Chording

An Introduction to Fake Books

You may be intimidated the first time you crack open a fake book. However, if you're familiar with (or at least willing to learn) your chords, then that's half the battle. A fake book contains pieces written out in lead sheet form. That is, you see the melody and chord symbols written above:

Melody and chords - c'et tout. You "fake" the rest.

The idea is that you "fake" - or create - your own accompaniment. Throw down a pop groove on "Happy Birthday" one day. The next day, you could play it in ragtime style.The possibilities are endless.

Plus, with the music condensed in this format, you can have hundreds of songs in one book. It's so much easier to bring one fake book to a gig than 10 music books.

These are some of the fake books that I've collected over the years. They are also the ones I shared with my fellow music teachers when I did a presentation to the Piano Pedagogy Group last month:

Fake Books for Beginner to Intermediate Students:

Everything is in C Major. For an added challenge, you can ask your students to transpose them into other keys once they've learned the pieces.

Your First Fake Book look inside Your First Fake Book Arranged by Alexander Citron. For Guitar, Piano, Keyboard. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Vocal Standards and Pop. Difficulty: easy-medium. Fakebook (leadsheet notation). Vocal melody, lyrics, leadsheet notation and chord names. 158 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240112)Smp_stars50 (7) ...more info
The Easy Christmas Fake Book - 2nd Edition look inside The Easy Christmas Fake Book - 2nd Edition (100 Songs in the Key of C). By Various. For C Instruments, Melody/Lyrics/Chords. Easy Fake Book. 160 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240209)Smp_stars50 (7) ...more info

There are other books as well, such as gospel and country.

Fake Books for Intermediate to Advanced Students as well as Music Teachers:

The Disney Fake Book - 3rd Edition look inside The Disney Fake Book - 3rd Edition By Various. For Guitar, Piano/Keyboard, Vocal, C Instruments. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Disney. Difficulty: easy-medium. Fakebook (spiral bound). Vocal melody, lyrics and chord names. 288 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240039)Smp_stars40 (6) ...more info
The Best Fake Book Ever - C Edition - 4th Edition look inside The Best Fake Book Ever - C Edition - 4th Edition (C Edition). By Various. For Guitar, Piano, C Instruments, Keyboard. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Difficulty: medium. Fake book. Vocal melody, lyrics and chord names. 856 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.290239)Smp_stars40 (16) ...more info

Tip: Get the full-sized version. I first bought the mini-version and that was useless at gigs since the print was too tiny and I was playing in a dimly lit area.

I really like how the songs are listed by era as well as in alphabetical order.

The Ultimate Christmas Fake Book - 4th Edition look inside The Ultimate Christmas Fake Book - 4th Edition (for Piano, Vocal, Guitar, Electronic Keyboard & All C Instruments). By Various. For Piano/Keyboard. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Christmas. Difficulty: easy-medium to medium. Fake book. Vocal melody, lyrics and chord names. 157 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240045)Smp_stars40 (17) ...more info

I now take this book to gigs but will sometimes sneak in the Reader's Digest Merry Christmas Songbook when I don't want to think too hard.

This jazz fake book has been recommended to me by several gigging musicians:

Just Jazz Real Book - C Edition look inside Just Jazz Real Book - C Edition (C Edition). By Various. For Melody/Lyrics/Chords. Fake Book. Fake Book. Jazz. Difficulty: easy-medium to medium. Fakebook. Vocal melody, lyrics, chord names, black & white photos, discography and introductory text. 400 pages. Hal Leonard #FBM0003. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.321416)Smp_stars50 (5) ...more info

This is listed on Conservatory Canada's Contemporary Idioms Syllabus. However, these are best used in a combo situation. Personally, I find using a fake book to play Latin music in a solo situation pretty challenging - for now:

The Latin Real Book - C Edition look inside The Latin Real Book - C Edition (C Edition). By Various. Arranged by Chuck Sher. For C Instruments, Melody/Lyrics/Chords. Latin Jazz and Latin. Difficulty: easy-medium to medium. Fakebook (spiral bound). Melody and chord names. 572 pages. Published by Sher Music Company (HL.240138)Smp_stars50 (2) ...more info

This may seem odd, but as my jazz piano instructor, Derek Stoll told me, it really doesn't matter what you play so long as people hear the tune and the chords are right:

Classical Fake Book look inside Classical Fake Book (Over 850 Classical Themes and Melodies in their Original Keys). By Various. For Guitar, Piano, Piano/Keyboard, Melody/Lyrics/Chords. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Classical Period. Difficulty: easy-medium. Fakebook (spiral bound). Standard notation, chord names and vocal melody (on some songs). 646 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240044)Smp_stars40 (8) ...more info

Useful at wedding gigs!

Wedding & Love Fake Book - C Edition look inside Wedding & Love Fake Book - C Edition (5th Edition). By Various. For Melody/Lyrics/Chords. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Love and Wedding. Difficulty: easy-medium. Fakebook. Vocal melody, lyrics and chord names. 480 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240041)Smp_stars40 (6) ...more info

A few of my students past purchased these fake books and have enjoyed them:

The Ultimate Pop/Rock Fake Book - In C look inside The Ultimate Pop/Rock Fake Book - In C (4th Edition). By Various. By Various. For Guitar, C Instruments, Piano/Vocal. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Pop Rock, Rock and Pop. Difficulty: easy-medium. Fake book. Vocal melody, lyrics and chord names. 584 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240099)Smp_stars40 (28) ...more info
The Praise & Worship Fake Book look inside The Praise & Worship Fake Book (An Essential Tool for Worship Leaders, Praise Bands and Singers!). By Various. For C Instruments. Hal Leonard Fake Books. Worship. Difficulty: easy-medium to medium. Fakebook (spiral bound). Vocal melody, lyrics and chord names. 432 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.240234)Smp_stars40 (20) ...more info

I  recently purchased the Praise & Worship one. I should use that for sight reading.

Pianists - make sure you buy the "C" edition fake books!

If you need some guide books on how to read lead sheets, check out my earlier post, Jazz Music and Improvisation Guide Books.

Practicing Piano Technique by the Root

This is more for the advanced students, music teachers and anyone who wants to learn jazz chords and scales. Instead of practicing your technical exercises by key, practice them by their shared root. For example, play through:

  • C major Scale
  • C major Modes
  • C minor Scales (natural, harmonic, melodic, jazz minor)
  • C minor Modes
  • C Penatonic Scale
  • C Blues Scale
  • C Whole Tone Scale
  • C Octatonic Scale
  • C major tonic chord/triad
  • C minor tonic chord/triad
  • C7 (dominant 7th of F major)
  • Cm7 (ii7 of B-flat major)
  • Cm7(♭5) (viiø7 of D-flat major)
  • Cdim7, A.K.A. B#dim (viio7 of D-flat/c# minor)
  • and so on.

This was one of the first things I learned when I took jazz piano lessons with jazz pianist, clinician, adjudicator and examiner Derek Stoll.

Be Prepared for Any Impromptu Music Situation by Learning these Golden Chord Progressions

My brother and colleague shared this Youtube video called 4 chords, 36 songs by Axis of Awesome with me. I laughed so hard I just HAD to show my intermediate and senior students. Here's a performance of it:

The way I see it, if one were to memorize this chord progression, in addition to the Canon in D and Heart & Soul progressions, in every key; one could improvise, fake and impress everyone the next time s/he is coerced (er, asked) to play and has nothing else performance ready.

If you could also throw in snippets of any of the songs from the video every few minutes, you'd have the audience eating from the palm of your hand. You might as well turn this into a practical ear training exercise and try and pick out the notes to some of the tunes by ear. That way, you'll never forget the notes.

Plus, if you ever start up a band, you'd be set. After all, these three progressions are in...well, as Axis of Awesome says, they're in every pop hit.

Don't believe me? Check out Pachelbel Rant:

And finally, Heart & Soul Chords in other songs:

By the way, these chords are sometimes called the "50s chord progression".

If you're itching to try this, here are the chords:

The Four Chords: |: I V vi IV :| V(7) I || Canon in D: |: I V vi iii IV I IV V :| I || Heart & Soul: |: I vi ii V :| I ||

For those that need to see the chords with the jazz or pop/rock symbols, they are (in the key of C):

The Four Chords: |: C G Am F :| G(7) C || Canon in D: |: D A Bm F#m G D G A :| D || Heart & Soul: |: C Am Dm G :| C ||

Happy jamming!

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Mastering the Art of Playing & Singing

My student Bianca has been working on accompanying herself singing, either with piano accompaniment or guitar. She's become pretty good at it, to the point of inspiring her examiner to clap and say "Brava!" at the end of her examination performance of "Teardrops from My Guitar". She's been one of my inspirations for doing the same - for gigs though, not exams. Here are some sites my students and I have been using for our chording and singing purposes:

Ultimate Guitar MegaChords Guitar Tabs

As I mentioned in a previous post, it's a great way to practice ear training. It's really tricky trying to sing on pitch while only playing chords.

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Improvising at the Piano

Two blog entries in one night? I may be sniffly and sneezy with the cold/flu, but my brain is still coming up with stuff to write... Another interesting project I’ve had my students work on for the past couple of weeks is to play around with the following chord progression:

|: DA | Bminf#min | GD| GA:|D ||

They get about halfway through before exclaiming, “Hey! I know this! Isn’t this Pachelbel’s Canon?”

I’ve asked some my students to play through the chord progression as solid chords, then as broken chords. Then, I give them free rein to experiment with it (otherwise known as improvising). They’ve now all heard about the wedding I played at in which the bride wasn’t at the altar by the time I reached the last page of the Canon. I wound up improvising on the repetitive chord pattern until she reached the front of the church.

Some students have taken to this project like Maestro has taken to stickers

(my dog is obsessed with stickers), while some require encouragement on every single note. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them wind up improvising on this at a party or family reunion. After all, it’s a recognizable tune, the chords repeat (translation: easy to memorize) and everyone who hears them improvise will be impressed that they’re simply winging it.

All right. I'm out of blog ideas for the night. Time for me to practice chiburi. Iaido, is like piano, full of technical details that need to be just so to flow smoothly.

© 2006, Musespeak™,Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Adventures in Teaching and Playing

My students and I are starting to get used to our school-year routine (a couple of students who forgot about their lessons the week before). Even Maestro is learning to be the model teaching assistant. With the weather cooling down, I thought it was apropos when a student played "Jingle Bells" at today's lesson. This week, I asked several students to try chording (or faking) a pop song they are currently working on. For the non-music folk, it means that instead of playing what's written on the page, they will play chords in the left hand. Most pop folios write the chord symbols on top of the music. Chording accomplishes three things (at least that I can think of): it helps students learn their songs more quickly, it gives them the freedom to embellish their own accompaniment and it helps them better understand the song's form and structure.

I'm chording more these days. For the wedding that I'm playing at this weekend, I have no idea whether I will be asked to play the music for the parts of the Mass. I have a version of "Glory to God" but last night, I just realized that it's not the one we usually sing at church. Thankfully, I borrowed a hymnal from church a few weeks ago. I found the version that we usually sing. However, the hymnal only has the vocal melody. No chords. Nor chord symbols. Nada. I had to fiddle around with it and figure out the chords. It's not perfect, but it's definitely passable. After all this effort, I bet Murphy's Law will kick in and that the congregation at the wedding will just say the parts of the Mass that are often sung. Then I'll be off the hook. I should be prepared though - just in case.

(c) 2005 by Musespeak(tm). All rights reserved.