Don’t let the real book become a crutch. Julio shares some tips for leveraging the Real book as a tool for improving your musicianship expanding your musical vocabulary.
- [Narrator] While Real Books are valuable resources for performing musicians, it's important to use them as a tool rather than a crutch. Not all charts you may hear called on the gig are in the book. While learning to play away from the book can be a challenging process, in the end, it's a valuable exercise for both your ears and your overall musical development. Here are some general tips for making the most of the Real Book as an instructional resource. If you had to refer to the Real Book to play a song you did not know, do your homework and listen to the original recording.
While musicians may learn the general framework of a tune from the Real Book, it's important to listen to the original version of the tune to get a feel for the subtleties and interpretations of the style. Often, the recording and the date are listed on the lead sheet making it easier to track down. You may even find multiple versions of certain songs varying by performer or in some cases, even varied versions by performance date. It's good to seek out these recordings and performances as it is not uncommon for musicians to call versions of songs from specific albums or performances.
For more advanced players, you may consider using the book less as an initial reference but rather as a cross-check after attempting to transcribe the song yourself. While it definitely can take much longer than reading the music, attempting to learn a song without a lead sheet is a valuable musical exercise. It also serves as an aid for memorization, forcing you to dig into the melody and harmony more so than you might otherwise. This process also has the added bonus of training your ears to recognize chord qualities and melodic intervals which are important skills for professional gigging musicians and essential for improvisers.
Once you've been using the Real Book for a while, consider taking a dive into the deep end and leaving it at home. With all the chords and melodies written in front of you, you may not realize how much you don't need it. It can be an uncomfortable and even scary experience to try and perform without a chart in front of you, particularly if you're on stage at a gig. While obviously you would not want to sabotage your performance, you could set smaller goals for yourself, slowly weaning yourself off book a tune at a time. Regardless, you may still find yourself in situations where it becomes necessary and it's good to conquer your fear of this before it happens.
The good news is that in this digital age, there are tools to help you work on improvisation and memorization without inviting all your fellow musicians over for a jam session. Digital accompaniment software and applications can quickly engineer an entire rhythm section for you in the form of musical play-alongs. Also, instructional volumes like the Jamey Aebersold jazz improvisation series include CDs with karaoke-style play-along tracks. Current digital tools give you even more flexibility, allowing you to change the key, tempo, instrumentation and style on the fly.
You may even loop specific sections that are causing you difficulty. In the following chapters, we'll cover a variety of software tools that can help wean you off the Real Book without having to do it live on stage.
- Accompaniment styles
- Playback options and settings
- Drums and tracks
- Band in a Box
- iReal Pro