How to Read a Fake Book

Do you want to learn how to play hundreds of your favorite songs? Try Fake Books! They are compilations of hundreds of songs in lead sheet notation. Lead sheet notation provides the melody, lyrics and chords for each song. Learn more about Fake Books with this great resource, “How to Read a Fake Book.”

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Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Notes for Music

Sheet music, the written form of music notes, may appear very complex to the untrained eye. While reading notes for music is like learning a whole new language, it is actually much less complicated than you may think. This article will discuss how to read music notes. Check out our article “Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Rhythms” for information on music note values, time signatures, counting rhythm and more. more “Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Notes for Music”

Learn How to Read Sheet Music: List of Basic Musical Symbols

Being sheet music enthusiasts, we wanted to provide some help to those music enthusiasts who are just learning how to play or have played by ear for years and would like to learn how to read sheet music notation. We’ve created this tutorial for you, starting with the basic listing of music symbols. Topics covered include the musical staff, clefs, position of notes on the staff, key signatures, time signatures, basic note lengths, and bar lines. A future article will include stylistic markings, like accents, dynamics and tempo markings. For a more in depth discussion on reading music notation, check out our blog posts “Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Notes” and “Learn How to Read Sheet Music: Rhythms“.

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Publishing Models for the Independent Composer

New Music GatheringOn January 15, 2015 during the New Music Gathering at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sheet Music Plus CEO Jenny Silva gave a presentation on publishing models for the independent composer.  Her presentation, available as a PDF by clicking on the link below, discusses the various methods through which composers may publish their music and the advantages and disadvantages to each.  It is a must read for any composer, new or seasoned, wishing to gain more exposure for his/her work.

New Music Gathering_v2

How to Read a Fake Book

By Kevin Harper

History of Fake Books and Lead Sheets

Imagine this: you’re a famous jazz player; you’re busy on the road going from gig to gig. One day you come up with a great tune and want to write it down and orchestrate it for your ensemble, but orchestration takes a long time. So instead, you write down the melody and then write out the general chords and any potential rhythms. When you read it during the gig (for the first time no doubt!) you and your bandmates have a general outline of what needs to happen – everything else is improvised. Because improvisations are different everytime, writing down the “correct” way of playing any tune in the old days was impossible.

As jazz grew in popularity, everyone wanted to hear all the popular songs, but the problem was that many of these tunes were hard to find or unpublished. Eventually, lead sheets were circulated from band to band and that became the standard way of notating tunes.

The original fake book, known as The Real Book, contained illegally reproduced, copyrighted songs. It was meant to be used as a textbook of standard jazz tunes. The publishers wanted to pawn off the tunes in the book as “real” versions of the songs. However, legal battles ensued, so any other future books had to have a different name. Thus, the term fake book was born from The Real Book. It also has a double-meaning in that the performer is “faking” his way through the song because the arrangement is not the same as the original version.

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Singing With Clarity

 By Judy Pringle

Consonants

You and your choir have worked tirelessly on uniform vowel formation, well-tuned singing, focusing the tone, singing correct notes, beautiful phrase lines.  You’re feeling good.  But step back and give a listen and you’ll often find there isn’t a consonant to be heard.   It is our task as singers to articulate so the listeners can share in the delicious words and message.

We want clear, well-defined consonants in our singing and it’s a challenge to achieve.  When our listeners know the text as in a well-known hymn or carol, we are understood because the context is known.  This is far from the case when the text is unknown.

The topic of consonants is far-reaching, but here are a few tips I use in rehearsing in the English language with my volunteer choir.

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Sing Better as You Age

By Judy Pringle

Sing Better As You Age
Sing Better As You Age

A music retailer is asked every day for assistance with repertoire.  It can be both challenging and amusing.  For example:  I need a thrilling SATB anthem for Easter Sunday with brass accompaniment, and the sopranos can’t sing above an ‘e.’ Can you make a suggestion? 

We smile at this request, but it can be a reality for a choral director.  Those of us who conduct adult church and community choirs deal with the aging voice constantly.  It is a fact that with age, our singing mechanism does not improve.  Yet, it is my experience that senior singers are some of the most devoted choristers, and the joy of singing is integral to their lives.

If we, as directors, wish to optimize this lifelong joy for our choristers, and ensure that the aging singer is a benefit to the ensemble, we need to offer tools that will optimize the singing voice as the body naturally and inevitably ages. more “Sing Better as You Age”

Improve Your Ear!

By Carolyn Walter

You may find it strange to see a sheet music-related blog advocating playing music by ear. However, many experienced musicians – including those in our office – would agree that musical proficiency isn’t some stark dichotomy, with “good readers” in one camp entirely separate from people who “just play by ear.” To become a complete, balanced musician, and fully enjoy all that the art form has to offer, a performer must possess sound aural skills right along with a high level of musical literacy.

Start Simple:

Like a lot of things, playing by ear comes most naturally when a young musician is introduced to the concept from the very beginning.  For those lucky enough to be starting off on their musical journey, many beginning method books now feature added emphasis on playing by ear and improvising. The ever-popular Alfred’s Basic Piano Library series includes a corresponding set of books focusing solely on ear training:

Alfred's Basic Piano Library - Ear Training Book
Alfred’s Basic Piano Library – Ear Training Book

As for those of us who have been playing for many years without more “Improve Your Ear!”

Tips for Teaching Rhythmic Fundamentals to Music Students

By Carolyn Walter

I can scarcely think of anything more fundamental to musicianship than rhythm. With few exceptions, I find that a solid rhythmic foundation is truly the root of a good performance.  A piece played with otherwise flawless accuracy sounds sloppy or even falls completely apart without proper rhythmic control; never mind if the notes were pitch perfect, the dynamics were  masterful and the ornamentation was authentic. I feel this is true regardless of ensemble size, style or instrumentation.  A choir/orchestra with 100+ members needs to hold together with precision, as does a small ensemble with just a handful.  Even an unaccompanied soloist playing in a very free, rubato style must have a strong sense of pulse to deliver her musical message most effectively.

Like so many things in music, the basics of solid time and rhythmic notation and accurate interpretation can be explained in a few hours . . and perfected over the course of one’s entire life.   While the elementary process of counting correctly can be summarized in just a couple of pages in a basic theory or method book like the following:

Alfred's Essentials of Music Theory Standard of Excellence Edly's Music Theory for Practical People

I find that more “Tips for Teaching Rhythmic Fundamentals to Music Students”

10 Tips for Improving Sight Reading

By Stephie Stewart

How many times have you seen someone sit down and play music you know they’ve never seen before and play it beautifully? Doesn’t it make you wish you could do that too? Well, the good news is that you can, but it might take a little bit of work. The truth is, most people aren’t naturally great sight-readers. They work at it and they practice it. Sight-reading is more often a learned skill than a natural talent.

“All right,” you say, “so how do I learn to sight read?” A good place to start, would be to start working out of sight-reading method books such as the Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests series, Improve Your Sight-Reading! Series, and Creative Jazz Sight Reading.

Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests
Four Star Sight Reading and Ear Tests

Improve Your Sight-Reading!
Improve Your Sight-Reading!

Creative Jazz Sight Reading
Creative Jazz Sight Reading

That being said, method books aren’t always for everyone, especially if you aren’t starting at the very beginning of the process. Here are a few tips for anyone who wants to improve their sight-reading, regardless of playing level or experience.

1. Just do it!

As cliché as it might sound, the best thing you can do to improve your sight-reading is to practice sight-reading. Make it part of your regular practice schedule. Find some music that is a few levels below your current level, and just play through it. (Big anthologies are great for sight-reading – there’s a ton of music of varying levels in a single book.) Don’t worry about making it perfect – just concentrate on getting through it. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of working out the hard parts. Do start out a little under tempo if playing up to tempo seems too daunting. As you get more comfortable, slowly increase the level of difficulty of the music and the tempo.

2. Look before you leap

Before you actually begin to play, take a minute to look at what’s coming at you. Look at more “10 Tips for Improving Sight Reading”