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I've been playing more jazzy/popular styles of music lately, so I'm looking for a recommendation for a good instructional book that introduces how to play from lead sheets or a fake book. What I'm hoping to find is a book that introduces chords and technique (jazz/blues/pop technique) in the context of learning songs, rather than a book with exercises but no repertoire, or a book that teaches a bunch of theory and has repertoire shoved in the back as an afterthought.

I found this resource, which is exactly the kind of instructional approach I want. It has the lead sheet (RH part, melody plus chord names) on the first page, then the next two pages are the chords (LH part) written out in the same order as the lead sheet. And then the last two pages is an actual full score (RH, LH) fully written out.
I bought this, but it's only the one song. Anyway, here's the link:
https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/titl...onal-series-digital-sheet-music/21986136

I also found this book, but some of the reviews make me think it's not what I'm looking for:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/063400206...IA&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it_im

Basically, I'm looking for one-stop shopping, a book I can open up and play through, using the RH pages, then the LH pages, and then trying to improvise it on my own.

I have Tim Richard's Improvising Blues Piano and Exploring Jazz Piano. I decided EJP is too advanced, and IBP is ok but it's not geared to teaching how to play from lead sheets. I also just ordered his "Beginning Jazz Piano bk 1" but it hasn't arrived yet.

Some background about myself in case it's relevant: I have been playing piano for 20+ years and have a lot of passive understanding of music theory. In other words, I have a lot of conceptual understanding of chord theory, for example, but if you throw out a chord name, I'm not going to be able to sit down and play it without working it out. I am also very confident in my ability to read music and play while reading, so I would prefer something that's written on the page -- Mainly because it's just faster (for me) than, say, trying to poke around the internet and find videos with instruction etc. Also, my ear isn't super developed, as in, I can't "play by ear" -- but I'm also not interested in spending time trying to do that, again because I am such a solid reader that it's just faster to use those skills since I already have them. In terms of repertoire, I play a lot of George Winston, Ludovico Einaudi, David Nevue, Alexis French etc.

I'm posting this in ABF and the Non-Classical forum, so apologies in advance for double-posting.


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This book in particular and the series in general sound like exactly what you are looking for.

https://amzn.to/3lbnnqT

The arrangments are top notch and include a fully written out solo chorus!


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Thanks for the recommendation!

But, it looks like those are just regular arrangements, full scores, with no chord names and no instructional element. And no lead sheet versions of the pieces.

Unless I missed it??


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I'm still working my way through the following book, but I can recommend it based on what I've worked through so far.

How to play the piano despite years of lessons.

It's an older book (1976) and on the spendy side, but I like that the approach is on how to arrange what you'd find on a lead sheet and not just voicing. The examples are mostly Great American Songbook standards.

There are a few minor things I'm not crazy about, the 'hip' style of the writing, chapter headings that don't express what they're really about if you're wanting to look up something and hand drawn musical score samples that I found difficult to read.


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That's a problem with Jazz books or jazz piano lessons, it's only about practising 2 5 1 in all keys, adding extensions, learning voicing but no song. This is probably due to copyright issues. In the classical piano lessons you learn scales and arpeggios and you also learn a lot of pieces.



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Lilypad, thanks for the recommendation. Unfortunately, while I believe I'm familiar with a lot of songs in the Great American Songbook, I don't really recognize any of those song titles.

Originally Posted by Serge88
That's a problem with Jazz books or jazz piano lessons, it's only about practising 2 5 1 in all keys, adding extensions, learning voicing but no song. This is probably due to copyright issues.

You may be right about the copyright problem. Maybe that's why I'm having trouble finding good options. But take the part I bolded, and put in the context of a particular song or melody and we would be in business!

I'll post again once my copy of Beginning Jazz Piano arrives (but it's coming from overseas so it will probably be a few weeks). Hopefully this will help in some ways. But IIRC from the other Tim Richards' books, it's more about improvising the RH part, as opposed to being given a melody and improvising the LH part.


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Hi, ShiroKuro,

Playing fluently from lead sheets or fake books is a skill that takes practice to develop. In that way it's like sight-reading. You might try to find a copy of Ann Collins' How to Use a Fake Book or other such books. They are helpful to an extent.
The real work is knowing how to spell your chords - instantly, and how to move from chord to chord smoothly. You know how to read the melody.
The good news is that you already know your scales. That takes you a long way. The next step is to memorize the formulas needed to create the variations of a given chord.
You're already a good reader and it will be so easy for you to fall back on that skill. But I would caution against it.
Instead, I would find fake books with songs that you know and basic harmonies. Then I would play through those books and get used to spelling the chords and creating your own arrangements. This can be fun even if it takes a long time. After a while you'll familiar with the chords and will be able to create the basic chords easily. I'm sure if you keep up this practice, you will eventually land in a place where you will quickly read and create the more complex chords and use them in your LH accompaniments. Have fun along the journey.


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I also use this book. I can't say that this is the best thing to learn from, but it's not bad enough. It is good for the start.


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Henderson Hall,

Quote
The real work is knowing how to spell your chords - instantly, and how to move from chord to chord smoothly.

This is what's missing for me, and the main thing I want to develop.

Quote
You're already a good reader and it will be so easy for you to fall back on that skill.

Exactly, that's what I do with any score that has both hands written in. Even if the score includes chord names, they don't even register in my brain.

Quote
I would find fake books with songs that you know and basic harmonies

So, I know there are lots of fake books with lead sheets. But do you know of any books that have the chords spelled out for each song? That's what I'm wanting, rather than me having to try to find the various chords some other other way, bouncing around from one book to another, using resources online etc.

Oh, I just googled "How to Play from a Fake Book" and found a used copy for less than $10, free shipping. (thanks, Better World Books!) So I ordered that. Reviews on Amazon were also good, suggesting it might be something like what I'm looking for.

So I now have two books heading my way, the Tim Richards one (which is more general jazz) and the Ann Collins one (which is more chord-focused).

Hopefully this will be a good combination!


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Originally Posted by Mike Shuman
I also use this book. I can't say that this is the best thing to learn from, but it's not bad enough. It is good for the start.

Did you mean the Tim Richards book, or the Ann Collins book?


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Hi Shiro Kuro,

The more I think about it, reading chord symbols fluently is a form of sight-reading. The difference is rather than notes on the staff, you see symbols and have to supply the harmony. The more familiar you are with the components of the chord, the easier it becomes. That just takes time and practice.

In classical music, you are already playing lots of chords. However, the classical composers didn't place chord symbols over their melodies so even though you're playing chords, those chords are not identified. Also the components of the chords might be struck one by one in an arpeggio, not as a group. This again will mask the chord.

So, what's to be done?

To help recognize the components of chords and how to voice lead, that is how to move from one chord to another, it might be helpful to move away from the piano and pick up Burgmuller or other music of that level. Look at the bass clef and analyze the notes one by one. For example, the first piece in the Burgmuller, the bass clef hits C E G. You, knowing how to spell your chords, recognize those components as a C chord. The next measure the bass clef shows C F A. You recognize those components as part of the F chord, but slightly re-arranged. Still, it's a F chord. The next measure the LH goes back to a C chord. So, he's moving from chord to chord, but now, those aren't just notes, those are chords and you could play the same thing using chord symbols.
Even if this seems a little tedious, I think identifying chords in music you already know will be a good way to increase your familiarity with chords and how they are constructed and how they are used.

Most of the How To Use a Fake Book, type books have tables of chord formulas and chord spellings.
Those will help. But it's really a question of finding the chord, learning how it is spelled, then, forming the chord so often that you don't even have to think about it. There's no short cut. That's the bad news.

The good news is you are way ahead of the game since you already know your scales and have already attained a degree of technical proficiency.

Wishing you rapid progress,


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reading chord symbols fluently is a form of sight-reading. The difference is rather than notes on the staff

Well, a key problem is, if each note is spelled out on the staff, than I don't need to know what it's called (or the theory behind it) to play it. And, if it's inverted or spread across two hands, or across multiple notes, no matter. I don't need to recognize it as a chord, I can still play it.

If you tell me to play a C sus 7, I have to have memorized the notes, and then also have to decide whether I want to play them inverted, with two hands or whatever....

So it seems to me that there's a premise of memorization when we talk about anything that involves playing anything that's not written out on a score.

So for me, that's big hurdle (the memorization part).


Quote
I think identifying chords in music you already know will be a good way to increase your familiarity with chords and how they are constructed and how they are used.

Yes, this is something I pretty much never do (look at a score for a piece I play and try to "label" or "name" the chords that form the back bone of the music).

Quote
Most of the How To Use a Fake Book, type books have tables of chord formulas and chord spellings.
Those will help. But it's really a question of finding the chord, learning how it is spelled, then, forming the chord so often that you don't even have to think about it. There's no short cut. That's the bad news.

I'm ok with there not being short cuts, but I do think there are approaches that are more or less effective, and more or less efficient... so that's what I'm hoping to find, the sweet spot, as it were, were the practice that I do is enjoyable (musically compelling) and also effective and efficient at propelling me forward in terms of learning.

We'll see! smile


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Hi, ShiroKuro,

Let's shrink the memorization part as much as we can, if that's the hurdle. We have four basic patterns: major, minor, diminished and augmented. (1, 3, 5 and etc.) Not too much to memorize. Then, for anything more complex, the chord symbol itself will direct us to add the sixth or flat the ninth or whatever. Approaching it that way may be less daunting especially as you're already good with scales.

Rapid Progress!


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Originally Posted by Henderson Hall
In classical music, you are already playing lots of chords. However, the classical composers didn't place chord symbols over their melodies so even though you're playing chords, those chords are not identified. Also the components of the chords might be struck one by one in an arpeggio, not as a group. This again will mask the chord.
Actually, classical music does have something very similar to lead sheets. It' called figured bass and it's basically a system where only the melody, the bassline, and intervals above the bass are written out and you are supposed to improvise chords in various figurations on top of it. Even the training used for learning to improvise figured bass is similar to what you would do for lead sheets - understand the theory, learn the patterns of voice leading in various chord progressions, hear it in your head first, etc.

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Hi, Shiro Kuro,

I think I found the material you're looking for. Sheet music of popular songs from decades past presents a single song in three staves, one for the singer and two for a piano arrangement. Above the melody line, you will often find chord names and sometimes a chord chart for guitar or uke. So there you have a piano arrangement and the chord names.
Collections of old sheet music are often to be found on eBay or in antique malls.
This might be something worth looking into.

Be well.


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Level 1
Right hand plays melody
Left hand plays root of chord

Level 2
Right hand plays melody
Left hand plays 2 note shell chords (either root and 7th or root and 3rd)

Level 3
Right hand plays melody, add right thumb on missing harmony note (either 3rd or 7th)
Left hand plays 2 note shell chords (either root and 7th or root and 3rd)


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Originally Posted by Henderson Hall
Hi, Shiro Kuro,

I think I found the material you're looking for. Sheet music of popular songs from decades past presents a single song in three staves, one for the singer and two for a piano arrangement. Above the melody line, you will often find chord names and sometimes a chord chart for guitar or uke. So there you have a piano arrangement and the chord names.
Collections of old sheet music are often to be found on eBay or in antique malls.
This might be something worth looking into.

Be well.


Thanks for this suggestion. I've seen scores like this (and I use them sometimes when I play with my violin friend, she plays the vocal line!)

The part that's missing is the pedagogical piece: the left hard part, preferably on a different page, measure-for-measure the same as the lead sheet part.

With these old scores, I would have to do some kind of "processing" to make them the pedagogical tool I'm looking for. But prepping sheet music isn't how I want to spend my piano time.

RinTin, thanks for taking the time to comment, but that's not what I'm looking for. Same as my comment to Henderson here... I know "how" to play from a lead sheet.

What I don't have is all the chords memorized etc.

If you haven't already, look at this (I linked it in the first post in this thread):
https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/titl...onal-series-digital-sheet-music/21986136

If you go to the link and click on "look inside" you will see that there is a chord sheet, separate from the lead sheet. The chord sheet has the chords written out as block chords, and also has a sample LH pattern written in.

With this score, I can practice playing the chords (LH part fully written out, chords visible as notes and chord names, no RH part), and practice doing different things with them, and then go back to the lead sheet and practice playing from the lead sheet (no LH part visible).

This is what I'm looking for, except not just one song but a whole bunch.


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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
If you haven't already, look at this (I linked it in the first post in this thread):
https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/titl...onal-series-digital-sheet-music/21986136

If you go to the link and click on "look inside" you will see that there is a chord sheet, separate from the lead sheet. The chord sheet has the chords written out as block chords, and also has a sample LH pattern written in.

With this score, I can practice playing the chords (LH part fully written out, chords visible as notes and chord names, no RH part), and practice doing different things with them, and then go back to the lead sheet and practice playing from the lead sheet (no LH part visible).

This is what I'm looking for, except not just one song but a whole bunch.

When I prep songs for live performance, I often use the Easy Piano versions like that to learn the skeleton of a song. The stripped down melody/phrases and harmonies are basically the music notation version of a "lead sheet"; and there are tons of Easy Piano versions out there.

To round out the performances, and cover my bases, I also purchase the Piano Solo and Piano/Voice/Guitar arrangements. But I think the most important thing is to not practice the notes like an interpreter, but practice like an arranger/composer taking the piece apart and putting it back together to really learn the vocabulary (phrases), grammar (harmony) and form so you can re-arrange and improvise on the fly.

It takes time, but each song/piece approached this way builds up the skills to do it faster and better the next time around.


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I have been following this thread with great interest. I have read and reread the OP and all
replies on both forums. I have come to the opinion that if no such book as you describe below exist then the only solution is to pick the numbers you want and and order them separately. Expensive but do able.

This is just my two cents and my plan.

If you haven't already, look at this (I linked it in the first post in this thread):
https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/titl...onal-series-digital-sheet-music/21986136

If you go to the link and click on "look inside" you will see that there is a chord sheet, separate from the lead sheet. The chord sheet has the chords written out as block chords, and also has a sample LH pattern written in.

With this score, I can practice playing the chords (LH part fully written out, chords visible as notes and chord names, no RH part), and practice doing different things with them, and then go back to the lead sheet and practice playing from the lead sheet (no LH part visible).

This is what I'm looking for, except not just one song but a whole bunch.[/quote]

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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
I've been playing more jazzy/popular styles of music lately, so I'm looking for a recommendation for a good instructional book that introduces how to play from lead sheets or a fake book.

This should be what you need ....

https://www.glenrosejazz.com/playing-from-a-fake-book-series.html


Don

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