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Real Book / Fake Book - What are they?


Senior Member
Could someone help me untangle this ‘Fake Book/Real Book’ thing, I’m a little confused.

First, am I right in assuming that the “Real Books” are based on the original songs and so should be accurate with regards to tempo and key?

Second, am I right in saying the Fake books were illegal and things have gone legitimate with the Real books?

Then comes the question of which one to get, Hal Leonard publishes a “Real book” and my problem is that I’m struggling to understand what you get, for example with the HL “The Real Book Play-Along - Volume 1 A-D” do you get the sheet music as well as the three CD’s? or is it just the CDs?

When I looked on Amazon there is, “The Real Book (Real Books (Hal Leonard) (Plastic Comb)” all 462 pages, so this is the sheet music minus the CDs? Interestingly this book isn’t on Hal Leonard’s website.

Then there is "The New Real Book Volume” by Sher Publishing is this different/better.

I’d like something with backing tracks so is a Real Book a good option or am I better off slowly building up my library of Aebersold and Hal Leonard (Jazz Play-Along Series) books as and when I feel the need for new material?

Best wishes, Chris
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Stockport, Cheshire
Having bought the Hal Leonard Real Book play-along I can tell you that you only get the 3 CDs and a list of the tunes (and tracks) on that CD. No sheet music Chris.
I guess you would need to get the 6th edition of Hal Leonard Real Book.

Matthew Stone knows because he mentioned this ages ago on YouTube.

From SOTW Chris,

"Get the Hal Leonard Real Book Volume 1 in Eb. They sell Playalong CD's that go along with a lot (not all) songs in the book. There are 4 sets of 3 CD's each. 20 songs per CD. 240 play along tracks in the entire collection. The Real Book has 400+ songs in it.

The book will run your about $20. Each CD set (60 tracks each) will be about $25."

Obviously get it in the right key, Eb or Bb

One link to help, from Jazzwise
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