The Seven Distinct Varieties of Written Music

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Although operating musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers require to have great charts in order to have their music played the way they want. I define a “excellent chart” as a piece of written music that efficiently tells the musicians what they must play.

Written music comes in seven fundamental types: chord charts, sheet music, songbooks, lead sheets, fake books, master rhythm charts and completely notated components.

As a musician has a responsibility to play the chart ahead of him appropriately, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of providing the correct kind of chart. Knowing what sort of chart to use for what type of tune or gig is really essential.

This short article explains what the distinct kinds of charts are, and beneath what situations to use them. I hope you uncover it valuable.


Charts can be basic or elaborate according to the style of music and type of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings classical and choral music can be identified in sheet music stores as nicely as in different music catalogs many tunes will be located in music books of all kinds and a lot of public libraries carry recordings and written music for your use.

The word “chart” refers to any piece of written music or any arrangement (music that has been adapted in a exclusive manner) of a tune. Decades ago it was strictly a “cool” slang term for a tune, but any piece of music could be called a chart these days, even though a classical buff could not refer to a Mozart perform as a “chart.”

Realizing what form of chart to use for what sort of tune is pretty crucial. When you happen to be playing a gig and an individual hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either read it well or not. But, if you invest in charts, have them created for you or deliver them oneself, you need to have to know which kinds to use for which circumstances. Years back, while performing singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: excellent ones, poor ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a real discomfort. The singers who offered the right sorts of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect sorts of charts didn’t, and weren’t really content about it. Unless a musician currently knows the specific parts, he can only play according to what’s on the chart ahead of him. Although themusictrust.com/av-installation can improvise a fantastic element in any style, if a particular musical line requires to be played, it requirements to be written out.

As a musician has a responsibility to appropriately play the chart just before him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of providing an appropriate one.

With no getting into also many music notation specifics, right here are the diverse kinds of charts and when they are made use of:


A chord chart contains the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in four or in three (like a waltz), and the kind of the song (the precise order of the sections). This sort of chart is primarily utilized when: 1. the precise musical components are improvised or currently known, but the type and chords have to have to be referred to, two. to present chords to improvise over, or 3. when a last-minute chart desires to be written, and there is not time for something additional elaborate.

A chord chart does not include the melody or any certain instrumental components to be played. To play from uncomplicated chord charts a musician generally desires to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his aspect in what ever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a shop-bought version of a song printed by a publisher, which contains the instrumental element, chords, lyrics, melody and form. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for both piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in typical notation (typically classical), as properly as in TAB. A good piece of sheet music will often say whether or not it really is for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be completely representative of the actual recording, and the actual arrangement that you’ve heard on a recording is seldom present.

Many folks have knowledgeable the frustration of having the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are diverse from the recording, and occasionally the form is also. However that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a quantity of different causes. To get the exact arrangement and chords, you have to have to do a “takedown” of the song: learn it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and write it down. Takedowns can range from very simple chord charts to elaborate orchestral components or something in in between. In order to do great takedowns, you have to have to have good ears, have an understanding of and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the form of music you happen to be working with, and preferably understand music (the additional the better). Getting “very good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter if heard on the radio, played by one more musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of many tunes and generally include the identical information that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement being distinctive from the recording most of the time. Sheet music generally has complete introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are commonly shortened to build space in the book for extra tunes. Sheet music is usually written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in distinct designs and for unique instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in numerous collections like movie themes, Broadway hits, and so forth.

Songbooks are a very good reference source when other, more precise charts are unavailable. For instance: I required two movie themes for a gig when (client request). Rather of spending $eight for two tunes of sheet music, I purchased a book of film themes for $16 that contained over a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are pretty unusable at gigs mainly because of cumbersome page turns and bulkiness but in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If having to use sheet music or songbooks for reside functionality, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages collectively (while, strictly speaking, this may possibly be regarded as copyright infringement). Make certain to always offer a copy for each musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician needs to be in a position to study the music notation, or at least improvise a element from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, etc., or superior yet, each. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be capable to read the notated melody if they never know it.


Lead sheets contain the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mainly utilised by singers, accompanists and arrangers, even though they appear on the bandstand now and again. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and very generally sheet music involves a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. Alternatively of having 3 to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is typically a single or two pages long. Lead sheets do not contain any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician needs to know how to improvise when reading from one. A lead sheet is commonly written out by a music copyist, who is a person who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally calls for playing an accompaniment from the chords and understanding the form directions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the chorus or the finish, and so forth.) and maximally getting superb accompaniment abilities and reading notation fluidly.

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