Lead Sheets and Fake Books
Good morning. This is Duane. Today I’d like to talk about lead sheets and fake books. If you don’t know what a lead sheet and fake book is, you really need to know that if you want to learn to improvise at all. Professional musicians use fake books all the time and fake books are full of lead sheets. Let’s talk about what a lead sheet is. A lead sheet is simply the melody of a song with the chord symbols above it. No harmony is given, nothing written in the bass clef or anything like that; just the melody and the chord symbols.
A song may … A lead sheet might go like this [music 00:00:41-00:00:52] and that’s all it gives; just the melody. But then it gives the chord symbols. So first chord of that particular song is F minor 7th, second is B flat minor 7th, the third is E flat 7th, A flat, D flat, G 7th, C, C minor. So that’s what’s given. When I learned to play the piano, I was kind of thrown into the fire. When I was 14 years old I had a chance to play. I was a freshman in high school. Had a chance to play with the school dance band, which was very exciting because all the other guys were seniors; the drummer and sax player and guitarist and so on. I had to kind of adapt in a hurry and I didn’t know chords at that time.
I had to do a crash course on chords and I had somebody, fortunately, that told me what the main chords were. I sent off for a little chord chart and dove into learning chords. Then after I knew chords, of course, I didn’t know what to do with them. I would have played [music 00:01:57-00:02:03] and really struggled but I had to do more than that as a piano player. They showed me how to accompany somebody without playing the melody. I might go like [music 00:02:15-00:02:23] and then they showed me how to do a little rhythm to it. [music 00:02:26-00:02:36].
It’s a gradual process. I’d like to show you exactly what a lead sheet is and what a fake book is. I’m going to grab one here. This is called the “Ultimate Fake Book With Over 1200 Songs”. I hope you can see that. I’ll just kind of flip through it here. They are in alphabetic order so you can look up songs alphabetically: “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, “It’s Now or Never”, “Johnny One Note”, “June in January”, “Let the Good Times Roll”, etcetera. Lots of … 1200 songs here and all it is is the melody and the chord signs above that. They include the words, too, but that’s not related to music. You need to learn those chords that go with the melody and you need to know then what to do with it.
That has to do with arranging and improvising. Let me just show you a few more. These probably cost like, I don’t know what they cost nowadays. This is $45.00. Here’s one that has 650 outstanding songs. Cost $22.50. Let me tell you the price has really come down a lot. When I was 14, fake books were illegal by the way. Music stores had them under the counter and they would sell them to you for an inflated amount. When I was 14, I bought this … I’ll show you my original fake book. This is my original fake book. As you can see it’s falling apart. I paid $50.00 for this back … and that was a huge amount of money back then. It didn’t have near as many songs as those other fake books I showed you.
You can get fake books of all sort. This one is put out by Reader’s Digest, “Family Songbook of Faith And Love”. They include more … those are fake books, okay. They got the chord symbols but they also have some left-hand written-out parts, too. Might be good to start that way. I’m just going to show you a few fake books here. This is one of piano classics. These are classical pieces here and it says fake book but it … no, I’m sorry that’s not a fake book. That’s just a book of classics. That isn’t either. Well,, anyway, you get the idea. Here we go. Here’s a “Classical Fake Book” so if you want to learn some classical tunes and improvise on them, this is a good kind of book to have.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know about fake books and if you don’t have one, you can buy them on-line at amazon or lots of places or your local music store. They’re good to get and then just … It’s a good thing to do is get one and practice. You can practice your piano styles at improvisation and so on with those fake books. So that’s it for today. Come on over to PlayPiano.com and sign up for a free newsletter because we have things like this everyday about piano-related subjects and chords and so on. Hope to see you there. Bye bye for now.