Fake Books in the U.S.

Piano Sheet Music

Fake Book sheet music graphicMany PSR and/or Tyros owners enjoy "playing by ear." Others rely on sheet music to learn and play songs. There are many different kinds of sheet music available. If you can play the piano, you may already have plenty of "piano" music available (a popular format for many song books). Piano music shows both a treble and bass clef, and what to do with your right hand and your left hand. Sometimes, you will also see chord notation. The notes played with the left and right hands often combine to produce the chord used in the song. However, piano-style music notation is not ideal for arranger keyboard players.

Fake Books

The Best Ever Fake Book Knowing chords is critical to playing an arranger keyboard. The right hand plays the melody. The left hand plays the chords (even if only the one-finger variety). So, the music notation should clearly specify what chord is needed as the melody moves along.

"Fake books" provide an excellent form of musical notation for arranger keyboards. Fake Books are collections of songs with a notated melody line, chord symbols, and complete lyrics (see sample line below). These books are the mainstay of professional musicians, and once you've learned how to use a fake book, you'll enjoy a new level of playing experience. The expression, "fake book," comes from the fact that the music generally shows the melody, chords, and lyrics, but that's all.

sample line from fake book sheet music

The musician has to "fake it" from there. In the case of an arranger keyboard, you have a lot of help. You simply play the correct "chord" and the accompaniment styles provide a lot of "faking" for you. All you have to do is to play the melody with your right hand.

For an excellent article on the origin and history of Fakebooks, see Bob Keller's article "The Joy of Fakebooks" with companion Fakebook Review.

Finding a Fake Book

You can generally find a fake book in your local music store. You'll also find them in the larger bookstores. These books, however, fill a relatively narrow market niche, so you're not likely to find a large selection of fake books in any one store. You can always order fake books from an online supplier such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon. The book links provided in this section will take you to Barnes & Noble (B&N) and to Amazon. The book pictures on the left-hand side of each fake book entry are links that will take you to B&N. The link on the right-hand side of the book description shows you Amazon's current pricing and will take you directly to the Amazon book detial page. Fake books do go out of print. If you check B&N or Amazon Used books or http://www.eBay.com, you may find some used bargains. And, of course, don't forget your local library. If you've never seen a fake book, you may be able to check one out at the libary and see whether or not these books are for you.

Fake Book Listings

In this section, I have compiled a list of the major fake books on the U.S. market. Hal Leonard publishes most of them but there are also books by Sher Music and Alfred Publishing and others. There are more than 100 books listed here, so I have divided the books into several categories to help you find the kind of book that best suits you.

  • Books by Name - Since there are so many books, this page gives you a summary table of all the fake books showing the title, publisher, publication year, number of songs and pages, and the category where the book is listed. You can re-sort the table by clicking on various column headings.
  • Easy Series - If you are beginner, you may want to consider starting with a book from the Easy Fake Book series. These books feature large musical notation, simple melodies and harmonies, and are written in the key of C. This is not as great a limitation on our keyboards since it is easy to transpose songs and play in any key you want. Note that there are generally "Easy" versions listed here for most of the categories shown below. You will find them listed under "Easy - Type". Hal Leonard has also released many of these books with songs for a particular time period, such as the 1960s. These are found under "Easy - Decade".
  • Standards - Here are large and small collections of the "standards" - Jazz, Swing, Broadway. Older audiences will recognize most of the songs in these books.
  • Jazz - Jazz fans will find some of their favorites in these collections. Many "standards" will also be found in these Jazz books.
  • Broadway - This categories includes songs made popular through Broadway shows, Movies, or TV shows.
  • Rock - Hard Rock and Rock & Roll fans will find their favorite tunes in these books.
  • PopRock/R&B - This group contains selections that may hold the new "standards." It includes soft rock, blues, rhythm & blues, and pop rock.
  • Country - Country music has become very popular in the US. Here are some books for country music fans.
  • International - International, that is, from a US perspective, contains Latin and Irish (Celtic) fakebooks and International favorites. Classical books are also found here.
  • Christmas - There are several Christmas fake books available so I put these in a category by themselves. Lots of great tunes, but usually popular only during one month of the year.
  • Religious - Here you'll find Hymns, Gospels, Christian songs and Jewish songs..
  • Chord Changes - Want to add a newer, more modern feeling to some of your sounds. Try out these fake books. They provide suggested alternative chords you can try on these various popular standards.
  • How To - If fake books are all new to you, you may need a little help in learning how to play from a fake book. The books listed here are tutorials that will help you with that task. You will also find books on learning to play piano and keyboard, learning chords and music theory as well as helping you with sight reading and music in general.

Category Contents

In each category, you'll find a small picture of the book and a brief description of the book and some of the songs included. Book info includes the publisher, the list price, the ISBN number, the number of songs in the book and the number of pages.

Finding a Particular Song

If you follow the links to the Amazon site, you can get additional book detail that, in some cases, includes a complete listing of the songs found in the book. Sometimes, however, you may be more interested in a particular song and want to find the books in which that song can be found. You will find an index to all the songs in 50 of these books in the "FB Songs" section. Since this includes over 12,140 song titles, songs are on individual alphabetical pages.

This page updated on January 16, 2015.