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Learning to use a fake book #1920224 06/28/12 04:38 PM
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MH1963 Offline OP
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I'd classify myself as a beginner, but not a complete newbie. I read music well and am presently learning a couple of items from one of the Heller books, and some Burgmuller (sp?) stuff. I've played off and on for a few years but exclusively from printed music, never any improvisation.

I'd like to learn to use a fake book so I could play more popular music, as opposed to just classical. But I don't even know how to begin. I just don't seem to "get" how those books work. I can easily play the melody shown but how the heck do people improvise all the other stuff that they add on to it to make things sound right? It just baffles me.

Any suggestions?

Oongawa

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Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920236 06/28/12 05:11 PM
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Most fake books for piano have the melody staffs and then the chord notated above so you know what chords to use in your left hand. That's the best way I can think of to explain it. You need to know all chords in all key signatures. Some books don't get too technical and don't always show augmented or diminished chords, for instance — you can embellish as you go along and as you get better. Listening to a song (you tube, or cd or radio, etc) can help you with the chord changes. Pay attention to the chord changes and try to put the melody in the background as you listen. You'll be able to hear the chords and when they change in relation to the melody.


Sandy

Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920239 06/28/12 05:23 PM
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The fake book format itself is pretty easy, just melody notes and chords. Of course, that assumes you know how to form chords (a chord dictionary can help you with that).

Playing from a fake book means you become your own arranger. Rather than playing from someone else's sheets you have to make your own arrangement. You can do that once and memorize it (or write it down), or you can make a new arrangement every time you play. I like the latter because it's more fun.

This may sound hard, but it's actually quite simple. Instead of playing chords as a block of notes, you can play them as arpeggios (one note at a time). You can move some chord notes into your right hand. You can replace chords with other chords. You can change the timing and rhythm... The possibilities are endless (but that's also what can make it daunting if you're new to this).

A long time ago I bought a course called How to Dress up Naked Music on the Piano. It has a whole bunch of ideas for making your own arrangements, so if you have no idea where to start then that might be a good place: http://www.pianoplaying.com/

If you're on a budget, you can also find many free lessons for this kind of stuff on YouTube. Search for Scott the Piano Guy, for example.


No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!
Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920243 06/28/12 05:35 PM
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Hi Oongawa
I'm using Real Book 1 rather than a fake book, however if you can scan the song of the fake book you are trying to learn, we can help you with concrete examples.

Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920256 06/28/12 06:27 PM
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Starr Keys Offline
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Hi Oongawa,

Originally Posted by Mahlzeit
A long time ago I bought a course called How to Dress up Naked Music on the Piano. It has a whole bunch of ideas for making your own arrangements, so if you have no idea where to start then that might be a good place: http://www.pianoplaying.com/


Before you hand over $150 to Duane Shinn, I'd check out this series of free tutorials which probably covers just as many styles and techniques as Duane does, if not more. There's also a website (linked on his channel) and a follow-along book (not required) for under $20.

http://www.youtube.com/user/billhiltonbiz

Last edited by Starr Keys; 06/28/12 06:31 PM.
Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920267 06/28/12 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Oongawa
I can easily play the melody shown but how the heck do people improvise all the other stuff that they add on to it to make things sound right?

Oongawa


Well, if you want to learn improvisation (jazz), Willie Myette is probably the way to go: http://www.jazzpianolessons.com/

Yes, Duane Shinn is very expensive for learning the cocktail piano style, and I don't think his material is very thorough, either.

Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920268 06/28/12 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Oongawa
I'd classify myself as a beginner, but not a complete newbie. I read music well and am presently learning a couple of items from one of the Heller books, and some Burgmuller (sp?) stuff. I've played off and on for a few years but exclusively from printed music, never any improvisation.

I'd like to learn to use a fake book so I could play more popular music, as opposed to just classical. But I don't even know how to begin. I just don't seem to "get" how those books work. I can easily play the melody shown but how the heck do people improvise all the other stuff that they add on to it to make things sound right? It just baffles me.

Any suggestions?

Oongawa


Hi Oongawa~
Fake books and Real Books are essentially the same thing - a simple melody line, with one or two chords listed above per measure and sometimes the lyrics of the song are noted, depending on the tune, and depending on which type of real/fake book you use.

To start, I'd recommend you not over-complicate things. There are dozens of courses on-line, books to assist in your learning, even finding a good teacher is a great way to get started. There's a thread here on PW called, JOI, (Joy of Improvisation) where you will do some basic Hannons to gain better dexterity, learn to use a metronome for time (my achilles heel), experiment with standard chord structures, learn to apply arpeggios, scales to a standard chord structure. Eventually, you will apply what you learn to tunes in the book. I am sure it's a good method - the thread has been going on for a long, long, time and the folks that have been participating are no doubt getting all sorts of benefits from it - most of all - having fun!!!!!

Keep playing your Burgmuller and other composers - it's important.

I'd start by learning how to recognize and play simple chords as they are written, since that is what you have to work with, over the simple, written, melody. There you have it...you just played a simple tune (old standard of some sort) while playing the corresponding chord. The chords generally are a whole note, or half note per four beat measure. You can strum or play the chord to the beat to keep time as you play the melody - just make your changes in time (my achilles heel wink ). As well, for jazz, you will find yourself using more complex chords, like augmented and diminished variants and altered chord scales to enhance the effect. This takes time, but it will come to you if you stay with it and use one of the aforementioned methods to learn. You can always make all this more complicated. You might be better of doing that later, than sooner.

All the courses and books are great, for sure. I just haven't used one. Others will be able to guide you better.

It appears others have already given you some good advice, but be patient and learn to recognize chord names that you can play in both hands (this will come in handy later on). I am sure there are books on it. Perhaps a lesson or two from a local teacher will be a big help to get you started, if one of the books aren't that helpful.

I hope this helps and it does not feel like I am piling on, making it more confusing.

Glen


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Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920271 06/28/12 07:20 PM
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Theoretically it is easy to play from a fake book. Left hand plays the chords and right hand plays the melody. As far as chords go, if you are playing pop music there are 5 triad types: major, minor, diminished, augmented and suspended. If You are playing jazz, you will use 7th chords and there are 5 of those too: major 7th, dominant 7th, minor 7th, minor 7 b5 and diminished 7th. There are others but these 5 constitute the bulk of chords you will see.

The chords will occur usually 1 or 2 per bar so you will play them in whole or half notes.

This should get you going playing lead sheets.


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Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: JazzPianoOnline] #1920789 06/29/12 05:26 PM
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Thanks for the tips!

I do have a teacher, I think she's good, though I just started with her recently.
Use of chords is on our "list of things" to discuss.

It's probably weird that I can read music pretty well but the whole concept of using a chord as the basis for improvisational stuff just escapes me.
Any time I see someone sit down and just play something by ear, I'm in awe.

But give me a piece of paper and eventually I can muddle through it, assuming it's reasonably simple.

Oongawa
Presently working on:
Heller's Fifty Selected Studies, #2 & #3
Burgmuller Pastoral & Sincerity

Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920842 06/29/12 06:40 PM
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I'm glad you posted this as I have the same issue. My teacher is trying to help me with this, but I am really uncomfortable if I don't have those "black dots" in front of me so I know what I'm supposed to do. I will check out some of the links to see if I can "loosen up" a bit and just enjoy playing in a more relaxed way. She keeps saying, "just play", but rule follower that I am, I guess I just don't trust myself (and I'm sure the world would end if I played something that didn't sound right, lol)

Char

Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920858 06/29/12 07:19 PM
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If your local PBS station features shows by the Piano Guy, he teaches the "fake book method." As someone mentioned it is pretty simple, play the chords with the left hand and the melody with the RH. Of course, there are an infinite variations on how to play those chords.


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Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1920864 06/29/12 07:38 PM
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I felt the same way, so I don't eliminate the sheet entirely, especially if I like an arrangement. I discovered the key to weaning myself off it was to be able to match the melody notes with the chord tones. Sometimes the notes that extend the chords beyond triads and 7ths are in the melody. If you can hear the intervals in the melody, even roughly, chord theory logic will make you guess better the intervals in the melody and the harmony, since melody tones are chord tones.

Reading music, I also find it very helpful to play the piece several times and then write out my own chord chart by ear (picking out the melody and harmonizing it without referring to the sheet). I write the chords above the lyric (melody tone) they fall on -- you don't have to write out a lead sheet with the actual notes because the process I just described will guide your ear to finding the right melody notes when you play it from your chart.

I then write the Roman Numerals and sometimes the inversion position above these. This way I am reinforcing my knowledge of chords and progressions and the ways they can be voiced and played, with attention to "walk downs", "walk ups", "circle of 5ths" etc--more structural analysis--at the same time I am developing my ear. This all amounts to studying some one else's arrangement so you can learn how its done.

This is also the quickest way I've discovered to memorize a piece of sheet music because it guarantees that you will have to know the underlying structure in order to jog your memory of the piece and rely more on theory and your ear than mere muscle memory. You can always refer to the sheet if you can't get it but going through this process helps you remember better once you do let yourself peak.

Sometimes, I play strictly by ear (mostly pieces with simpler chord structures and progressions). Sometimes I play from someone else chord chart and sometimes I play from a lead sheet, which is what fake books contain. Sometimes I just read music. Sometimes I memorize from the Sheet the way I explained and sometimes I do all of them on the same song. It all helps.


Last edited by Starr Keys; 06/29/12 07:40 PM.
Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #1921095 06/30/12 11:55 AM
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I have several fake books and real books, and also always check out this free site:

www.wikifonia.org

This is a great resource for lead sheets because you can transpose and download them. I often change the chords/harmony of what they have, but it's a good starting point and source of reference. Often I can figure out most of a song by ear myself, but then I'll check in with this site or a fake book to see if what I've got jives and whether I want to change anything, reharmonize, etc.

I agree with everyone here, though, it's all about the chords.

Good to know the Circle of Fifths thoroughly, too: http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/circle.html
http://www.angelfire.com/fl4/moneychords/circleprogressions.html

Last edited by Elssa; 06/30/12 12:03 PM.
Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: Starr Keys] #1921098 06/30/12 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Starr Keys
There's also a website (linked on his channel) and a follow-along book (not required) for under $20.

http://www.youtube.com/user/billhiltonbiz

Oooo... great link. Thanks!


No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!
Re: Learning to use a fake book [Re: MH1963] #2447278 08/03/15 05:57 PM
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You will rarely play the full blocked chord in the LH? it gets muddy down in the lower registers.

I certainly don't see any cocktail style pianists doing this. I see shell chords, arpeggios, octaves, etc... but rarely, if ever, do I see someone blocking out a Cmaj7 or G7 chord in LH.

Also worth noting is a lot of good cocktail pianists (who use fake books) will play a lot of chords in the RH (usually keeping the melody note on top). LH can stride or arpeggiate the R-3-7 or R-3-5 & whatnot.

Here is a good 20 min breakdown of an arrangement of a lead sheet (Georgia on My Mind).
I really like this guys rendition of it. And he talks about what he did and why after playing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC2K7VAYd1A

Last edited by DeadPoets; 08/03/15 06:00 PM.

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