I like seeing the lyrics to jazz standards, but I would also like to practice standards in their original/standard keys.

How many tunes in the Real Vocal Book "High Voice" (which has the lyrics) are actually transposed compared to their Real Book version?

  • 2
    Keys in real books are not always the same as original either. A famous example is Girl from Ipanema, most often printed in F, while composed in Db... or maybe G? Mar 17, 2021 at 19:54
  • See 'Ranges in the real vocal book'. What is so important about 'the original key' - which may well have not been the key the composer wrote it in anyway.
    – Tim
    Mar 17, 2021 at 19:54
  • @user1079505 Thanks, I was aware of this famous example, and there will likely further exceptions. Still, I would expect there to be some bias towards original (or just popular) keys in the Real Book and I'm wondering if this bias is completely lost due to transposition in the vocal edition.
    – A7AF
    Mar 17, 2021 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


The only way to know is to have both books side by side as there is no key list in the table of contents as I recall. A few things to keep in mind are:

Are you looking for the true original keys or the keys the songs are mostly played in nowadays? Sometimes you have to go all the way back to an ancient recording or a very old movie or musical to find the true original key as a lot of standards came from cinema and musical theater. Many times the key of an iconic recording will become the new “standard” key.

The Real Book (or any published sheet music for that matter) is not guaranteed to have all songs in original keys. “Ipanema” was mentioned in comments, F in the book, Db on the recording. “Triste” is Bb in the book, A on the recording. “Misty” is in Eb, the Johnny Mathis key in the book (iconic recording) but Errol Garner, the composer played it in a Ab. “Windows” by Chick Corea is Bm but was originally in Bb minor in the Real Book (I believe that one has been corrected). These are just a few examples.

Your “high vocal” book probably contains at least some original keys if the songs were originally performed by a female (or high?) vocalist.

  • Good examples. Then we have the recordings that were speeded up/slowed down. I can't think what key some of those would have.
    – Tim
    Mar 18, 2021 at 6:37
  • @Tim Not to mention the B 1/2 flats or the slightly under F’s etc. lol! Mar 18, 2021 at 7:21

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