Real Book

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The Real Book is a collection of transcribed jazz compositions and is also known as the "Bible of Jazz ". The various editions of the Real Book contain lead sheets for numerous jazz standards . A number of different editions have appeared since the 1970s, differing in terms of content as well as quality, their loyalty to the work and their copyright status. Such collections are called a fakebook. The concept of the fakebook is much older than the real book, which however is the most common representative.


The first Real Book was written in the 1970s at Berklee College of Music , where bassist Steve Swallow and pianist Paul Bley, with the help of many students, created a collection of transcribed jazz compositions. It mainly includes pieces from the circle of these two musicians, but also many other jazz standards and pop songs. The first two editions were mostly handwritten, only the third edition was created using typefaces and characters.

The concept of the Real Book was very well received in the jazz scene, so that the first editions were in great demand for a long time and could hardly be found. A special feature of the Real Book is that it is usually available in three transpositions (C, E [Es] and B [B]) as well as in a vocal version and can also be used by musicians who play a transposing instrument . This has led to the fact that the Real Book has become the indispensable basis for many sessions, as the announcement of a specific page from the book is sufficient to determine the next piece of music.


The collection in the original Real Book was created without taking copyright issues into account; the distribution of which was and is therefore illegal beyond the narrower personal framework. The composers of the recorded pieces were in no way compensated (although behind closed doors the view is expressed that the inclusion of a composer in the Real Book is in a certain sense an “accolade”, for which it is worthwhile to receive some royalties After all, this enables other musicians to perform a piece, which can lead to a right to royalties).

The Real Book has been revised several times over the years, so the sixth version is up-to-date today, which no longer contains any copyright infringements and can therefore be legally acquired and listed. In addition, some bugs that were in previous versions have been fixed.

Sher Music's New Real Book was soon published . This compilation was created with the consent of the respective rights holder and therefore sticks to the original compositions (the laborious transcription could in many cases be avoided if the composer provided his original sheet music). The print quality has also improved significantly with this edition. The typography used has now become a kind of factual standard for notes in the field of jazz.


Since the term Real Book has developed into a generic name, it is used by many other publishers to name a compilation of transcribed pieces. For example, there is also the Latin Real Book, the All-Jazz Real Book, the Real Jazz Standards Fake Book and many more.

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