Improvisation

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.

Jazz Music and Improvisation Guide Books

As I mentioned earlier, I recently presented to the Piano Pedagogy Group. The piano teachers in this group are currently working on their Grade 10 or their Piano Pedagogy certification through Royal Conservatory of Music, Conservatory Canada or London College of Music . They are all classically trained (translation: improvisation, lead sheets and chord charts are scary). This is a list of the "How To" books that I use whenever I teach and play contemporary music (e.g. pop, rock, Latin, jazz, ragtime) that I shared with them:

Conservatory Canada Contemporary Idioms Syllabus

How To Play From A Fake Book look inside How To Play From A Fake Book By Blake Neely. For Guitar, Piano/Keyboard. Piano. Instructional. Instructional book. Standard notation and instructional text. 88 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.220019)Smp_stars40 (1) ...more info
Lead Lines and Chord Changes look inside Lead Lines and Chord Changes By Ann Collins. For Piano. Piano Collection; Piano Supplemental. Early Advanced; Late Intermediate. Book. 80 pages. Published by Alfred Music Publishing (AP.199)...more info
Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz & Improvise look insideListen! Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz & Improvise By Jamey Aebersold. For any C, Eb, Bb, bass instrument or voice. Play-Along series with accompaniment CD. Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long series. Beginner, intermediate. Book & CD. 104 pages. Published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz (JA.V01DS)Smp_stars30 (22) ...more info
Volume 3 - The II/V7/I Progression look insideListen! Volume 3 - The II/V7/I Progression By Jamey Aebersold. For any C, Eb, Bb, bass instrument or voice. Play-Along series with accompaniment CD. Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long series. Beginner, intermediate. Book & CD. 100 pages. Published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz (JA.V03DS)Smp_stars40 (6) ...more info
Boogie Woogie for Beginners look inside Boogie Woogie for Beginners Arranged by Frank Paparelli. For Piano/Keyboard. Keyboard Instruction. 48 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.120517)Smp_stars40 (2) ...more info

There are a few more in my "To Check Out" pile. I'll add them once I've had a chance to go through them a bit.

On Scaring Classically Trained Music Teachers with Contemporary Idioms

Earlier this month, I presented improvisation and various elements of Conservatory Canada's Contemporary Idioms syllabus to The Piano Pedagogy Group. This was a group of bright yet frightened classically trained piano teachers. After years of being told "Play what's on the page," the sight of a chord chart or a lead sheet drew looks of puzzlement and various states of uncertainty. Conservatory Canada has recently updated their Contemporary Syllabus in such a way that makes it easier to crossover to the "fun zone". I myself haven't gone through all of the changes yet (You can find out all about the syllabus changes here). What I did touch upon was my experience delving into contemporary idioms on a deeper level. Much deeper than playing through popular arrangements by Dan Coates, Bill Boyd and Phillip Keveren.

I began by sharing my experiences taking jazz piano lessons with jazz pianist, adjudicator, clinician and examiner Derek Stoll. Then, I walked them through various elements of preparing for my Level 7 Contemporary Idioms piano exam.

The bulk of my presentation was on sharing the resources I commonly use when teaching contemporary music, in addition to my approaches to teaching technique, improvisation and learning music that isn't in standard notation. This is rather huge, I will go into each area in more detail in subsequent posts. Hopefully, this will open up a dialogue between music teachers and students who would like to delve into the "fun zone".

 

Music Group Class Round 1 Reflections

Well, students and teachers of Musespeak Studio and To the Wind Studio have survived the first round of music group classes with this new format.  I learned three main lessons:

  1. I have gotten too complacent as far as teacher-student communications go. My students, their parents and I have an established rapport. I'm starting virtually from scratch with my brother's students. Sure, we've chatted at recitals, but a five-minute chat and teaching in 90-minute stretches are two totally different things.
  2. It is important to over-plan and have several back-up activities up your sleeve. My pacing for one of the group classes was perfect. One was all right but could use a few more activities, while the other - well we raced through my lesson plan and I wound up flying by the seat of my pants for a very long time. I have Divine inspiration to thank for the "Let's Make Up a Story with Sound" exercise that I did with yesterday's students when improvising. 
  3. When teaching at another studio, have a studio contact list on hand in case you need to contact a parent in the case of an emergency or behavioural issue. 

Overall, it was a positive experience. I've learned which students I need to be firm with and which ones I can recruit to take more of a mentoring role with the junior students.

I enjoyed teaching four lovely girls basic conducting gestures and beat patterns.  They giggled a lot and had a great rapport with each other.  

The "Get into The Groove" class challenged me the most. I will need to plan more rhythm exercises, especially ones where they split off into smaller groups. As for the stubborn ones - let's just say that I'm just as good, if not better at digging in my heels. "The Art of Practicing" also wound up being a great group of music students who were very engaged. In discussing how to practice music, we discussed stretching as well as their learning styles and practicing challenges (e.g. "When I Don't Feel Like Practicing"). The conversation also lead to areas I had not thought of incorporating into my presentation - and they should be. Thanks to them, talking about how to practice when injured and speed learning will be incorporated into my presentation. I look forward to the next round of music group classes.

Great Performances - Ella Fitzgerald in Berlin

Here is a fantastic example of how to handle those performance glitches. This is from jazz singer's Ella Fitzgerald 1960 performance in Berlin. Partway through, she completely blanked out on the lyrics. True to form, she improvised flawlessly. She was rhyming, she made up lyrics that really made sense. She didn't lose her cool and just went along with it - and it sounded just fine. More than fine.

Too bad I can't find video for this one. You'll have to just imagine yourself there. Enjoy!

(c) 2011 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Bringing the Groove Back into Music Studies with Pattern Play

Yesterday, ARMTA Calgary hosted a workshop on Pattern Play with piano pedagogue Forrest Kinney. He and his wife Akiko developed this extremely aural-kinesthetic approach to music playing. Seeing as I've been incorporating more of the VARK Learning Preferences into the music lessons I teach, I was looking really forward to this session. Forrest & Akiko Kinney In a nutshell, students are taught two patterns. These are imparted in a "talking drum" fashion: the teacher improvises a short motif using one of the patterns (e.g. E, G, A, B). The student answers with their own improvised motif. With young students, perhaps that is all you want to give them for that lesson as their "pattern play project".

Once the student has gotten the hang of that, the teacher can show the student a simple accompaniment pattern and they switch roles at the keyboard (e.g., E, B). (BTW, the pattern I just described is called Japan).

The next step is to get students to jam hands together. Forrest advises to have them start by playing the same pattern in both hands. When one hand is bored, melodic and rhythmic variation start to creep in.

With this approach, the feeling drives and shapes the music (not the brain) just as equally as boredom does. Forrest said that "boredom makes us receptive to new ideas and to change."

That was an extremely condensed version. Check out Forrest and Akiko's website and their books for a more in-depth explanation.

Two very important points to keep in mind when working on Pattern Play - eyes closed and tap the heel. Yes, that's a very jazzy approach. When Forrest said that, it made me recall my jazz lessons last year when Derek Stoll said the exact same thing.

Pattern Play can be used to help develop students' inner ear, phrasing, and rhythm and flow. Wait a minute, didn't I write about rhythm and flow at some point?

Hiyoshi is a Japanese concept called "rhythm-timing". In his Book of Five Rings, 16th century samurai Miyamoto Musashi said, "In the field of martial arts, one finds rhythm-timing in the techniques of shooting an arrow, firing a gun and riding a horse. The concept of rythm-timing should not be ignored in any profession or art."

Forrest said that somewhere along the way, we lost our hiyoshi. We lost the groove. In the quest to reach a certain playing level by age X and our quest for perfection, we lost the tamashii (soul) and the kokoro (heart)of music. This isn't the first time I've heard this. I heard this during my jazz lessons too and variations of this in my Iaido training.

Pattern Play was developed as a way for musicians, music students and music teachers to get back their groove. To just close our eyes and feel the music. Feel the beat.

Now Kinney's approach won't work for all students or all teachers and Forrest is the first to admit that. However, there are many nuggets teachers and students of all walks can take and use form the Pattern Play approach.

For those of us teaching Royal Conservatory students, we have to follow the syllabus for technical requirements. As supplemental material for the traditional exam students - Pattern Play will be a life saver. Conservatory Canada students do get to improvise in their exams. Pattern Play is a great springboard. Pattern Play will inspire students of all levels who want to go home and be able to play something "cool" each week.

Final thoughts? I jammed on D Dorian last night (eyes closed). I selected one of the "golden chord progressions" and started with one octave arpeggios in my LH and single melody notes in my RH. I soon tired of that and remembered that Forrest jammed on doubled thirds. I hate doubled thirds and normally avoid practicing them. Jamming on double thirds? Much more do-able....and fun. Soon, I tired of that and tried parallel 6ths and the "Mozart trill". I haven't tried transposing the pattern yet into all the Dorian modes, but I know I'll get to it eventually.

When playing back the recording, I got the sense my "inner child" was having a blast. I was giddy in the recording and as I listened to it. I can't wait for my Pattern Play books to come in just so I can play.

Ditto for when I checked out the lesson videos I uploaded yesterday. The kids were pumped and they're stoked that we're going to jam "lots" this month. How apropos that this month's focus in our Musical Exploration is jazz, blues and ragtime.

(c) 2010 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.