Resources for creating leadsheets

Jul 30, 2018

The following are resources that might be useful when creating a jazz leadsheet.

Song Indexes

* The fakebook tune index at Seventhstring.com is a very comprehensive and user-friendly index of many commercial and non-commercial fakebooks. It can be useful to compare various existing leadsheets when making one of your own.
https://www.seventhstring.com/fbindex.html

Other indexes:
https://library.buffalo.edu/music/collections/fake-book/
Several other fakebook indexes are listed at the bottom of the following page:
The Joy of Fakebooks

Song Lists

* The website JazzStandards.com has a list of the top 1000 most commonly recorded jazz tunes (a mix of popular song standards and jazz pieces written specifically for jazz performance). The website doesn't say exactly how the recordings used as the data set were chosen (for example, whether or not "jazz adjacent" artists like Frank Sinatra were included), but the resulting list will certainly be recognizable to anyone familiar with the mainstream jazz repertoire as it was played and recorded from the 1920s to the 1960s. This group's "transcription plan" is based on the top 100 songs on this list.
http://www.jazzstandards.com/compositions/index.htm 

JazzStandards.com also has articles and book reviews, including articles like "Performance Practice vs. Composer’s Intention" and "Harmony and Form of Jazz Standards" that would be of interest to people learning about how to document a tune in a leadsheet.
http://www.jazzstandards.com/theory/overview.htm

* The website Cafe Songbook has a "Catalog of The Great American Songbook" that documents several hundred songs commonly performed by jazz and cabaret artists, giving composer details and background information on them in many cases. They don't claim to have any kind of criteria for inclusion beyond the judgment of the editors (unlike JazzStandards.com, which has a list based on how frequently songs made it to commercial recordings). 
http://greatamericansongbook.net/pages/cat_pages/title.html

Background Information

* The Joy of Fakebooks (web page): This is an illustrated historical overview of fakebooks, written by Bob Keller, going back to "Tune-Dex" cards used by gigging musicians of the 1940s. 
https://www.cs.hmc.edu/~keller/jazz/TheJoyOfFakebooks.htm

This page also contains a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet by Keller that ranks fakebooks by all kinds of criteria. For example:
# number of tunes
# consistency of layout
# presence of song verses (introductory sections)
# readabilty
# chord substitutions
...and many others. 

The spreadsheet reviews some 120 fakebooks. Just by reading the criteria Keller uses to evaluate fakebooks, you can learn a lot about what stylistic decisions you will be making as you put together a leadsheet. 
http://spreadsheets1.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?hl=en_US&key=tqfLbKzNkWhtm4GW97PljIw&hl=en_US#gid=0

* "It’s Time to Get Rid of Your Real Book" (blog post)
Experienced jazz musicians are well aware of the fact that the original 1970s Real Book has many errors in the charts. But younger musicians, and musicians in places where jazz is not very common, might not know this. This blog post makes the case that it's time to get rid of the Real Book and use other, more accurate alternatives when learning jazz tunes (or creating a lead sheet yourself).
http://blog.danreitz.com/?p=1128

Musescore Tools

Chord Symbol Voicings for Playback - This resource created by Marc Sabatella provides you with  copy and paste chord voicings that you can use in in your own score to get basic chord symbol playback. Leave a comment below if you have incorporated chord playback into a lead sheet (successfully or unsuccessfully), and tell us the way you went about it.


Tutorials

* A two-part tutorial exists for creating a leadsheet in MuseScore. This tutorial was written by Marc Sabatella prior to the release of the 2.0 software, and is slightly out of date (particularly regarding the need for plugins), but most of the information remains current.
https://musescore.org/en/node/11723 (Part 1: The Basics)
https://musescore.org/en/node/11726 (Part 2: Advanced Topics)

Marc is responsible for coding many of the nice features currently available in MuseScore for creating jazz charts, including the software's jazz chord symbol features. Marc also wrote a user guide to Musescore 2.0 (Mastering MuseScore), if you want to get something a little more refined than the community-authored user guide on MuseScore.org. Marc tirelessly answers new users' questions (including many of mine) on the MuseScore.org forums. His MuseScore user's manual is available for puchase here: 
https://masteringmusescore.com/go/books/

* Poor Butterfly and 'What Makes a Good Chart?' (blog post): In this two-part article, Peter Spitzer offers guidance on the art of creating a successful 'vanilla' leadsheet, using the standard 'Poor Butterfly' as an example. He starts with the original 1916 sheet music, then moves on to discuss leadsheets and chord changes published by Hal Leonard, Jamey Aebersold, Ralph Patt, and Dick Hyman. He then looks at the chord changes used on recordings by several jazz greats, comparing these arrangements to the leadsheet chords. It's an excellent demonstration of the kind of analysis and background research that can be used to create an accurate, general-purpose leadsheet that reflects both the composer's intentions and jazz as it is actually played in the real world. It's also very similar to the process used by the music editor of Chuck Sher's New Real Book series for putting together jazz charts of traditional popular songs, as described in Vol. 1 of that series.
http://peterspitzer.blogspot.com/2012/06/poor-butterfly-and-what-makes-good.html (part 1)
http://peterspitzer.blogspot.com/2012/06/poor-butterfly-and-what-makes-good_07.html (part 2)  
 
Jazz Theory

* Jazz musician and educator Stuart Smith has put his text Jazz Theory: 4th Revised Edition online for free. This text can be useful when you are trying to understand and make decisions about things like enharmonic equivalents  (e.g. "Is this chord a D#7 or an Eb7? Why does it matter?")
http://www.cs.uml.edu/~stu/JazzTheory.pdf  (.pdf file)

* The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine (Sher Music Co.). Available for purchase at Amazon and many other books stores and music stores. "A required text in universities world-wide, translated into five languages, endorsed by Jamey Aebersold, James Moody, Dave Liebman, etc." says the Amazon copy. Also recommended by jazz pianist and educator Billy Taylor and this group's Paul Ukena.
https://www.amazon.com/Jazz-Theory-Book-Mark-Levine-ebook/dp/B004KA9UX4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532956037&sr=8-1&keywords=jazz+theory+book+levine&pldnSite=1

* Jazz Theory Resources (Volumes 1 & 2) by Burt Ligon (Houston Publishing, Inc.) is another well-reviewed resource for jazz theory.
https://www.amazon.com/Jazz-Theory-Resources-Bert-Ligon/dp/0634038613/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532985698&sr=1-1&keywords=Bert+Ligon+-+JAZZ+THEORY+RESOURCES

* MuseScore's own Marc Sabatella has written a book titled The Harmonic Language of Jazz Standards that may be useful to helping you understand why certain harmonies or chord substitutions are used by practicing jazz musicians, and what chords to choose when creating a leadsheet. Marc is a college-level jazz educator, and an excellent writer and communicator. His book is available for purchase here:
https://outsideshore.com/product/the-harmonic-language-of-jazz-standards/

Scores online

If you have an interest in popular songs written prior to 1960 (which most jazz musicians do!), there are many online collections of sheet music, including the following: 
https://library.stanford.edu/music/digital-scores
https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/search/index?filters%5Btype%5D=notated+music&keywords= 
https://www.loc.gov/collections/historic-sheet-music/about-this-collection/
http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/SheetMusic
http://library.indstate.edu/rbsc/kirk/popsong.html

Most online archives feature only public-domain works, which in the United States tends to mean works published prior to 1923 (so, a few early-jazz age pop standards like "After You've Gone" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band", but don't expect to find "All the Things You Are" or "'Round Midnight")

Miscellaneous

* "Review: The Story of Fake Books and the 6th Edition Real Book": A book review on Jazz musican and writer Peter Spitzer's blog concerning two works: a book chronicling the history of fakebooks, and the Hal Leonard Real Book (6th Ed.). Interesting nuggets taken from the history book included the fact that there was no known 4th edition of the Real Book (the 5th edition was apparently produced by parties not responsible for the first three Real Book volumes), and the fact that the FBI investigated the publication of the Real Book.
http://peterspitzer.blogspot.com/2011/04/review-story-of-fake-books-and-6th.html

* "The Vocabulary of Tin Pan Alley Explained" (journal article): A 1949 glossary of terminology related to the popular sheet music industry, with a few definitions related to jazz (including 'leadsheet', and one for the brand-new movement of be-bop). One amusing footnote: around the time this article was published, Downbeat had a contest to see who could come up with the best name to replace the old-fashioned term "jazz". The winner received $1000 ($10,000+ in 2018 dollars). The winning entry? "Crew-cut".
https://photos.app.goo.gl/KS3tUMUF57YFYvP78

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More resources to be added to this list as I come across them. Suggestions are welcomed.


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