Best Jazz Real Book

If you’re a jazz musician, the term ‘real book’ is likely familiar to you. It refers to a compilation of lead sheets – simplified sheet music with melody lines and chord symbols – for hundreds of jazz standards. These books are essential tools for any jazz performer, serving as a reference guide during performances or practice sessions.

With so many real books on the market, it can be challenging to determine which one is the best fit for your needs. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of what we believe to be the best jazz real book available today.

Whether you’re an experienced professional or just starting in the world of jazz music, there’s bound to be something here that will help take your performance skills to the next level. So let’s dive right in!

What Is A Real Book And Why Is It Important For Jazz Musicians?

Ah, the real book. That magical tome that every jazz musician swears by – or at least used to before everything went digital.

For those of you who don’t know what a real book is, it’s essentially a compilation of lead sheets for jazz standards. Think of it as a cheat sheet for musicians looking to play and improvise over classic tunes.

Now, some might argue that using a real book is cheating – after all, shouldn’t jazz be about improvisation and spontaneity? But here’s the thing: even the greatest jazz musicians in history have relied on real books at some point in their careers.

Whether they were just starting out or trying to learn new material, having access to accurate lead sheets was crucial for developing their skills as performers and composers. So if you’re serious about playing jazz, you need to get yourself a good real book (or two…or three).

The History Of Real Books In Jazz Music

Real books have been a staple in the jazz musician’s toolkit since the 1970s. They contain lead sheets of popular jazz tunes, including their melodies, chord progressions, and sometimes even lyrics.

But where did these real books come from?

The term ‘real book’ originally referred to a specific illegal publication of lead sheets by Berklee College of Music students in the late 1960s. These students compiled transcriptions of songs they had learned in class into a spiral-bound volume that they called the Real Book.

From there, other musicians began creating their own versions of this book with additional tunes and variations on existing ones. The popularity of real books grew quickly among jazz musicians because it allowed them to easily access repertoire without having to memorize every tune or rely on recordings.

Criteria For Choosing The Best Jazz Real Book

When looking for the best jazz real book, there are a few criteria to keep in mind. First and foremost, accuracy is key. You want a book that has been transcribed correctly and includes all the necessary information such as chord changes, melodies, and lyrics.

It’s also important to consider the range of songs included in the book – does it cover a wide variety of styles and eras? A good jazz real book should have something for everyone.

Another factor to consider is the layout and organization of the book. Is it easy to read and navigate? Are the songs arranged alphabetically or by style? These may seem like minor details but can make a big difference in your experience using the book.

Ultimately, finding the best jazz real book comes down to personal preference and what works best for you as a musician.

When it comes to popular choices, however, one name often stands out: The Hal Leonard Real Book. This iconic collection of jazz standards has been around since the 1970s and is considered by many musicians to be an essential part of their repertoire.

Featuring over 400 songs with accurate transcriptions and detailed notation, The Hal Leonard Real Book covers everything from classic swing tunes to modern fusion pieces. Its user-friendly layout makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for, whether you’re practicing at home or performing on stage.

The Hal Leonard Real Book

I’m really interested in discussing the song list in The Hal Leonard Real Book and the notation standards used.

What do y’all think?

Song List

As one of the most popular and widely used jazz fake books, The Hal Leonard Real Book boasts an impressive song list that any aspiring jazz musician should be familiar with.

With over 400 songs ranging from classic standards to contemporary hits, this real book has become a staple in many musicians’ collections.

It includes timeless favorites like ‘Take the A Train’ by Duke Ellington and ‘Autumn Leaves’ by Joseph Kosma as well as more modern pieces like ‘Spain’ by Chick Corea and ‘Don’t Know Why’ by Norah Jones.

Additionally, it features compositions by some of the greatest jazz artists of all time such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk.

Overall, The Hal Leonard Real Book’s extensive song list makes it an invaluable resource for anyone looking to expand their repertoire or simply enjoy playing some of the best jazz tunes out there.

Notation Standards

Now that we’ve discussed the impressive song list of The Hal Leonard Real Book, it’s important to touch on the notation standards within its pages.

The book uses chord symbols and basic lead sheet notation to convey melody, harmony, and rhythm in a simple yet effective way.

However, it’s worth noting that some discrepancies may exist between different editions or transcriptions of certain songs.

As such, it’s always a good idea to cross-reference with other sources and use your own musicality to interpret the music accurately.

The New Real Book

As we’ve seen, The Hal Leonard Real Book is a beloved classic among jazz musicians.

However, there’s another real book that has gained popularity in recent years: The New Real Book.

Like its predecessor, The New Real Book features hundreds of jazz standards with accurate chord progressions and melodies.

What sets it apart is the inclusion of more modern tunes from contemporary jazz artists like John Scofield and Joshua Redman.

With multiple volumes available, The New Real Book offers an extensive collection for jazz players looking to expand their repertoire.

But what about those who want even more options? That’s where the Sher Music Co. Real Book comes in.

The Sher Music Co. Real Book

The Sher Music Co. Real Book is another popular jazz real book that has gained a lot of attention over the years. It contains over 400 songs and is known for its accuracy, making it a favorite among many professional musicians.

One unique feature of this real book is the inclusion of composer biographies and discographies, providing context and background information on each piece. Additionally, there are notes from the editors explaining any discrepancies between their version and other versions commonly found in other fake books.

These details make The Sher Music Co. Real Book a valuable resource for not only learning songs but also understanding their history and evolution within the jazz genre.

Some notable features of The Sher Music Co. Real Book include:

– High-quality paper and binding ensuring durability
– A spiral-bound format allowing for easy page turning during performances

Overall, The Sher Music Co. Real Book offers an excellent alternative to traditional fake books with its comprehensive approach to song selection, historical context, and thorough editing process.

Aspiring musicians looking to deepen their knowledge of jazz music will find this real book to be an invaluable addition to their collection.

Transition: Moving forward, let’s explore another widely used resource in the world of jazz music – the jazz fake book.

The Jazz Fake Book

As luck would have it, the Jazz Fake Book is widely considered to be one of the best jazz real books on the market. This comprehensive volume contains over 500 songs in lead sheet format, featuring classic jazz standards from artists such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

But what sets the Jazz Fake Book apart from other real books is its inclusion of lesser-known tunes and rarities that are not typically found in other collections. This makes it a valuable resource for both novice and experienced musicians looking to expand their repertoire and explore new sounds. And with its convenient spiral binding, the book lays flat on music stands for easy reading during performances or practice sessions.

| Song Title | Composer |
| — | — |
| All Blues | Miles Davis |
| Autumn Leaves | Joseph Kosma |
| Blue Bossa | Kenny Dorham |
| Giant Steps | John Coltrane |
| In A Sentimental Mood | Duke Ellington |

As you can see from this sample table, the Jazz Fake Book covers a wide range of classic jazz tunes that every musician should know. Whether you’re just starting out or are already an accomplished player, this collection has something to offer everyone. So if you’re looking for a reliable and comprehensive resource for your next gig or jam session, look no further than the Jazz Fake Book. But before making your final decision on which real book to purchase, let’s take a closer look at some factors to consider in order to choose the right one for you.

Conclusion: Which Real Book Is Right For You?

Ultimately, choosing the best jazz real book for you depends on your personal preferences and needs. If you’re a beginner or intermediate player looking to build your repertoire with classic standards, The Real Book is a great starting point. However, if you’re an experienced musician or performer who requires a more comprehensive collection of tunes, The New Real Book may be a better fit.

In addition to these two popular options, there are several other jazz fake books available that cater to different styles and eras of jazz music. Here are just a few examples:

– The Hal Leonard Jazz Play Along series provides sheet music and backing tracks for musicians looking to practice improvisation in various jazz styles.

– For those interested in Latin jazz, The Latin Real Book offers over 500 songs from artists such as Tito Puente and Astor Piazzolla.

– The Charlie Parker Omnibook contains transcriptions of famous solos by the legendary saxophonist.

– Finally, for those seeking a more modern approach to jazz composition, The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine provides detailed explanations of harmony and chord progressions used in contemporary jazz.

Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and there are many other real books out there worth exploring. Ultimately, take some time to research and consider your own musical goals before making a final decision on which one(s) to invest in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Any Online Resources That Provide Free Access To Jazz Real Books?

Did you know that there are actually a few online resources that provide free access to jazz real books?

Yes, you read it right. According to research, many websites offer these valuable materials for aspiring musicians and professionals alike without having to spend a single penny.

So if you’re looking for ways on how to enhance your music skills or simply want to expand your knowledge in the field of jazz, then checking out these sites can be an excellent start.

However, it’s still important to note that not all of them are reliable and accurate, so make sure to do some background checks before trusting any source blindly.

Can A Beginner Jazz Musician Use A Real Book To Learn How To Play Jazz Standards?

Yes, a beginner jazz musician can use a real book to learn how to play jazz standards.

Real books provide a convenient and accessible way for inexperienced musicians to familiarize themselves with the standard repertoire of jazz music.

However, it is important to note that while real books are useful tools, they are not meant to replace the development of one’s ear or understanding of harmony.

It is recommended that beginners also seek out instruction from experienced jazz musicians and develop their own personal style through practice and experimentation.

Are There Any Legal Concerns Regarding The Use Of Real Books In Jazz Performances?

Legal concerns regarding the use of real books in jazz performances are a common topic among musicians.

The issue stems from the fact that most real books, which contain lead sheets for jazz standards, are not legally licensed or authorized by their respective composers or publishers.

Therefore, using them in public performances without permission could potentially result in copyright infringement and legal consequences.

However, there are now officially licensed versions of real books available for purchase, providing a solution to this problem.

It’s important for aspiring jazz musicians to consider these legal implications when choosing their learning materials and repertoire for live performances.

How Are The Songs In A Real Book Arranged And Categorized?

How are the songs in a real book arranged and categorized?

Real books typically feature lead sheets for jazz standards, including melody lines, chord changes, and lyrics.

The songs are often organized alphabetically by title or composer, with indexes that allow users to search by key or genre.

Additionally, some real books may include supplementary material such as scales and modes, standard forms and progressions, and recommended listening lists for further study.

Overall, real books serve as essential tools for jazz musicians of all levels looking to expand their repertoire and hone their improvisational skills.

Are There Any Notable Differences Between Different Editions Of The Same Real Book?

When it comes to different editions of the same real book, there can be notable differences depending on the publisher and editor.

For example, the Hal Leonard Real Book Volume 1 is known for having more accurate chord changes compared to its previous edition, which contained some inaccuracies.

Additionally, certain songs may have been added or removed in different editions based on copyright issues or popularity.

It’s important for musicians to consider these differences when selecting a real book that best suits their needs and preferences.


In conclusion, for aspiring jazz musicians, a real book is an essential tool to have in their arsenal.

While there are online resources that offer free access to these books, it’s important to ensure that they are legal and sourced from reputable publishers.

Beginners can use the songs in a real book as a starting point to learn how to play jazz standards.

However, it’s worth noting that using a real book during live performances may raise some legal concerns. It’s best to consult with music lawyers or licensing agencies before incorporating any copyrighted material into your sets.

With careful consideration and proper usage of real books, jazz musicians can elevate their craft and create unforgettable performances that showcase this timeless genre’s beauty and complexity.

As Louis Armstrong once said, ‘All music is folk music; I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.’ ‘Jazz is just a part of it, a big part.’

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