Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Warning About Fake Books

I talked about fake books in the last newsletter,
and I mention them in all my workshops. I even
encourage people to go out and buy them, as they
are great motivational tools. I mean with 800
songs on your piano's music rack, why bother with
television? (OK, there's all those curling matches
going on in the Olympics right now, but they will
be over by next week).

But there's a warning that needs to be sounded
regarding the fake books. Warning, warning,
warning. DO NOT buy any music book that is
intended for B flat or E flat instruments, fake
books or otherwise. It will say right on the cover
if it does.

Oh Lordy. Now I'm going to have to explain this.
This is tricky territory. If you play trumpet or
clarinet or tenor sax or soprano sax, you will
want the B flat version of a music book. But B
flat is not for piano players. Why not? OK. When
one of the above mentioned instruments sees a C
note in the music and fingers a C note on the
instrument (what he has been told is a C anyway),
the note that comes out is a B flat.

And why is that?

Oh rats, I knew you would ask. See what I started
here? I've got to put an end to this inquiry.

"Because it does."

There, that's all you need to know. And likewise
when an alto or baritone sax (there may be others)
fingers a C, out pops an E flat note.

How did this happen? I'd rather not even think
about it. I know it's insane. But using the B flat
and E flat versions of the music is the only way
these particular instruments can read the music
and still be in the same key as everyone else.

So look for the label "For C Instruments." That's
you Mr. or Ms. Piano Player. Or if there is no
indication at all on the cover, then you're
probably going to be safe.

Maybe we'll chew on this topic in a little more
detail later, if anybody is interested. In the
mean time, please direct your questions, comments,
responses, etc. to the blog page so that everyone
can benefit.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fake Books and iPhones

Do you know what a fake book is? About half the students who end up taking my Instant Piano workshop do not. I explain that it's a book of music that has only the single-note melody line and the accompanying chords. Thus a fake book is a perfect source of music for people who learn my method.

It pretty much eliminates the need for anyone to have to learn any but the simplest level of music notation reading. In fact, one of the secrets of my method is that it avoids the student having to take years of lessons in order to read.

Fortunately, fake books are now quite abundant. You can find them in most music stores, on line, in libraries, and even in large book stores such as Borders. But I just learned of another source.

The most famous fake book for jazz players is a volume that is paradoxically titled The Real Book. It's the bible for jazz musicians. For years it was underground, only available through the shadiest of sources because, in the tradition of early fake books, there were no licenses granted to publish the songs, thus no royalties were getting paid, and a lot of people and lawyers were unhappy about it.

Then Hal Leonard publishers came along a few years ago and published a legit version of this iconic tome. But here is what I recently found out. There is an iPhone app for the Real Book. And it only cost $8, and it comes with hundreds and hundreds of songs. Plus it has a lot of other features such as the ability to transpose these songs into any key.

Now get this. Last month in Hawaii, Pam and I were jamming at a restaurant with this band we had me the week before, The Hot Club of Hulaville. They have a big repertoire of gypsy jazz songs, but someone requested a song the band didn't know. So all four members got out their iPhones (that's right, they each had one) and looked up the song and read it right from their phones.

That concept was unimaginable 10 years ago. But it was pretty funny.

If you have an iPhone, you can get the program from the Apple App Store. Be aware, there is no melody line in the songs so it isn't like the real Real Book. Chords only, so you need to know the song pretty well in your head. Still. A must have for jazz players.

If you're in the SF Bay area, I'll be presenting my Instant Piano workshop this weekend and next.

Feb 20, College of Marin, 415-485-9305

Feb 21, Solano College (near Fairfield), 707-864-7115

Feb 27, College of San Mateo, 650-574-6149

This is very short notice, so you better call today if you're interested.
More info on the web site.