Back about three years ago, before I had met Mike, I got to sing Summertime with a Grammy award winning trumpet player at a jazz cafe where I worked. It was invigorating and inspiring, and motivated me to form my own jazz band. I asked around at music stores for jazz pianists or drummers who would want to form a trio, but ultimately all I walked away with was a copy of The Real Vocal Book, second edition, for high voice.

Fast forward a few years and now I've got an accompanist (and fiancé!) and that copy of The Real Book is getting pretty worn. Every time we learned a piece I dog-eared the page so we could find it easily, and we hauled that big book around when we went to play downtown or anywhere else.

We realized there are a few problems with this method. First, the book is looking a little sad at this point. The badly bound spine is tearing.

And the pages are curling. Before long, I foresaw, with the same usage, we wouldn't have a book anymore, but just a pile of marked up pages.

Sometimes we would miss a dog-ear and forget a song. Or if we knew the songs on front and back of a dog-eared page we'd miss one. We also tended to forget about songs we knew that weren't in the book, and then go “Oh yeah! Summertime!” after an hour of playing. (coincidentally, we do play that one!) We also felt a little confined to the book. Getting music elsewhere would mean hauling around a second book until it was memorized, or throwing some loose printer paper in Mike's guitar case, which would get creased and dirty before long.

Another problem was the order of our set list. “Alphabetically” just didn't seem like a good way to arrange a set for performance. For busking, maybe it didn't matter too much, but not for a real show!

So we finally set out to remedy our situation, with nothing more than a binder, some page protectors, and a trip to Kinko's. (I know, we're geniuses, right? I'm sure nobody has thought of this before now!)

We made copies of all the songs we knew and put them in page protectors.

We even made placeholder pages for the ones we had memorized, with additional information we tend to forget, like what fret to put a capo on.

We added in some additional sheet music from sources outside The Real Book. And we organized all the music into two sets – not alphabetically, but taking into account mood and flow and key and subject matter.

Mike also got this pretty awesome wireless printer – so we can make copies of new music from a book at home, print it out from the internet, or print straight from a phone if we used Cam Scanner to scan in a page (it's a great phone scanner app! Check it out!). I can even email a file straight to the printer from my house and it will print out for Mike at his apartment.

We got a chance to break it in last night at the Single Smile Cafe. Works like a charm! The best part is we can add to it or rearrange our sets at any time. We should have done this a long time ago!

(Single Smile photos by Jeff Peterson)