The Tango Fake Book™©

Rob Nuijten has an interview with the maker, pianist Mark Wyman.


*The Tango Fake Book™© is a book of sheet music containing over one hundred pieces: tangos, milongas, vals, tango nuevo, and tango canción. Each has lead melody line, often popular counter-melodies and variations, and chord symbols above the staff. Composer and date of composition (if available) too; all are in the most common original keys. The Tango Fake Book is available in both 2/4 and 4/4 versions. A very broad spectrum of composers and styles are represented. The pieces include selections from among the very first tangos, from before 1900; Guardia vieja tunes; Golden Age tangos; and modern and recent compositions. This book of sheet music is meant for 'a la parrilla' playing (improvised arrangements); the charts are intentionally clear and simple. All are intended to be quickly readable in a live situation. Every effort has been made to make these partituras as accurate as possible, so they are also good for study, and for a basis for an original arrangement.

Can you explain why is it called 'Tango Fake book' and why musicians would have no problem carrying a book around with that name?

In jazz circles, the term 'fake book' or 'real book' are widely used. Here, in the tango crowd, they are not so well known, and so need a bit of explanation.
The Tango Fake Book is named after the jazz Fake Books. To 'fake' (in this well-known context) means to pretend you know a tune, when actually you don't. In jazz, you might get a call for a gig, and go play it, without knowing some of the tunes. If you have your Fake Book with you, if someone calls a tune you don't know, you flip open the book and there is the melody and chords.

You know how to play the style of jazz already, so, voila - you can 'fake it'. This book is the same, but for tango.
If you know how to play tango style already, then all you need are melody and chords to 'fake' any tango tune. But this book is useful for any tango musician. I hope that as more people learn to play tango, and equip themselves with Fake Books, there will be more improvised tango music in the world. I think it is essential to know how to improvise an arrangement. All good performers have this skill.

Are there that many musicians desperately needing a 'fake book', that it seemed a good idea to start producing them, or is it just a nice gesture for the few who need to fake to survive?

I do indeed see a need for this book. This book started because I needed one! I was making these charts more and more, and then I put them in a map, and then I thought, well, if I need it, maybe there are others. I then made many charts which I thought were essential,

then printed and bound them professionally, and here it is.

I think there are many people in the world who need this book. I use it often,

and... it may be a nice gesture.

Is the name 'Tango Fake Book' something you introduced to the world?

The Fake Books started in jazz in the 1970s. The first ones were not exactly legal. After some time people created Real Books, which were legal. That was the only difference. But now, all are legal.

Now there is no practical difference between the two, as far as I know. I have copyrighted and trademarked the name 'The Tango Fake Book', and the book itself, the work inside.

So, are you the first ever producing one for Tango?

This is the only Tango Fake Book. Google it! You will see it.

(of course the editor googled it.
Click here)

Are there plans for more editions after this one, with new titles?

Yes! There will, one day, be the Vocal Tango Fake Book, with words included. And there must be another one...,

The Tango Fake Book Volume 2, because there are so many beautiful tangos yet to do!

You say that the compositions are shown in 'the most original keys'. Where did you find all those original compositions?

Anywhere I could.... First of all, I have many recordings of tango, which I have bought in the US and Argentina and here in the Netherlands; I get them from todotango.com; just anywhere I can find them. I also have copies of the Korn and Universel editions. All this gives me the idea of the best key; I look for the oldest of course, but often the most common one is the one I consider the original.

Click at picture for enlargment.


For those not yet that familiar with Tango music, can you explain what you mean with 'Guardia Vieja tunes', and 'Golden Age tangos'*?

Guardia vieja (Old Guard) refers to the period of tango near the beginning, perhaps 1900 into the 1920s. There was a period then called Guardia nueva, which was superseded by the orchestras of the Golden Age, which refers to the period from about mid-1930s through the 1950s.

Now, these terms are used more in reference to orchestra styles rather than compositions. But I use it to refer to the tangos recorded by these orchestras at these times, because many tangos are so strongly identified with some orchestras' recordings.

What difference will an amature listener hear between '2/4 and 4/4 versions'? Can you explain something about this 2/4 and 4/4, for a non musician?

For a listener, there is really no difference. It is strictly for the performer. These numbers refer to the time signature (often used interchangeably with 'meter'), a musical measurement, the organisation of music into units of accented and unaccented beats. 

Meter is actually what is heard and is not the same as a time signature, which is what is written.

So what is heard, as a tango is performed, is the same, regardless of what is written.
Tango originally was written in 2/4 (to be technical: 2 beats per measure, a 1/4 note gets one beat).

This to me reflects the dance in the best way. The dance is generally danced two steps per measure. This is the original 'dos por cuatro', two strong beats on four.

But modern tango composers such as Astor Piazzolla began writing in 4/4. This for them was easier to read, and reflected the more even beat pattern in the music, in such tunes as 'Michelangelo 70'. These days, many tango musicians, though not all, prefer to see tango written in 4/4.

You say that every effort has been made to make these partituras as accurate as possible. What efforts were those? Were there other people involved in your research?

When I want to transcribe a tango, I listen to every version I can possibly find, and then 'average out' the melody. My idea is to create the plainest and simplest version, the purest version of a melody, so that the notes have the least influence on the player. Sometimes this can be a major challenge. In some cases, I could find only one recording. For example, it might be by a singer who bends the phrases a lot. Then, I must rely on my own musical judgment in order to filter out what the performer is adding to the performance, and derive the unadulterated melody. To make them accurate, I researched them as much as I could. I listened to recordings, looked at other scores if they were available,

and discussed the music at length with fellow tango musicians in Amsterdam, Europe, the US and Argentina, who offered valuable corrections. I thank them for the time they took with me. Santiago Cimadevilla link (bandoneon player) was one of these; he took the book to Buenos Aires and showed it to musicians there. One comment I am proud of: Julian Peralta (leader of Orquesta Típica Fernandez Fierro / link) saw it, and, after offering comments, pronounced it the best that he had seen.
It is not possible to do a work like this without consulting others, and without a lot of help. The good people of Amsteltango were the main contributors in this regard.

Original first appearances of partituras that I bought at the fleemarket in Buenos Aires, seemed to be written for piano. How's that done in the Tango Fake Book?

No, these scores are for any instrument. They consist of only melody and chords, specifically so as not to influence a performance. I know those piano charts, and they are arrangements, that is, specific notes to play are all written out. You either play those notes, or nothing. If you don't like that arrangement, too bad.

My idea was to free a tango musician from those notes, to allow him to play the music as he feels 'in the moment', without any influence, on any instrument.
But this simplicity also makes this book good for study, or to make an own arrangement.

For more details, and ordering information, we go to...?

Go see http://harmonk.com/



Back to top