The Seven Distinctive Kinds of Written Music

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

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

As a musician has a responsibility to play the chart just before him properly, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of giving the ideal sort of chart. Recognizing what sort of chart to use for what type of tune or gig is really significant.

This article explains what the distinct forms of charts are, and under what situations to use them. I hope you locate it beneficial.


Charts can be simple or elaborate according to the style of music and kind of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings classical and choral music can be found in sheet music retailers as effectively as in different music catalogs many tunes will be located in music books of all kinds and lots 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 one of a kind 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 possibly not refer to a Mozart work as a “chart.”

Understanding what variety of chart to use for what kind of tune is really important. When you are playing a gig and an individual hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either read it effectively or not. But, if you purchase charts, have them produced for you or give them your self, you need to know which kinds to use for which scenarios. Years back, when undertaking singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: superior ones, bad ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a true pain. The singers who supplied the appropriate kinds of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the wrong kinds of charts didn’t, and weren’t incredibly happy about it. Unless a musician currently knows the particular components, he can only play according to what is on the chart before him. Even though a very good musician can improvise a superior component in any style, if a distinct musical line desires to be played, it desires to be written out.

As a musician has a duty to appropriately play the chart ahead of him, the supplier of the chart has the responsibility of supplying an acceptable 1.

Without getting into too many music notation specifics, right here are the unique types of charts and when they are used:


A chord chart includes 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 exact order of the sections). This type of chart is primarily utilised when: 1. the particular musical components are improvised or already identified, but the form and chords require to be referred to, 2. to give chords to improvise more than, or 3. when a final-minute chart demands to be written, and there is not time for anything extra elaborate.

A chord chart does not include the melody or any certain instrumental parts to be played. To play from very simple chord charts a musician basically needs to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his portion in whatever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a store-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which contains the instrumental aspect, chords, lyrics, melody and form. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for each piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in common notation (often classical), as properly as in TAB. A superior piece of sheet music will generally say no matter whether it really is for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be entirely representative of the actual recording, and the actual arrangement that you’ve heard on a recording is seldom present.

Lots of persons have seasoned the aggravation of getting the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are diverse from the recording, and from time to time the type is as well. Regrettably that’s the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of different factors. To get the exact arrangement and chords, you will need to do a “takedown” of the song: find out it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and write it down. Takedowns can variety from uncomplicated chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or something in among. In order to do fantastic takedowns, you want to have superior ears, realize and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the type of music you’re functioning with, and preferably understand music (the a lot more the improved). Getting “very good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, no matter if heard on the radio, played by another musician, or heard in your head.


Songbooks are compilations of several tunes and generally contain the same data that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement getting distinct from the recording most of the time. Sheet music normally has complete introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are commonly shortened to generate space in the book for more tunes. Sheet music is commonly written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in distinct types and for distinct instruments. www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLi5SaPI3nQYz7UlKxkmQDylcx9uKgxnV5 are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in several collections like film themes, Broadway hits, and so on.

Songbooks are a good reference supply when other, extra exact charts are unavailable. For instance: I needed two film themes for a gig once (client request). As an alternative of spending $eight for two tunes of sheet music, I purchased a book of film themes for $16 that contained more than a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are quite unusable at gigs for the reason that of cumbersome page turns and bulkiness but in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If getting to use sheet music or songbooks for live performance, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-3 pages or 2. photocopy it and tape the pages together (even though, strictly speaking, this may perhaps be thought of copyright infringement). Make positive to constantly deliver a copy for each and every musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician desires to be in a position to read the music notation, or at least improvise a element from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so on., or improved but, each. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be in a position to read the notated melody if they don’t know it.


Lead sheets include the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mostly utilised by singers, accompanists and arrangers, even though they appear on the bandstand now and once more. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and really often sheet music incorporates a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. As an alternative of having three to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is generally a single or two pages extended. Lead sheets do not include any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician requirements to know how to improvise when reading from one. A lead sheet is usually written out by a music copyist, who is an individual who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally requires playing an accompaniment from the chords and understanding the type directions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the chorus or the end, and so forth.) and maximally obtaining fantastic accompaniment abilities and reading notation fluidly.

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