The Real Book: Essential Sheet Music & Recordings


The Real Book began as an unlicensed series of lead sheet transcriptions put together by students at the Berklee College of Music in the 1970s as a means to create a communal language for musicians at gigs. Having a compilation of this sheet music allowed bandleaders to yell out impromptu page numbers throughout gigs to develop their set lists on the fly (and as such each edition of the Real Book has been paginated the same for the most part over the years). Somewhere between the first edition and the collection being transposed for nearly any key, the Real Book became THE essential collection of sheet music for any musician (especially all of you jazz musicians). Check out a few of the essential songs and recordings from the Real Book below and be sure to add the book to your collection of sheet music for your next gig!

sheet music

"Afro Blue" (written by Mongo Santamaria)

John Coltrane:

The Robert Glasper Experiment ft. Erykah Badu:

"All Blues" (written by Miles Davis)

"Blue Monk" (written by Thelonious Monk)

"Donna Lee" (written by Miles Davis)

"Fables of Faubus" (written by Charles Mingus)

"My Funny Valentine" (written by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart)

Chet Baker:

John Coltrane:

"Ornithology" (written by Charlie Parker & Benny Harris)


*If you were to collect sheet music from songs composed in the last 20 years, which compositions would you include in a new version of the Real Book? Comment below with your thoughts!