The bible of jazz. It consists of charts of 400 or so jazz standards. Any self-respecting jazz musician should have this book, and a reasonable percantage of it in his/her repertoire.

When musicians get together for a gig, or play for fun, they usually pick standards from the Real Book, because these are mostly accepted as well known, good pieces. However, due to the fact that they are so well known, they are often overplayed, and thus abhorred by many musicians. For example, very few musicians will agree to play All Of Me, one of the most chewed out standards of all time.


  1. Of course, not all well-known standards are in the Real Book (what can one do, nothing is perfect). Examples are Bye Bye Blackbird and Love Is Here To Stay.
  2. The Real Book has caused a wave of Fake Books to come into being. There are many of these, and as their name suggests, they are rip-offs of the Real Book. They don't necessarily have the same standards as the real book. They have added some and removed some. Several Fake Books are actually very good.
Footprints (coincidentally(?) one of the charts in The Real Book, by Wayne Shorter and featuring on Miles Davis's excellent Miles Smiles album) is clearly missing the second Real Book, as this contains Bye Bye Blackbird.
It should also be noted that there are two distinct types of real book - the legal version and the illegal version. The legal version is nicely laid out and has less mistakes, but is generally considered not to have as good a selection of tunes as the illegal version, also known as the New Real Book.

Something I reckon I should add to this: The Real Book is really the essence of what jazz is all about. Each tune in the book is nothing more than a single line of tune with the chords to be played. No arrangements. Little idea of tempo or style. It just gives you the starting point for your own performance, which will be unique to yourself and unique every time you play it. Your performance of a piece really is your performance.

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