. I didn't feel the author was talking about them so much. The Real book is a "Fake book" and is so named because it gives you just enough info to fake your way through a tune you don't know.

That is fine. All the reasons Tony lists are good reasons to have a Real Book on stage.

My teachers used to give me a very excellent reason to NOT do so. They taught me that goal was to play well. They also taught me that one can play any tune well or poorly; the overall quality of the performance did not reflect the difficulty of the tune.

In short, they taught that jazz was not like Olympic diving where a final "score" was derived from a formula that starts with the difficulty of the dive and factors in the execution. The worth of a musical performance was, in their opinion, only to be judged by how well it met the artistic standards of the particular genre being met in the performance.

Yes, in some forms of jazz such as bebop and post bop, the complexity was part of that, but it was always what you did with it that mattered. Just getting by on a super challenging or fast tune doesn't meet the bar compared with somebody who totally killed it on a medium tempo blues.

In the end, my teachers taught me to practice everything, but perform material I knew well enough to play well. If and when I follow their advice, I play better and that is the goal. I don't need a Real Book to play the tunes I know.

Bottom line, any pro has to be able to do it and should certainly know what is in there because others you work with will play the tunes that way (it is now very much a standard)... Even when it is awkward or outright wrong. It is more important to be together that correct often, so expecting the occasional wierd key, missing measures, wrong changes or melody is knowledge all pros should have.

And if you don't... Put up your Real Book and admit it or play a different tune you know. There are very few really bad tunes if you do something with them.

That's my two cents. :)

Wonderful points, happy practicing and performing :-)

As a college student working towards a degree in music education, I often feel like I don't have as much time as I would like to learn tunes, and when I do, I find myself stuck in the real book unless I spend a lot of time at the piano and even then I may only remember the changes if I play the same voicings for quite a while. I certainly always need the book at gigs just to be able to trust myself, and because my list of tunes I really really know is very short. I definitely plan on trying to learn as much as I can over this summer, which should be easier as I've finally acquired my own instrument.

listen to them, memorize the words, sing along with them. work on translating the work to your ears. you know you hear the melody and play it from your ears mostly. know what i mean? maybe you do it already.

I think it depends on the situation. Any musician who works a lot will have to rely on reading at some point in their life. It would be impossible to get on a gig playing all original music and have it all memorized if you were doing that multiple times a week with different projects. I think the key here is the extent to which you rely on reading.

For example, I'll look at a chart at times, even to a standard because maybe I forgot part of the melody on the bridge or something. Or perhaps I haven't played it in awhile. But many times, you get into the blowing and you're not looking anymore because it comes back to you.

I see this a lot. Often times, I'll hand someone a chart to my tune, and we'll get about 3 choruses in and they're not looking anymore. It's because they've spent time on the process of internalizing so many songs, that they can pick up form and harmonic motion really quickly.

Then you have the opposite; where someone has their head buried in a real book chart of Autumn Leaves (which there is nothing wrong with this if you're learning). I think in formative stages of memorization, it's best to take simple tunes and put them in different keys. Hearing them that way expands your sense of harmony immensely.

I think the goal is to get familiar with enough tunes so you can get to the point where you don't have to keep the eyes on the chart the whole time. If you have enough knowledge of a body of tunes, then you can fake through an unfamiliar tune with no chart because you have a sense of where things generally go.

Real books and and now the real book Apps to me can be both usefull and a crutch. one of my early mistakes as a player was to buy a fakebook and learn tunes from the page NOT the record. This habit was broken !!!! but what id did is improve my reading especially ready lead sheets and bop tunes, so that when someone put a chart in front of me to sight read on a gig i could read it down and make sense of it after a couple times thru the piece. then the mind and memory started to memorize the piece and listen so i was off the page and only glancing at it as a guide. As a pro .. of course there are tunes i dont know and yes a quick look comes in super handy .. but i do not allow myself to be shackled to the page ... This is the most important part of real books .. its like cliff notes .. its a guide to further discovery ... NOT the end all to end all ... EAR and LISTENing are the MOST important ... Balance is key!!!