The Real Book for vocalists comes in two versions: The Real Vocal Book for high voice or low voice. What are the actual vocal ranges appropriate for these transcriptions? The publisher’s descriptions are no help. Based on the Amazon review comments, it sounds like the high voice book may be for sopranos and the low voice for tenors, but I couldn’t find anything definitive.

  • 3
    The Real Book is a very different animal from other published sheet music. It's only quite recently that it has had a publisher and editors. For many, many years it existed as an illegal samizdat distribution ("...take this to Kinko's and make 3 Xeroxes..."). So there are legacy issues to contend with, especially if you want to play with a group. Everybody needs to be in the same key. Dec 23, 2014 at 6:20

3 Answers 3


High is for sopranos and tenors (in their respective octaves) and Low is for altos and basses (in their respective octaves). This is the convention used for song books in all genres of music all over the world.

  • Thanks. Some of the reviews suggested that the low voice book was too high for baritones and seemed better suited for tenors, thus my confusion. Do you have any additional information to back up your answer? Dec 23, 2014 at 5:38
  • Well I've never looked at the Real Vocal Book, but I've bought many different kinds of books of vocal sheet music over the years, and since I'm a tenor, I always go for the High edition rather than the Low edition.
    – user1044
    Dec 23, 2014 at 6:22
  • I have used a low voice book for Richard Strauss lieder, and it is usually much too high for a bass. I would have to transpose the songs at least a half step lower. Have to look at the Real Vocal Book too, expect it too to be a little high for me.
    – jeppoo1
    Jan 2, 2020 at 8:07

I know I'm a bit late, but I find the high voice book works better for most men and the low voice book works better for most women. Yes, most vocal books are published in a high edition for sopranos/tenors and a low edition for altos/baritiones, vocal ranges for solo jazz singing tend to be different. In jazz (and many pop styles), women tend to stay in a lower range while the men sing higher in their range.

Also, the low voice real vocal books tend to have more songs in their "standard" keys (the same key they are in the non-vocal real books).


As a woman studying vocal jazz, I have found the Real Book high voice to be too high to allow me to color the sound the way I want. I only recently discovered the Real Book low voice! Works much better for me.

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