Improvising or Playing from a “Fake Book”

One of the key skills that I would like to teach you as you advance in playing the piano is improvising or playing from a “fake book”.

Most people who play Pop music — as opposed to Classical music — want to play a song just a little differently each time that they play it. A Classical piano player would rarely set out to alter the music of Bach or Beethoven. On the other hand, a Jazz or Pop piano player would rarely set out to play a song the same way twice. The two approaches are really polar opposites!

Improvising variations for a pop song makes playing the song on the piano more enjoyable for the player and a truly unique experience for you and your audience every time that you play it.

Being able to play your favorite songs from a “Fake Book” is a great skill for every piano player to learn. If you haven’t heard the term “fake book” before, don’t worry, in the world of music being able to fake a song — that is play the song from a fake book — is a very good thing.

According to Wikipedia:

“A fake book is a collection of musical lead sheets intended to help a performer quickly learn new songs. Each song in a fake book contains the melody line, basic chords, and lyrics – the minimal information needed by a musician to make an impromptu arrangement of a song, or “fake it.”

The fake book is a central part of the culture of playing music in public, particularly in jazz, where improvisation is particularly valued.”

So, being able to play piano from a fake book is one of the goals I set for every intermediate, advanced or adult piano player who takes piano lessons with me.

Patrick Byrne, private piano lessons, Wauwatosa, Brookfield, elm grove, new berlin, milwaukee